DETROIT – Broc D. Brown has one pair of shoes. If it snows, he doesn’t have a pair of boots. When the weather turns warm again, there are no sandals to fit his feet, which are a size 28 or 30.
It’s just the one pair of shoes right now, said Stacy Snyder, Brown’s aunt.
“But he doesn’t complain,” Snyder said.
Shoes -- not to mention socks, which can cost $20 a pair -- are among the challenges facing Brown, the world’s tallest teenager, from Jackson, Michigan. Brown is 7 feet, 8 inches tall, and the 19-year-old is still growing.
Brown was diagnosed with a rare genetic disorder called Sotos syndrome, or cerebral gigantism, when he was a child. One of every 15,000 people has Sotos. There are different types of the disorder.
With the diagnosis, Brown’s family learned that he would grow to be very tall. But doctors said he would likely top out at about 6 feet, 10 inches, Snyder said. That hasn’t been the case.
Brown was about 5 feet tall by kindergarten.
“That’s how tall I am (now),” Snyder said.
In addition to the difficulties of finding Brown a suitable wardrobe -- more on that in a bit! -- he deals with other hardships. Daily tasks can be exhausting, his aunt said.
And he sleeps 16 hours a day during growth spurts, according to a segment featuring Brown on “The Maury Show.”
Brown is not attending college right now, and Snyder said it’s been hard to find a wheelchair big enough for him. That made school difficult, because it’s hard for Brown to get around and stand for extended periods of time.
There are challenges someone of average height wouldn’t think twice about, Snyder said.
For example, getting in and out of a vehicle. Even when Snyder moves around the seats and the parts inside her Ford Freestyle, it’s still hard for Brown to fit and feel comfortable.
“His head hits the roof,” she said. “It’s hard to get his feet in small spaces -- hard to go to the movies.”
Growing up presented some obstacles as well.
“When he was small, he couldn’t ride a bike,” Snyder said. “But when you’re trying to teach a 6-year-old who’s the same size as you, it’s hard. You can’t stabilize him.”
But, she reiterated, “Broc takes his condition day by day with a smile on his face.”
Despite the difficulties, things haven’t been all bad. In the last year or so, Brown has traveled and taken in a variety of new experiences.
He recently participated in a TLC documentary called “Tallest Teens,” and got to interact with other people who have Sotos syndrome. Brown had never met anyone with the disorder before.
“He was able to understand he’s not the only one,” said Snyder, adding that the experience with TLC was a very positive one.
The family also flew to Arkansas to see a Sotos specialist. For a teen who hasn’t traveled much, he had to tackle six flights in five days. First-class seats made the process a little more tolerable, Snyder said.
In addition to having never met another person with Sotos until recently, Brown had never seen a doctor who specialized in the syndrome until he met with Dr. Bradley Schaefer, chief of genetics at Arkansas Children’s Hospital.
“It was cool (for him) to talk to someone who really understood,” Snyder said.
After the Maury feature aired in October, more people have contacted Brown. The family has heard from other people in Michigan with Sotos, or who have a child with the syndrome.
His Facebook page, “The Support Page for Broc D. Brown,” maintained by Snyder, skyrocketed to more than 15,000 likes after the TLC documentary.
Snyder said she’s snapped many of the photos on the page.
“That Christmas tree you see him standing next to is 9 feet tall,” she said.
Photos on the Facebook fan page show Brown with supporters who are holding signs for him, along with shots of different life experiences.
Snyder identified a player on the Detroit Pistons standing beside Brown in one photo as Andre Drummond, and said someone donated tickets for a benefit a few years ago.
Brown had a great time meeting the Pistons star, she said.
As for his family, Brown has been staying with his grandmother lately because his mother, Darci, is in the hospital.
Brown’s mother appeared with her son on "The Maury Show," and spoke about how much Brown has overcome. When Brown was 14, a doctor said he might not make it past 15, Brown’s mother said. But he proved that theory wrong.
At this point, it looks like Brown will have a fairly normal life expectancy, Snyder said, adding that he could live into his 70s.
Brown told Maury Povich that he likes to eat, and fish sticks are his favorite. The brand Gorton’s surprised the family with a 10-year supply of fish sticks and donated in Brown's name to the Sotos Syndrome Support Association. In addition, Povich gave Brown a new wheelchair.
Even with Sotos syndrome, Brown is bigger than most people with the disorder.
Brown was born at an average size: weighing just less than 8 pounds, and measuring 22 inches long, his mother told Povich.
Now, there's a chance Brown could surpass the height of the world’s (current) tallest man, who is 8 feet, 3 inches tall. Brown has grown 6 inches every year, according to published reports.
But he might not ever live on his own, Snyder said. Brown suffers from a strain on his heart, curvature of the spine, ADHD and some behavioral and learning difficulties, Barcroft Media reported.
“But things could change in future,” Snyder said.
Brown told Povich he lives with a lot of pain. Still, the family seems overwhelmed with the support they've received on the Facebook page.
Many photos show people posing with signs, proclaiming their love and support for Brown.
And as for those shoes, they are specially made. An orthotics team from the University of Michigan created Brown’s current pair.
“You cannot just go online and order him shoes or socks,” Snyder said.
It’s hard to find most clothes, with the only exception being T-shirts.
But like most other challenges, “Broc takes it all in stride,” Snyder said.
*All photos used with permission from the Broc D. Brown Facebook page.