Modern Day Elephant Man

James O'Neal suffers from neurofibromatosis, which leaves him looking like the modern day Elephant Man (he makes this comparison himself).

Others would probably hide than work, but James is a remarkable man: he is working proudly at the registers in the Safeway supermarket in Kirkland, Washington. And his customers don't like him - they love him!

Now one of his loyal customers, Katie Knopf has created a website to raise funds for reconstructive surgery for James:

O'Neal knows his deformity shocks people. He knows others with the same genetic disorder would rather hide than work, but for 7 years James has proudly worked the registers at the Kingsgate Safeway on 124th Avenue NE in Kirkland.

"I just tell people this is who I am, it's the way I am. If you don't like me, you don't like me," he said. His customers don't like him -- they love him.

"He is an amazing man and we love him. He's the kind of person that makes your day," said customer Aubrey Richins. "I really love James," said shopper Katie Knopf.

All of them say they were stunned at first when they saw his disfigured face. "I have to admit I was a little taken back, but when I walked through his line I felt this spirit come over me, this man is out here, not hiding," said long-time customer Cindy Peay.

Links: Article at KOMO News | Friends of James O'Neal Fundraising official website

Also check out: Life in the Fast Lane's post about Modern Day Elephant Man Heroes


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I was so shocked to see James up here on Neatorama. I live down the street and shop there all the time. He is such a sweet guy who really doesn't care if you look at him or not. I've seen people flat out avoid his line so there are 10 people waiting in other lines and he is there himself. I make it a point to always go through his line because people are just stupid or avoiding it. He is just doing his job and can't help something he was born with.

I'll have to go make a donation.
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I have NF myself and I've met a woman how also has a fibroma (that lump) in her face. She was actually in her late 20's, but looked far older, more like her 60's. Haven't seen her in years, though.

But I guess I can consider myself lucky, I got my fibroma on the back of my right femur. But it's quite large, so an operation is considered for me too, but only if it turns into a serious pain, which it isn't(yet?).

But just to clear things up: Not everybody get's the fibroma in their faces (like me), and it's not the fibroma itself that is the disease (if you can call it that). Read more: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Neurofibromatosis_type_I
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