November 11, 1973
Harry Raymond Eastlack dies of pneumonia
Eastlack had a condition called fibrodysplasia ossificans progressiva (FOP), also referred to as Stone Man Syndrome. FOP is a rare genetic disorder affecting approximately 1 in 2,000,000 births and shows very little evidence at birth aside from a malformation of the great toes. FOP causes the connective tissues (muscles, ligaments, and tendons) to ossify or turn to bone after injury or illness. The damaged areas will become inflamed, then destroyed, and finally replaced by bone. Surgeries exacerbate the condition, and FOP will cause the joints in the skeletal system to fuse completely restricting movement in those areas.
FOP was not well understood when Eastlack was a child, and it was not known by the medical community that surgery worsened the spread of the disorder. When Eastlack was 5, he broke his leg while playing with his sister. The area began to swell as bone growths developed on his thigh muscles and he underwent several surgeries to correct the issue. By 15, Eastlack’s jaw had fused to his skull and he was no longer able to eat solid foods; by his mid-20s, his spine had completely fused.
Eastlack died four days before his 40th birthday after developing pneumonia. In his later years, Eastlack stated he wished for his body to be used for research for medical advancements and a better understanding of FOP. He willed his body to his doctor who in turn delivered him to the Mütter Museum in Philadelphia where it remains on display. Due to the fusing of his bones, Eastlack’s skeleton required little outside assistance via wires or glue to articulate it, and is able to stand as he stood in life with very little in the way of support.
While there is currently no known cure for FOP, Eastlack’s skeleton has helped doctors better understand the condition. His skeleton has since been accompanied by another patient with FOP, Carol Orzel, who had first encountered Eastlack’s skeleton in 1995 during a gathering of people with FOP and their families. Upon seeing Eastlack, Orzel told her doctor she wished to be displayed beside him after her own death. Orzel died in February 2018 and joined Eastlack the following year.
“Fibrodysplasia ossificans progressiva: Harry Eastlack.” Mütter Museum. Accessed: November 11, 2020. http://memento.muttermuseum.org/detail/fibrodysplasia-ossificans-progressiva
“FOP Skeleton: The Skeleton of Harry Eastlack.” International FOP Association. Accessed: November 11, 2020. https://www.ifopa.org/fop_skeleton
“Fibrodysplasia Ossificans Progressiva.” International FOP Association. Accessed: November 11, 2020. http://www.fopfrance.fr/wp-content/uploads/2013/08/Fibrodysplasia-Ossificans-Progressiva-second-squelette.pdf
“Disturbing Disorders: FOP (Stone Man Syndrome).” Dr. Lindsey Fitzharris. Accessed: November 11, 2020. https://www.drlindseyfitzharris.com/tag/harry-raymond-eastlack/
Bate, Dana. “Philly woman with rare bone disease donates skeleton to Mütter Museum.” WHYY. February 28, 2019. Accessed: November 11, 2020. https://whyy.org/articles/philly-woman-with-rare-bone-disease-fibrodysplasia-ossificans-progressiva-donates-skeleton-to-mutter-museum/