A Chinese woman who faced huge health hazards after developing elephantiasis is due to have surgery for the same in Taiwan.
Wang Cheng, 24, cannot work or even wear trousers because of the grotesque and painful elephantiasis which has dogged her since the age of six and left her with legs weighing 50 kilos (110 pounds).
"I cannot go out to work," Wang told AFP as she slowly raised herself to sitting in her bed at Taipei Municipal Wan Fang Hospital.
"Nor can I wear trousers as normal people (do)."
Wang's condition has forced her to stay at home with her father, paralysed from a stroke, and unemployed mother since graduating from high school in the eastern Chinese province of Zhiangsu.
However, her suffering may be at an end after she was offered free surgery by a Taiwanese specialist, who will alleviate the swelling by cutting away some of the lymphatic tissue in her legs.
Senior doctor Hsu Wen-hsien, who will lead the operation on Monday, said he has never seen such an extreme case in more than 30 years' experience, and experts were still unsure about the exact cause.
"In the past cases, none of the patients have had two legs swelling to this size," said Hsu.
Hsu, who has carried out 40 similar operations, 37 successfully, believes he can reduce the size of Wang's legs by 35 percent immediately and 50 percent after rehabilitation work.
"It's very likely the disease started when her veins were obstructed, and blood flowed to the lymphatic vessels, thus leading to swelling in the legs," he said.
Wang travelled from China for the operation thanks to Taiwanese Buddhist group Fo Kuang Shan, which learned of her plight through an AFP photo report last year.
Her condition had baffled Chinese doctors at major hospitals in Shanghai, Beijing, Nanjing and Zhengzhou, who were unable to help Wang.
"They said check-ups showed her body was in normal condition," said Wang's frustrated mother Cheng Yuxia, who accompanied her to Taiwan.
For Wang, elephantiasis has been a slowly developing condition which has gradually taken over her life.
"First it was my left leg, and then my right leg also got the same problem two years later," she said.
"Time and again I have been suffering fevers and muscular pains."
Wang will remain in hospital for a month after the surgery and will need two months of rehabilitation when she returns home.
Fo Kuang Shan is paying all travel and non-medical expenses while the 10-hour operation and related care, estimated at 16,500 US dollars, is being provided free by the hospital.
Elephantiasis, or lymphatic filariasis, is often transmitted by mosquitoes.
Microscopic larvae hatch parasitic worms which infest the lymphatic system, causing acute swelling, although doctors said this was unlikely the cause in Wang's case.