In Clearwater, Florida, a young child named James McCallum, who at 19 months old, captured the hearts and attention of many with his unique condition. Born with a distinctive growth on his back, his parents affectionately nicknamed him “little Ninja Turtle,” likening it to a turtle shell. This rare skin condition initially left medical professionals puzzled.

James’ mother, Kaitlyn McCallum, 35, shared that during her pregnancy, ultrasounds failed to reveal any signs of the condition. James was born on August 19, 2021, and it wasn’t until after his birth that Kaitlyn and her husband, Tim, 41, began to notice unusual developments on their son’s back. The area was scabbed and lumpy, resembling a birthmark but raised concerns due to its atypical appearance.

As the mark grew and resembled a large mole, it became increasingly apparent that something was unusual. “It was covering about 75% of his back and started to develop more fatty, lumpy growths,” Kaitlyn recounted. The worried parents took James for medical evaluations, but initial diagnoses remained uncertain.

James’ condition, rare and challenging, made it difficult for him to sleep comfortably on his back. The growth, becoming bulky, resembled a turtle shell, preventing him from lying his head flat. In February 2022, James underwent his first surgery after MRI scans on his brain and spine to check for internal growths, a concern with his condition. Fortunately, the scans showed no internal development of the condition.

“Thankfully, there was no internal growth, and we began the process of having it removed,” Kaitlyn said. Post-surgery, the removed skin was tested for diseases, thankfully returning negative results. Despite relief, Tim and Kaitlyn remained vigilant, joining a Facebook group to connect with others experiencing similar conditions, broadening their understanding of potential symptoms and side effects, like itchiness and a lack of sweat glands.

In September 2022, after consulting with a specialist in Chicago, the McCallums decided to begin a tissue expansion treatment for James. This process involves surgically implanting expanders under the skin, which are then gradually filled with saline to stretch the healthy skin, eventually replacing the nevus. “He’s much happier and more comfortable now, and we’re looking forward to having all of it gone by the summer,” Kaitlyn expressed with hope.

The treatment will leave James with minimal scarring, and his parents are grateful that the condition appeared on his back, as it more commonly occurs on the face. “We’re relieved that having it removed will offer him a better quality of life. He can even turn it into an adventurous tale, maybe about a shark bite,” Kaitlyn said with a light-hearted outlook. For them, the scarring is a small price to pay for their son’s well-being and future comfort.

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