By Shannon Lane @Shannonroselane
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For over a decade, doctors were baffled by the mystery cause of his illness.
Raphael’s father, Alfons, said: "When Raphael was born you could see it quite clearly, you could see the stripes like a bee.
"Nobody had seen it before. It really took a long time before we received a proper diagnosis. The diagnoses were wrong for 14 years.”
The genetic condition known as ichthyosis with confetti, causes the teenager’s skin to grow extraordinarily quickly and turn into scaly flakes.
The condition has been recorded fewer than 20 times worldwide, and is most likely caused by a spontaneous genetic mutation in the womb.
Paediatrician, Dr Gian Farid visited Raphael immediately after he was born.
He said: "He was completely red, and he had skin, which at that moment, looked sort of like a cooked crab. So we realised quite soon that there was a serious skin disorder.”
In 2008, Raphael's mother discovered a hopeful solution to treat her son’s condition.
She said: “I’d seen a report about doctor fish, that they’ve got a centre in Vienna, and we tried it in the Spring.
“After two weeks of intensive treatment, he was almost scale free, and so we decided if we could afford it, we needed these fish at home.”
Doctor fish, or Garra rufa, are found in the river systems of the Northern and Central Middle East, and feed on tiny algae.
They’re perfectly adapted to eating the confetti flakes from Raphael’s body.
At 6:30am every morning, Raphael is lowered into a specially made tank, containing 300 skin-eating fish.
The 14-year-old said: "Since I’ve had the fish it’s much better. It was worse before, I couldn’t move as much and it was harder to clean up the scales because I was in a steam shower. This is much better for me.”
With the aid of fish therapy, Raphael can now lead a relatively normal life as a teenager.
One day he hopes to be a graphic designer, and be cured of his rare condition.
Raphael’s story appears in Body Bizarre this Thursday, November 17, 10pm, on TLC.