Mr. Riedl Has Poland Syndrome

When I was a kid, I was teased a lot for having a birthmark on my ear, for being short, and even for being a science nerd. But I was never teased for my Poland Syndrome.

Nobody ever notices my birth defect, unless I take off my shirt. So, of course, my students don't notice it since I wear a shirt and tie to school. I always share this fun fact with my classes when I introduce myself. They always get a kick out of how I can lick my own elbow, which is a side effect of my birth defect. I hope you are encouraged by this and learn something new!

I was born with Poland Syndrome, a very rare disorder that scientists know very little about. According to the National Human Genome Research Institute, it is named after Alfred Poland, and is estimated to affect between 1-in-10,000 and 1-in-100,000 births. The cause is unknown, but "most evidence supports the idea that something happens during the 6th week of fetal development," possibly an interruption of the embryonic blood supply, stinting growth in a certain area.

Many features characterize this deformity, but here are the ones that specifically apply to me:
  • Absent pectoral muscle
  • Brachydactyly (short fingers)
  • Humerus, radius, ulna bones abnormal
  • Upper limb asymmetry

Based on pictures I have seen of other people online, it seems to me that I have a relatively mild case. I am missing my right pectoral muscle, my right arm bones don't rotate properly, my right arm is noticeably smaller, and my right hand is abnormally small with some crooked, short fingers. However, I can still do most normal physical activities that others can do.

I play sports, do push-ups, pull-ups, and can even walk on my hands. I have found that other muscles compensate for my missing pectoral, allowing me to have enough strength to perform basic activities.

I used to be afraid to tell people about my deformity because I thought people would make fun of me. But now, I have come to appreciate it. It is something special about me, something unique. Some people have big ears, some people are bald, some people are big, some are small, and some people are missing their pectoral muscle. Not a big deal to me. I love educating people about my rare birth defect because people are usually fascinated by it.

Many people in the world who are different are ashamed of being different. I am not. I am proud of who I am and how God created me. I know that I was made this way for a reason. It humbles me every day. Everyone has flaws, and I hope that when you discover things about yourself that are different from everyone else, that you would learn to appreciate it too. Never be ashamed of being unique! One day our bodies will waste away, and I want to be remembered as someone who cares about others more than myself.