Adorable tot dubbed 'Baby Hulk' due to ultra-rare condition that gives her muscle-like appearance

07 January 2017

Little Madison Gatline's watermelon-sized tumour makes her look like a bodybuilder.

An adorable tot has been dubbed the Baby Hulk due to a watermelon-sized tumour that makes her look like a bodybuilder.

Madison Gatlin, from Crestview in Florida, USA, was born with CLOVES*, a condition that causes lymphatic fluid to swell beneath her arms and chest.

PHOTO: Magazine Features PHOTO: Magazine Features

The ultra-rare illness, caused by a gene mutation, affects only 200 people worldwide.

Doctors first spotted unusual fluid during an ultrasound at 15-weeks and believe the little girl is lucky to be alive.

Since her birth, the swelling around her upper torso and arms have continued to grow and is estimated to weigh 5 lbs (2,27 kg) - the same weight as a bag of sugar.

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Her parents have nicknamed her Baby Hulk for her muscular appearance.

Eighteen-month-old Madison is considered a medical miracle after defying death and learning to walk despite doctors prediction she wouldn't be able to.

"The upper half of her body looks like she's gained weight and it makes her look like a bodybuilder, she's like a 'baby Hulk'," her mother Joni, a full-time mom-of-two, says.

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"Her nickname started during an instance where twin boys asked me what was wrong with her, I told them her daddy was the Hulk and they thought it was the coolest thing ever.

"After I told them she was the Hulk's daughter they wanted to be her best friend.

"I don't want people to be scared of my daughter, there's nothing wrong with her, she just has a gene malfunction.

"I've told younger children she's a baby Hulk because I don't think they would understand the condition and this way they aren't scared of her and don't treat her differently.

"You have to try to have a sense of humour with something like this."

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After months of testing Madison was diagnosed with the rare progressive overgrowth disorder.

"When she was born Madison looked drastically different to what I expected, from her high waist up to her shoulders she looked very muscular," Joni remembers.

Madison shortly after she was born. PHOTO: Magazine Features Madison shortly after she was born. PHOTO: Magazine Features

"The majority of her upper body and arms are filled with lymphatic fluid that her body is unable to drain back into her bloodstream – leading to cystic masses developing in those areas.

"Particularly in her right arm, the mass is currently the size of a small watermelon, it will continue to grow with her body based upon her height and weight.

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"When she was born she looked like a cute little blog with legs, we believed the mass weighed 3 lb (1,36 kg), now I think it's around 5 lb (2,27 kg)."

To prevent the growth from expanding, specialists have to perform chemical cauterisation -- where a small amount of fluid is withdrawn from her body and reinjected with a mix of medication and saline.

She also has to wear compression garments 24-hours a day and has the fluid drained twice a day.

Over time it's hoped that treatment will reduce the swelling to a size where surgeons will be able to operate, until then her mom has learned to treat her at home.

PHOTO: Magazine Features PHOTO: Magazine Features

"Due to her condition she needs to wear custom compression garments 24/7 and also has to take oral medication to reduce the lymphatic fluid production in her body," Joni explains

"I give her lymphatic massages, then we do the compression garments and have started therapy where fluid is pulled out mixed with saline and injected back into her system.

Madison in hospital receiving sclarotherapy treatment - where saline is injected into the arm to try to prevent excess lymphatic fluid from being pushing into the limb. PHOTO: Magazine Features Madison in hospital receiving sclarotherapy treatment - where saline is injected into the arm to try to prevent excess lymphatic fluid from being pushing into the limb. PHOTO: Magazine Features

"We are currently trying to get it down to a manageable size, then we will go through a de-bulking phase where surgeons will take out veins, reattached the blood vessels and restore blood flow back to normal."

Doctors have praised Joni for her tireless work and have said that without her delicate care Madison would have died.

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"We do everything we can for Madison and she's doing remarkable well," her devoted mom says.

"We've been told that if we didn't do this she wouldn't be here."

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Joni is determined not to shelter her daughter from normal life and tries to raise awareness of the condition, despite battling with comments from the public.

"I'm doing everything I can as a mother, I don't want to put her in a bubble.

"She goes outside to play -- we just have to sanitise everything a lot more but she does everything any normal child can.

"It can be hard at times though, once I had rude person telling me I should have aborted her, which I was disgusted by, because every child should have a chance to live.

"It was my choice to take care of my daughter and I advocate for her very well, I make sure everyone knows about her condition.

"Madison is definitely a miracle child, she's defying the odds every day.

"She's even overcoming predictions from doctors who told us she wouldn't be able to sit up, walk or crawl and she can do all of that."

The Gatlin family are fundraising to try to help gather the money to cover Madison's medical bills, you donate by visiting: or you can follow the family on Facebook.

*CLOVES is an acronym standing for Congential, Lipomatous Overgrowth, Vascular Malformations, Epidermal Nevi & Spinal/Skeletal/Seizures.

Kristen Davis, Executive Director of CLOVES Syndrome Community, said: "CLOVES is caused by non-hereditary somatic mutation - the affected gene that causes CLOVES is called PIK3ca, a mutation that is often implicated in aggressive cancers.

"Overgrowth related to CLOVES can occur anywhere in the body including brain, trunk, limbs including hands/feet, as well as internal soft tissue tumors and vascular malformations.

"Some people have overgrowth in many parts of the body, some only have a few parts of the body affected.

"The problems that each person has, depends on where the overgrowth is located."

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