A woman told today how she never feels hunger or thirst after she was unable to eat or drink for 15 years because of a rare condition.
Molly Smith, 20, was rushed to hospital as a young child after her small intestine turned in on itself and had to be removed by surgeons.
As a result of the operation she was unable to digest food or drink and had to be fed through a tube directly into her heart for the next 15 years.
Molly has now undergone a lifesaving triple transplant to replace her liver, bowel and pancreas, which means she can eat and drink for the first time.
However, her years without food have left her unable to feel hunger or thirst or enjoy eating food.
Brave Molly, from Buckden, Cambs., revealed she gets ”no pleasure” from eating food and has to remind herself to eat and drink at meal times.
She said: ”People at school didn’t always realise I was ill but I could never go to sleep overs as I would need to be fed through the tube at night.
”When I was being fed by a tube I never experienced the social aspect of food. If my parents were having a meal I would just sit at the table and read a book.
”I still get no pleasure from eating and I forget to eat and drink sometimes because I never feel hungry or thirsty. But I am managing to maintain a healthy weight.
”Eating is a completely new experience for me. It is so hard to put into words. There are so many different flavours and textures to get used to.
”I am learning what I like and what I don’t at a much older age than everyone else. I am also discovering new foods for example I don’t like chocolate but I like chips.
”I do not think my lack of hunger and thirst are purely psychological – there must be a physical element to it. The doctors can’t explain it but hopefully they will come back.”
Molly, who lives with her parents Ann, 60, a librarian, and Chris, 61, a retired charity worker, was rushed to hospital aged six months old after her small intestine ‘telescoped’ in on itself.
The rare condition, called intussusception, meant doctors were forced to remove the organ leaving the youngster unable to digest food or drink.
For the next 15 years Molly had to hook herself up to a machine for 12 hours every day which fed nutrients directly into her blood through her heart.
She attached the tubes to a hole in her chest, which had to be covered up by a plaster during the day.
However, Molly’s liver was so badly damaged from digesting the high concentration of nutrients delivered by the tube that she need a transplant to avoid death.
Just one day before her 16th birthday Molly underwent a dangerous 12-hour triple transplant at Birmingham Children’s Hospital.
The successful operation enabled her to eat for the first time and over the last four years she has gradually been weaned off the tube and onto food and drink.
Molly added: ”The doctors and surgeons still do not know what caused by small intestine to telescope in on itself – it could just be one of those things.
”When I was younger I would just cover up the tube in my chest with bandage and hide it under my school uniform.
”I went to school every day and appeared normal but at night I had to be attached to the machine. When I was seven I learnt how to manage the machine by myself.
”I could never go to a sleepover of stay away from home as I needed my night-time feed. So it was amazing to be able to go to Japan and stay away from home for the first time.”
Earlier this year Molly contacted the family of the girl whose donated organs saved her life and met up with her older sister.
She said: ”It was a really emotional experience emailing and meeting up with my donor family. The girl had died from a brain haemorrhage.
”The sister said that it really helped speaking to me and I am so pleased that it did. It was also good for me to understand where the organs had come from.
”People don’t like to think about death, but I had to when I was ill. So I do my bit to encourage people to donate as I know firsthand that it saves lives.”
*Molly is spearheading a campaign by the NHS Organ Donor Register to encourage people to sign up and donate. For more information www.organdonation.nhs.uk.