CARACAS – Jeison Rodriguez, a 20-year-old Venezuelan, is officially the living person with the largest feet on earth.
At the moment, his right foot is 15.79 in. and his left 15.5 in. – roughly a size 26.
And they keep on growing, he says.
Rodriguez, a mild-mannered 7 ft. 3 in. giant, earned the Guinness distinction last month, after an adjudicator paid him a visit in his native Maracay, an hour drive from Caracas.
“Since that day I think my feet have grown even more,” he told Fox News Latino.
He may not be wrong. The uncontrollable growth is due to a condition called acromegaly, an extremely rare syndrome that occurs when the anterior pituitary gland produces excess growth hormone.
Rodriguez was first diagnosed at age 12, after four years of family members puzzling over his oversized complexion – and especially his big feet.
From the age of 14, he had to have shoes made out of cloth material that only lasted two to three weeks, he has revealed.
Since 2013 though, he is happier person: He now wears Georg Wessels shoes, a German brand that specializes in making big size shoes and gave him three pairs of custom-size shoes a couple of years ago.
It was Wessels’ people who drew Rodriguez’s footprint on a cardboard and took it to the Guinness World Records office in London.
To stop his feet from growing, Rodriguez needs to take a medicine called Dostinex three times a week. But given the widespread shortages affecting Venezuela these days, he hasn’t been able to follow the treatment.
“I haven’t found the medicine in the last eight months,” he told FNL. “I have asked the government for help, but they are still looking for it,” added Rodriguez, who works at a state office in Maracay and has momentarily stopped his college education.
Rodriguez is not the tallest person in the world -- that record still belongs to 8 ft 2 in.-tall Sultan Kösen, a Turkish national. But the Venezuelan is not interested in claiming the distinction.
“If I get taller that will be dangerous,” he said. “[Right now] I am just 1 inch shorter than my house’s ceiling, I even broke a few light bulbs walking around,” Rodriguez added.
As part of his treatment, Rodriguez requires regular checkups and a special diet to avoid getting fat – something he says he can’t afford.
“With the prices of food as they are I can’t pay for the vegetables and healthy ingredients I need,” he said. “I have to go to Caracas every two months and I need money for medical exams that I can’t afford,” he added with concern.
According to a Bank of America projection, the inflation rate in Venezuela will surpass 170 percent by the end of 2015. The government hasn’t released any official economic indicators so far this year.
When Rodriguez travels to Caracas he travels by bus and sits in the front seat alongside the driver, he said.
Despite all the economic pressures he and the country faces, Rodriguez is an ardent Chavista and has already shown his support for President Nicolas Maduro in two public rallies.
He said he is grateful for the help, even when it’s clearly not enough.
“When I turned 18 and was old enough to drive, the government gave me a car to move around. They also helped my family finding the apartment in which we currently live,” Rodriguez told FNL.
However, the car he got is a Turpial – a compact vehicle produced by Venirauto, a Venezuelan/Iranian state-owned company – and he’s had to stop driving it because he developed back problems for trying to get in.
“I need a wagon,” he said. “The vehicle’s bumpers and tires are damaged because they can’t hold my weight [some 330 pounds],” Rodriguez said.
Rodriguez welcomes the Guinness 2016 distinction, a process that took a little over one year from start to finish. He hopes the record will allow him to travel and get to know other countries - Wessels also gave him wool socks in case he ever visits Germany or other cold places.
He is still in awe with all the attention and the turn his life has suddenly taken.
“When I was a kid some of my classmates bullied me,” he recalled. “Now I am quite popular and people ask me for pictures on the streets. I lost track of how many journalists contacted me since,” he happily told FNL.
Franz von Bergen is a freelancer reporter living in Caracas.