A teenager from Hemel Hempstead, Hertfordshire born with a rare condition known as ‘pigeon chest’ is now standing taller than his twin brother after undergoing an innovative new treatment to correct the condition.
James Jack Stark has pectus carinatum, a deformity of the sternum and rib cartilage that causes the chest to protrude outwards, giving it a bowed-out appearance similar to that of a pigeon.
Last year the 14-year-old was two inches shorter than his twin, Harry, but after undergoing a new technique to treat it, he now stands a whole inch taller than him at 5ft 5in.
The deformity is often seen at birth but is more noticeable as the child gets older, during growth spurts when the ribcage has grown and protruded further.
The most common symptom is pain, but it can also often lead to harmful psychological effects such as low confidence and self esteem.
James Jack used to hate the way his body looked so much that he threatened to smash his chest with a hammer, but his mother, Jacquie Stark, said that since having the treatment, he now “walks with a swagger” and hopes to join the armed forces one day.
He was treated at Spire St Anthony’s Hospital in North Cheam, Surrey, where consultant thoracic surgeon Ian Hunt and his colleague Joe Porcello have developed a new, non-surgical technique that involves a combination of treatments.
The non-identical twin, whose loves include being a cadet and playing computer games, said he was delighted to look “normal” straight away.
It was amazing and so exciting to see the difference right from the first consultation.
The manipulation was uncomfortable but not painful. The brace is the same and now I’m four months into wearing it, it doesn’t bother me. – James Jack Stark
James’s mother said:
The results were immediate — right from that first appointment he could see the difference. He instantly became a different child in terms of confidence and physical stature. The manipulation has not only corrected his pigeon chest but it has improved his posture. He is so confident, walks with a swagger and his head held high. You would not recognise him as the same child.
Previously he hated his chest, his confidence was at rock bottom and it could really upset him. I once found him in the garage in tears with a hammer in his hand threatening to break his own chest bones to sort it out. Now he is excited about his future and wants to be in the armed forces. – Jacquie Stark
Between one and three* in every 1,000 people have a pectus anomaly, which are more common in males.
[*an under reported number, in our view –Editor]