The Upside-Down Man

Claudio Viera de Oliveira Is “The Upside-Down Man”


Claudio Viera de Oliveira resides in Monte Santo, Brazil. As soon as he was born, it was evident that his life would be full of challenges. Oliveira has a condition called congenital arthrogryposis. Due to this condition, Oliveira has severely deformed limbs and a neck that is folded upon itself, which makes his head fall backwards and appear upside down. At the time of his birth, the doctors believed Oliveira would have a short lifespan, as such, they encouraged his mother to starve him, and just let him die: However, she ignored their advice and cared for her son as any mother would care for her child. Despite his condition, a short lifespan was not in the cards for Oliveira and at the age of 40, he decided to write his autobiography.

Defying The Odds Through Perseverance 

defying the odds

Oliveira states that since he was a child, he liked to remain busy and did not want to be dependent on others for everything. Oliveira has worked hard to overcome his difficulties and perform some of the tasks that we tend to take for granted. For example, although he was consistently carried around, once Oliveira turned 8 years old, he decided to begin walking around on his knees.

Independence Through Innovation

Oliveira learned that he could place a pen in his mouth and use it as an extension to type words out on his computer, and his lips allow him to use the mouse. His lips also allow him to use a phone. Today, Oliveira can turn the radio and TV on or off, he can pick up his cell phone, use his computer as well as easily surf the internet.

Family Support is an Important Factor

Oliveira’s family made adjustments to their home to accommodate his needs. They changed the floor of their home to ensure he could walk around without becoming injured. In addition, lights, plugs and Oliveira’s bed had to be lowered so he could be more independent.

Oliveira is unable to use a wheelchair; therefore, his mobility outside of the home is limited. Even so, he strived to go to school so he could learn alongside the other children in his community. He begged his mother to allow him to go. She registered him and he happily attended high school.

Oliveira’s mother states that they did not try ‘fixing’ him: They wanted him to be able to do the typical things that others do. She says that this acceptance has allowed him to feel confident. Since he is not ashamed of his condition, he walks through the streets singing and dancing.

According to Oliveira, he has physically adapted to the world that surrounds him. He does not see himself as ‘different’ and considers himself the same as everyone else. Furthermore, Oliveira states that he is not afraid of dealing with the public anymore because he can say that he is speaks internationally, receiving invitations to speak from countries around the globe.

Despite His Many Challenges, Oliveira Continues to Succeed

Oliveira has reached for and accomplished numerous goals, including qualifying as an accountant, performing everyday tasks without assistance and giving inspirational speeches. His most recent accomplishment is writing and publishing his autobiography, ‘El mundo esta a contramano,’ which, in English reads, ‘The world is the wrong way around.’

Understanding Arthrogryposis


An illustration showing an infant with arthrogryposis.

Congenital arthrogryposis is a degenerative disease that causes the joints to become fused together. Today, arthrogryposis is typically detected before the baby is born. This condition occurs in approximately one of every 3,000 births.

At birth, a baby with this condition will have curved joints in various locations of his or her body. Oliveira was born with an upside-down head that is facing the wrong way and limbs that he cannot use. This condition affects the tissues surrounding the joints, not the joints themselves.

Causes and Treatments

Several factors are responsible for causing this congenital disease, including blood circulation problems, nerve abnormalities, a small uterus that does not provide the baby with enough space for proper development, maternal illness and muscle abnormalities. Treatment options for arthrogryposis include surgery, splinting and physiotherapy.

Final Thoughts

I am sure that at the time of Oliveira’s birth the physicians meant well; however, despite the negativity related to her son’s condition, Oliveira’s mother reached inside herself for strength. She gave her baby exactly what he needed to survive and he continues to live a full, fruitful life full of joy and accomplishments. His ability to overcome numerous hurdles has made him an inspiration to us all.


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