He has gone from being a freak, displayed at carnivals and earning a pittance, to someone who can look forward to living a normal life. But for Dede Koswara, dubbed the 'Tree Man' because of the bark-like growths on his arms and legs, the journey from circus show exhibit to being a patient with a manageable medical condition was largely due to luck. Mr Dede's drama began as a teenager, when he cut his knee and warts soon sprouted around the wound. He had them treated, but more mysteriously appeared. By his mid-20s, these warts had grown out of control, turning into root-like growths known as cutaneous horns. Mr Dede was forced to quit his job as a builder, as he could no longer use his hands or feet properly. He was unable to earn a living and his wife left him, taking their two daughters with her. Mr Dede was forced to depend entirely on his younger brother, unable to even feed himself properly. He worked briefly at a freak show, called a paranormal exhibition. But after these sporadic appearances he returned to his village struggling to live with the huge growths, which left him exhausted at the day's end. Ten years ago, he sought treatment, begging doctors at West Java's Hasan Sadikin Hospital to treat the growths. But it was the height of the Asian economic crisis and the hospital had neither the equipment to examine his blood and skin cells nor the money to fund ongoing medical treatment. 'We did do some trial treatment on him, excising the warts, and giving him limited medicine, but the warts regrew after two to three months,' said Rachmat Dinata, the dermatologist who heads the medical team at the hospital now treating Mr Dede. The doctors had no idea why the warts had become so uncontrollable. It wasn't until a documentary team working for Discovery Channel shot a feature about Mr Dede last year, sparking a domestic media furore, that a solution to his extremely rare illness was found. The Discovery team brought in Antony Gaspari, a dermatologist from the US who took blood and skin samples from Mr Dede and took them back to the US. He concluded that Mr Dede suffered from a rare immune deficiency, which allowed the common wart virus - human papilloma virus - to attack his cells, producing abnormal growths. When the Discovery show was aired on Indonesian cable channels, it was viewed by President Susilo Bambang Yudhoyono. Shocked at the severity of Mr Dede's condition, which according to the documentary had been ignored by the Indonesian health authorities, Dr Susilo ordered Health Minister Siti Fadilah Supari to arrange treatment for him. Mr Dede was brought to the Hasan Sadikin Hospital last November and a team of six surgeons - including Dr Rachmat - began planning how to treat him. But Dr Siti Fadilah, outraged that Dr Gaspari had taken blood and skin samples from Mr Dede without the permission of the Indonesian government, accused him of trying to use the samples for commercial purposes. She banned Dr Gaspari from entering Indonesia to provide further treatment for Mr Dede. Finally, earlier this year, Dr Gaspari had a private meeting with the minister, where he explained that he did not aim to profit from the samples. He was then consulted by local doctors once more about how to treat Mr Dede. Today, just five months after Mr Dede began treatment involving an arduous series of operations, he has regained limited use of his hands and feet. It is the first time in over a decade he can clearly see his toes. His hands are still covered in the thick warts, looking more like bark than anything human. His fingers are barely visible. But even this is remarkable progress for someone who could not use his hands and walked with difficulty. With his massively clumsy fingers he can now play sudoko for several hours a day and send text messages to friends on a mobile phone. Mr Dede says he is looking forward to the day 'when it's all disappeared'. And he has begun dreaming of an independent future. 'I would like to work again,' he says, when asked what he dreams of doing once his body is completely free of the growths. The former builder says he would like to open a small shop and hopes to be able to support his younger child, aged 15. His elder daughter is 18 and already married, but he says he regrets that he wasn't able to support his two children. The extremely shy 37-year-old also says he'd like to remarry. But Mr Dede still has to endure four or five more operations over the next three months. Remarkably, the bones in his fingers, hands and feet have only been slightly damaged by the cutaneous horns, says Dr Rachmat. 'There is a little bit of osteoporosis, because his arms and feet were not used,' he says. Each day Mr Dede practises arm and leg movements to strengthen his once useless limbs. Doctors will graft 'good skin' from his back and the back of his legs - the only place free of the wart infection - to replace the skin on his hands after doctors cut off all the remaining warts. The doctors will use a plastic surgery technique called skin expansion, where, over a period of several weeks, they inject saline into a ballon under a patch of good skin to expand it and facilitate growth. But the operations are not without risk. 'There is a risk of infections, or maybe his skin won't grow,' says Dr Rachmat. Mr Dede's extremely weak immune system means he also suffered from tuberculosis and chronic hepatitis B, and can potentially catch any infectious disease from those around him. 'He's like an HIV-positive patient, very fragile,' says Dr Rachmat. The advanced case of tuberculosis has been treated and Mr Dede's lungs are free of the infection. But his kidneys are weakened from the viral hepatitis B and the doctors worry about how he might react to a special anti-viral medicine, which they hope will be donated from the US. Dr Gaspari has recommended that Mr Dede be treated with this anti-viral medicine to ensure that the warts don't regrow. He is approaching a US-based drug company to ask for a donation, as it is prohibitively expensive. Mr Dede is also being treated with synthetic vitamin A in order to stimulate skin growth.