Although it might sound like a disease off the surface of Mars (like hell!!) rest assured that it is not. In sooth, Marfan Syndrome is not a disease at all. Marfan Syndrome is primarily a disorder of the connective tissue in the human body – connective tissue being the cement that holds the body in place. Every organ in the body possesses connective tissue. In fact, even blood is a connective tissue. The basic job of it is to bind parts of an organ, blood vessel or a joint together. What goes for a toss in people suffering from Marfan’s is Fibrillin, one of the constituent fibres of connective tissue. Owing to the Fibrillin being defective people with Marfan Syndrome tend to grow taller than the rest, have longer arms, legs and flat feet and joints that are more flexible than normal. Although seemingly an advantage, as such people grow old complications in the form of medical problems tend to arise and affects joints, the heart and lungs, eyes, etc.
History has quite a collection of people who were (and still are) victims of this particular disorder. As the following list will reveal, presence of this disorder did not, in any way, deter them in their path to success.
10. SERGEI RACHMANINOV
A genius in the field of music, Sergei Rachmaninov was a composer and pianist. He had an extraordinarily long reach on the piano which was attributed to his long and flexible fingers; and this in turn was attributed to Marfan Syndrome. He was tall and had a slender and long nose. Along with being a pianist and composer, he was also an orchestra conductor. However, later in life, complications in the form of arthritis and back pain proved to be a great hindrance in his career. However, what was a bane to him late in life had gifted him to become one of the most recognized composers of the 19th-20th century.
9. NICCOLO PAGANINI
Interestingly, Paganini’s works were the source of inspiration for Rachmaninov! Having lived more than a 100 years prior to Rachmaninov, Paganini inspired one of the most famous compositions of Rachmaninov called “The Rhapsody”. It goes without saying that Paganini was a musical genius but his condition (Marfan Syndrome) endowed him with certain physical gifts that made him one of the most distinguished violinists of all times. His long slender fingers granted him a mind-boggling reach of 3 octaves on the violin! Superhuman? Nah, just Marfin’ around!
8. JULIUS CAESAR
For those who are associated with the Asterix comics will know how Caesar has been depicted in the flesh. Long and skinny with long fingers, the world’s greatest ruler and dictator was supposedly a victim to this condition. However, as we all know, that did not stop him from becoming the great general that he was and the greater ruler and dictator that he became. Empires were made to bow down and submit to the might of Julius Caesar, the man who suffered from frailties of connective tissue (and also epilepsy)!! And surprisingly enough, he fell victim to death at the hands of his most trusted aide and not any of the aforementioned conditions!
7. VINCENT SCHIAVELLI
Although not known to many by name, his character in “One flew over the cuckoo’s nest” was certainly one few people are not familiar with. Among most famous people to have been diagnosed with this condition, he was among the first. Marfan Syndrome was responsible for the untimely death of this Italian-American actor who succumbed to the disorder through lung collapse. Vincent Schiavelli was a member of the National Marfan Foundation which helped people cope with this disorder as well as spread awareness regarding the same.
6. JONATHAN LARSON
Famous for his compositions and also a playwright by profession, what cut Jonathan Larson’s career short was the fact that his Marfan disorder went undiagnosed. Much of Larson’s fame had been gained posthumously. His cause of death was due to complications arising from Marfans- aortic dissection. Although Larson frequently used to complain of chest pains, his condition went largely undetected for a very long period of time. It was just before the premiere of his musical show “Rent” that he left for his heavenly abode.
5. BRADFORD COX
Member of the rock band Deerhunter, a singer, songwriter, guitarist and an actor by profession Bradford Cox is a man of many talents. Around the age of 10-12 he first started noticing the symptoms of his condition. As a result of Marfans and the resulting awkwardness he experienced, he made very few friends and music was his sole refuge. In the face of all odds, not only did he become a famous musician, he also earned his first big screen role in the widely acclaimed movie “Dallas Buyers’ Club”.
4. JOHN TAVENER
A British composer who was famous for his works that included “The whale”, “Song for Athene”, etc. Throughout his life, most of which was taken up by music, the significant rest was taken up by a host of ailments ranging from stroke to heart disorders to tumors- all between the age of 30 and 40. It was in 1990 that he was diagnosed with the disorder and had already suffered two major heart attacks prior to that. In the winter of 2013, at the age of 69, John Tavener passed away.
3. OSAMA BIN LADEN
Surprised to find his name in an ‘ailment list’? I sure can imagine! Having been the reason for half the world’s ailment, this man was not free from many himself; out of which Marfans Sydrome was one. His long fingers that stopped the hearts of numerous around the world and his long bony face that made it to the top of all most-wanted-lists were testimony to the fact that he suffered from the syndrome. Supposedly, he also faced difficulty in walking and sitting up straight for long durations. However, as we all know, the SEALS put a claim on his life much before the disorder could.
2. ABRAHAM LINCOLN
The 16th President of the United States of America, Abraham Lincoln’s lean stature coupled with the long head is a figure that is hard not to notice. Add to that the thin, long nose with a not-so-wide chest and bam! We get Marfans Syndrome! Now, although the aforementioned symptoms are those of classical Marfans and even though his descendants have been rumoured to be suffering from the same disorder, there have been no concrete evidence to support the claims. And clearly, the argument of malnourishment is a no-sticker in this case!
1. MICHAEL PHELPS
Undoubtedly a shock inclusion in this list- considering a person, who has won 18 Olympic Gold medals and has 39 world records to his name, in such a list of physical frailty seems quite fantastical. Yet, true it is. Arguably the best swimmer of all times, he is rumoured to be a patient of Marfans Syndrome (although he has repeatedly denied it). He stands at a formidable height of 6’4” and has even more formidable armspan of 6’7”! His knees, as he has acknowledged are hyper-mobile or, in other words, double jointed. Due to these extremely common symptoms Phelps has been under close scrutiny by doctors from John’s Hopkins for quite some time.
Now it must make you wonder- a person who has a disorder that is supposed to slow him down, make him weak, make him prone to fatigue and tire him out in the slightest of tasks- how such persons can make it to the pinnacle of success as these men have? Notwithstanding their ailment, if ailment it can be called, they pursued their dreams. And what’s more, they turned their ailment (an apparent impediment) into their forte and excelled at what they did. Embodiment of “When there’s a will, there’s a way”? The above list indeed.