WHEN strangers first stare at Charles Nyoni — as they often do — they immediately ask themselves: “How much does he weigh?”
“I weigh 288kg and still counting,” he will tell you with a rueful chuckle.
Towering at over 2,1m, Nyoni is by any standards a huge man. Better known in Hwange as Big Charlie, Nyoni is 41cm shorter than the tallest man in the world, Turkey’s Sultan Kosen. Big Charlie’s arms are longer than most people’s legs, while his hands look like shovels. His torso is like a drum and the width of his shoulders comes to more than a meter.
Because he wears size 22 shows, some in Hwange call him “Charles Gumbo”.
To fuel such a massive bio-machine requires much fuel. Which is why he drinks from a bowl of porridge rather than use a spoon as that little utensil would take too much time and effort.
For breakfast, Big Charlie requires at least a loaf of bread. For lunch or supper, the giant requires a portion of sadza normally devoured by three fully-grown food lovers. Hwange Colliery Company has made a special bed of thick strong wood to support his extra-ordinary weight. Two blankets were sewn together to cover his body.
Unfortunately, his legs can no longer carry this massive frame easily and he struggles to walk.
Big Charlie spends most of his days under a mango tree — on a massive stool specially made for him.
Born in 1966, Nyoni suffers from gigantic acromegaly, a rare disorder caused by high levels of growth hormone. People with the condition have a short lifespan owing to their susceptibility to infection and metabolic disorders. Big Charlie also battles high blood pressure and diabetes. His family began noticing his abnormal growth when he was still a toddler.
“By the time I reached 11, I could not fit into shoe sizes that normally fitted children of my age. Initially, my mother bought for me the type of shoes that are known as Farmer Shoes but I quickly outgrew even the biggest size,” Nyoni said.
“When I was 17, my mother sent me for tests at Parirenyatwa Hospital. A lot of tests were done but due to financial constraints, I was not able to complete them,” added Nyoni. Big Charlie was raised by his mother after the death of his father in 1972.
“His father was a victim of the Kamandama Mine Disaster that claimed the lives of 427 miners when an underground shaft collapsed at Hwange Colliery Mine.
Briefly employed by Hwange Colliery as a refuse collector, the company struggled to get him overalls and safety shoes that fit comfortably.
At one time, the mine contracted a shoe-manufacturing company to produce shoes that specifically fit Nyoni. Big Charlie’s feet continued to grow until the shoe manufacturing could not produce shoes for him anymore.
“The shoe manufacturing company ran out of the special material that was used to produce the special shoes.
“I continued growing such that I would wear a shirt only once or twice before it became small,” Big Charlie said.
Hwange retrenched him in 2012. And his wife also left him.
“I used to have a wife but she left me, probably because of my ever-ballooning size or my lack of financial resources.
“I heard she re-married and I have not seen my children in a long time. I have friends, I have good neighbours, I have relatives but it is not the same as having a wife and children around,” he says mournfully.
Big Charlie needs assistance from well-wishers as his weight makes earning a living difficult.
His uncle, Joshua Wange, says Big Charlie needs money to start a small business so that he can take care of himself again.
“Since he is diabetic, he needs a special diet and medication. There are times when he has fallen ill and neighbours had to contribute for his medication.
“For those who wish to give him clothes, I think they should buy the fabric and hire a tailor because it seems the well-wishers are sending in wrong sizes,” says Wange.
Nyoni also requires a walking aid.
Those willing to assist Charles Nyoni can contact him on +263783155647 or +263772347975
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