31 August 2006

World's Tallest Woman

Yao Defen (R), believed to be the world's tallest woman, and her friend sit at the entrance of her home in Shu Cha in China's Anhui province March 15, 2006. A German outsize shoemaker said he will fly to China next week with three pairs of size 57 ladies shoes as a special and much-needed gift for Yao.

Yao Defen was born in Shucha Town of Liuan City in Shuchen County, Anhui Province in 1972. The fourth child of her family, she weighed only 6.16 pounds at birth. At age 3, her food intake was three times that of other children her age. By age 11, her height was 6 ft. 2 in., and she grew to be 6 ft. 8 in. by age 15. Finally, she became the tallest woman in Asia at 7 ft. 5 in., which is almost seven inches taller than the woman basketball star Zhen Haixia.

The story of this "woman giant" began to spread rapidly after she went to see a doctor at age 15 for an illness. After that, many companies attempted to train her to be a talented sports star. However, the plans were discarded because Yao was too weak. Because she is illiterate, since 1992 Yao Defen has been forced to earn a living by traveling with her father and performing.

Yao Defen's father and mother are both about 5 ft. 2 in. tall. Yao's giant stature was caused by a large tumor in the pituitary gland of her brain, which was releasing too much growth hormone and caused excessive growth in her bones. Six years ago, a hospital in Guangzhou Province removed the tumor and she stopped growing.

How is Yao's life now as the famous "woman gaint"? According to reports by China News Net, Yao Defen said she has gained nothing after two years of hard work. In 2003, she signed with a circus manager in Suzhou City in order to make a living and support her mother. During her national tours, she fell several times during the performances, and injured several parts of her body. Her boss, a person identified only as Mr. Qui, refused her request to be taken to a hospital and forced her to continue the performing.

According to Yao, her health worsened, which affected her performances. Her boss became dissatisfied with her performance. One day in 2004, she asked Qiu to take her to a hospital once more. Instead, Qiu took her up a mountain, where she was held for 24 hours without food or water.

In 2004, her colleagues, Wang and Ding, conspired with her boss to trick her into signing another one-year contract to perform with the traveling circus, telling her there was a new boss. When the terms of the contract expired, she asked the circus to send her home, but Qiu took her to the mountain again and threatened her. Finally, in late December, Qiu let her go home.

All the hard work and moving around from place to place causes Yao's constant pain in her lower back which keeps her from sleeping. Yao Defen's biggest wish is to be able to go to a big hospital for a health examination.

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