When a five-year-old girl from Lancashire, England complained of daily stomach aches, her parents took her to the hospital and received the frustrating news of no diagnosis and were given a referral to a different hospital.
It was there, at the Alder Hey hospital in Liverpool, where an internal scan found an unidentifiable object in little Millie Wallis’ stomach, leading to fears of a possible tumor.
But when doctors started operating on the young girl what they found was completely unexpected.
Millie’s dad, Stephen Wallis explains “It was a huge hair ball, with ropes of hair reaching down her digestive tract.”
It turned out the young girl’s habit of chewing on her own hair, sparked by the rare and bizarre disorder called Rapunzel syndrome, had blocked Millie’s belly and become entangled around her organs.
Speaking on her daughter’s habit, mom Lisa told The Mirror, “It all started when Millie was three. I noticed that she had taken to plucking out small clumps of her soft hair. One day as I was brushing it I noticed she had a small bald patch on the back of her head where she had pulled out too much.”
Of course the parents didn’t expect it to lead to the internal entanglement. Sowetan LIVE explains human hair tends to be resistant to digestion, so it stays in the stomach and over time forms a large clump.
In Millie’s case, the hair ball had become so large, it took surgeons six hours to remove it. They also “had to totally re-plumb her digestive system so the food could bypass the damaged area of her bowel,” which had been perforated by the hair, explained her father.
The parents are relieved they caught the problem when they did, since doctors believe the issue could have caused the youngster to die.
Fortunately, little Millie is reported to be recovering nicely.