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The heartbreaking condition that is driving 14-year-old Hannah to ‘eat herself to death’

Hannah Wilkinson is 14-years-old and weighs 343 pounds – and she’s starving. The Arizona girl was born with a condition called Prader-Willi syndrome, a brain disorder that means Hannah is
01 Sep 2014 06:12
The heartbreaking condition that is driving 14-year-old Hannah to ‘eat herself to death’

Hannah Wilkinson is 14-years-old and weighs 343 pounds – and she’s starving.

The Arizona girl was born with a condition called Prader-Willi syndrome, a brain disorder that means Hannah is constantly hungry and never feels full.

As a result, she requires constant supervision. If Hannah was left to her own devices, her mother Tonya Wilkinson says, ‘she would eat herself to death.’

Prader-Willi affects the hypothalamus, the part of the brain that controls hunger as well as sleep, motor functions and hormones. The condition is caused by a defect in the 15th chromosome, which means that the hypothalamus simply doesn’t work.

Not only does Hannah never feel full, the syndrome means she also has a dramatically slower metabolism than normal girls.

On a strict diet of just 900 calories a day (the average teen girl needs between 1,800 and 2,200), Hannah is gaining weight.

So instatiable is her appetite that during the times she is not eating, she is completely consumed by her hunger and when her next meal will be.

The Wilkinson family’s lives are ruled by Hannah’s hunger.

Single mother Tonya Wilkinson keeps the fridge and pantry padlocked at all times and there is no food in the cupboards where Hannah could get it. Even the dog food must be locked away.

“I have caught her with the dog food. Eating dog food,” Tonya Wilkinson told ABC’s 20/20.

Tonya doesn’t keep a close eye on her in the supermarket, Hannah will steal food from the shelves and eat it in the bathroom.

The soundtrack to Hannah’s mom’s life is the constant refrain from her daughter: “I’m hungry.”

A typical day, Tonya Wilkinson told 20/20, begins around 6am.

Hannah will wake up hungry and wake her mother to ask for breakfast.

Tonya tries to prolong giving it to her as long as possible to minimize the stressful time between the next meal, but eventually will give her a low-calorie breakfast such as one cup of cereal or low-fat yoghurt with fruit, then lock the pantry and padlock the fridge.

As soon as this meal is finished, Hannah will ask when she can have a snack – usualy 10 grapes or some crackers.

“I know I will hear “How much longer till snack,” “What will I get for snack today,” and “What are we having for dinner?” frequently for the rest of the morning,’ Tonya told 20/20.

After her snack, Hannah will cry in desperation as her hunger remains unassuaged and she knows her next meal is hours away.

A very-low calories lunch follows. On a school day, Hannah must bring her food from home because she’s not allowed to eat anything from the cafeteria. The Wilkinson family sits down to a low-calorie dinner together eat night – usually grilled chicken and salad with water for a drink. Daily Mail

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