A schoolgirl was shocked to discover she had a huge hairball in her stomach after complaining of nausea.
Melissa Williams, 13, ate her own hair when she felt anxious and ended up with a rugby ball-like mass in her stomach.
The tangled hair had to be cut into four sections by doctors before they could remove them all, the Liverpool Echo reported.
In an effort to raise awareness, the teen’s family speaks out about her condition, known as Rapunzel syndrome.
The hairball, which was between eight and ten centimeters in diameter, was removed in October last year.
Mum Jackie Williams, 40, and dad, Gary Jones, 47, didn’t realize something was up until Melissa, from Liverpool, started complaining of severe stomach pains.
Jackie explained that she took her daughter to and from the GP over the course of a year, but “persisted” when they told her that Melissa’s problems were due to anxiety.
She told The ECHO: “She was bullied very much at school for three years and when she got anxious she would pull out her own hair and eat it.
“The first things we noticed was that she felt sick and was sick, had a poor appetite and had lost about a pound. I thought she had an eating disorder because she wasn’t eating.
“She was often sent home from school and asked not to go in because she felt sick, but since it was the same day every week, I thought it was a class she didn’t like.
“We’ve been to and from the doctors about half a dozen times over the year, but we persisted.”
The pain got significantly worse over a two-week period and Jackie decided to take Melissa to Alder Hey Children’s Hospital.
Once at the hospital, the doctors could feel that Melissa’s stomach was tender. They then found a huge mass, but did not know what it was.
Jackie said: “They said they’d never seen this before, they did an X-ray and they saw a big mass in her stomach but didn’t know what it was.
“It was actually my neighbor who said she’d read something about people eating their hair years ago, and it was.”
Melissa went to emergency surgery in Alder Hey, where doctors had to cut the hairball into four sections before removing each with two hands due to their weight.
Jackie continued: “The doctors said if we hadn’t admitted Mel when we did, she might not have made it through the surgery.
“She was relieved when the pain was gone and she was so brave.”
After the surgery, Melissa was in the hospital for two weeks due to problems with her blood and excess fluid in her stomach.
Melissa was then healthy enough to go home for four weeks before being hospitalized again with three different infections.
Melissa still pulls out her hair, but doesn’t eat it anymore. It is supported by the Child and Youth Mental Health Service (CAMHS).
Now her family wants to raise awareness about Rapunzel syndrome and make sure other parents know what signs and symptoms to watch out for.
Jackie said: “Parents need to watch out for any changes in their kids’ hair, and it’s not just the hair on their heads. It can be eyelashes and eyebrows.
“Eating changes, nausea, and abdominal pain are also all symptoms.
“I would also say that parents shouldn’t give up when they go to the doctor. If you know something is wrong with your child, keep going back, don’t give up and don’t take no for an answer.”
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