Common, yet rare. Slow, yet life-threatening. What we are talking about is Marfan syndrome, a genetic condition also known as arachnodactyly. This disease affects eyes, bones, heart and major blood vessels. No, this genetic anomaly has a curious speciality. This does not suppress intelligence. Rather, from what we have seen so far, people who suffer from this disease turn out to be exceptionally brilliant and talented. If you find it difficult to believe me, have a look at the given 10 famous personalities who suffered (or are believed to be suffering) from Marfan syndrome.
1. Bin laden
Yes. The person who kept the whole world on tenterhooks; the criminal mastermind behind Al Qaeda who was finally hunted down to put an end to an era of suffering and terrorism was a victim of this disease. In 2011 Dr. Steve. R. Pieczenic who worked in several important government positions,controversially stated in a TV show that Bin Laden died in 2001 due to Marfan’s syndrome and that the US claims were mere fabrications. Long fingers, long arms, elongated head and narrow face- Laden had all visible symptoms of the Marfan syndrome. He also added that the diagnosis was done by CIA doctors who had examined Laden in 2001 and thus the operation was a mere “theatre of absurd”. Reports show that life expectancy in Marfan syndrome patients is short. All said, let me remind you, there are no conclusive proofs available till date that prove that Laden did suffer from the disease!
2. Michael Phelps
News is rife that Michael Phelps the 22 time Olympic medallist is all set to return and compete in the coming 2016 Rio games. He is regarded as the best swimmer the world has ever produced. Extremely flexible, tall and thin, Phelps can move through water faster than any other human! His extremely large ‘wingspan’ (arm length more than 208cm!) has always been a topic of discussion. But some people believe that this curious body structure could be attributed to Marfan syndrome. But in his autobiography, ‘Michael Phelps: Beneath the surface’, he asserts that he had tested negative in Marfan syndrome tests. But the fact that he is getting aorta tests annually has led many to argue that Phelps does meet the criteria.
3. Mary Queen of Scots
Mary Queen of Scots did lead an eventful life that ended in a scaffold. She was executed at the age of 44 after 19 years of captivity. This took a toll on her health and she suffered constantly from fever and joint pains, and chronic rheumatoid arthritis was diagnosed in her. Swollen and painful limbs prevented her from walking and she grew unable to walk without assistance. Later in 2001, studies revealed that the arthritis that tormented her might have been a result of Marfan syndrome. Again, the Queen’s bodily features assert this conclusion. It is said that she had long hands, unusual height and small head.
4. Abraham Lincoln
Lean. Sallow skin. Elongated and small head. Thin long nose. Small eyes and heavy eyelids. Thin chest and sloping shoulders. These are not only the body features of Abraham Lincoln, but also the symptoms of Marfan syndrome. It is believed that this disease was found in one of Lincoln’s descendants. Thus it was presumed that Lincoln might have suffered from Marfan syndrome. It was in 1960 that a physician published a paper in Journal of the American Medical Association with the statement that Lincoln suffered from Marfan syndrome. But not all doctors were ready to accept his findings. They argued that there was not enough evidence to prove that Lincoln’s features were due to Marfan syndrome. The debate still goes on.
We also have on our list King Tutankhamen whose circumstances of death have given rise to a series of speculations and debates. He died at the age of 19 after ruling for nine long years and after a series of DNA tests and Ct scans scientists have arrived at the conclusion that he might have suffered from Marfan syndrome. It is believed that his father, Akhenaten also suffered from this disease. Some studies show that his mother too had symptoms of this mysterious disease! He was unusually tall and had thin limbs.
6. Vincent Schiavelli
Another famous personality who suffered from Marfan syndrome was the American actor Vincent Schiavelli who died at the age of 57. No one could possibly forget the role he played in the landmark production ‘One flew over the cuckoo’s nest’! He was always identified as the actor with the ‘sad eyes’. He was 6 foot 6 inches tall and also had his limbs disproportionate to the rest of the body, a visible symptom of Marfan syndrome. He worked closely with the National Marfan Foundation and helped in its efforts to prevent this disease.
7. Jonathan Larson
Famous American playwright and composer Jonathan Larson is another person who made it big in life but had to surrender before the silent threat of Marfan syndrome. What took his life just the day before his musical Rent was to be shown in America was aortic rupture caused by Marfan syndrome, which wasn’t diagnosed in him till then. He had complained of chest pain, was taken to hospital and the diagnosis said that he suffered from flu! This tragic death of a genius led the National Marfan Foundation to take steps to spread awareness about this disease among medical community and general society as well.
8. John Taverner
When John Taverner, the popular and talented British music composer died in November last year the whole world wept. The New York Times called him a “Composer with eye on god”. Famous for his composition Song for Athene which was sung at Diana, Princess of Wales’ funeral in 1997, was another victim of Marfan syndrome, which slowly, but eventually took his life. Unnaturally thin, lean and tall, the composer was diagnosed of the disease later in life. He always supported the works of Marfan trust, which was established for carrying out research about the causes and prevention of Marfan syndrome, supporting the patients and spreading awareness about the disease.
9. Bradford Cox
Singer, lyricist, musician and actor. Bradford Cox is talent personified. He is one of the most inspiring figures in the world today, who has the courage to fight back and win the race that we call life. He suffers from Marfan syndrome. He is 6-foot-4 and is skinny. He has long limbs and a small elongated face. He was born with this genetic disorder. But he is the lead singer of Deerhunter and is particularly famous for his ‘stream of consciousness’ technique of writing songs. He also made his debut as an actor in 2013. This is how you change an inherent weakness into a strength that would change your life as a whole.
Rachmaninoff’s hands undoubtedly could work wonders. With long and tapering hands that “covered the keyboard like tentacles”, he could churn out perfect notes. Also, he was tall and slender; had a narrow head and a long, thin nose- all classic examples of Marfan syndrome. It is also reported that he was myopic. Later, he also developed arthritis, eye strain and back pain which affected his musical career. Thus the assumption that he suffered from Marfan syndrome is seemingly possible. It was in 1986 that D.A. Young reasoned that the artist must have suffered from Marfan syndrome. He was an unparalleled composer, conductor and musician.