A 4-year-old boy who suffers from the rare Rapunzel syndrome, which causes him to eat his own hair, had his life saved by doctors after a four-foot-long hairball became lodged in his stomach and intestines.
The toddler, Sivam Kumar, whose condition gives him a constant compulsion to eat his hair, had his head totally shaved by his parents in an effort to stop him from consuming his locks.
By the time surgeons in India were able to treat young Sivam, he had been eating his own hair for nine months. He would often vomit, unable to eat normally, which eventually led to malnutrition and dehydration.
The boy’s father, Sunil Kumar, told reporters, “He used to cry all the time but he couldn’t explain to us what was wrong. We took him to many doctors but they found nothing. When a CT scan eventually revealed a big hairball I was shocked. I just couldn’t believe it.”
When the toddler’s stomach became so bloated it looked abnormal, his parents rushed him to hospital, where Dr. Shilpa Sharma, an assistant professor of the pediatric department at the All India Institute of Medical Sciences hospital, in New Delhi, found the hairball in his stomach.
During the successful surgery, doctors pulled out a massive hairball that had made its way into Sivam’s stomach, as well as his small and large intestines.
As Dr. Sharma said about the operation, “He was very weak and malnourished and his stomach was severely bloated when we first saw him. We immediately took a CT scan and that’s when we found a big entangled mass in his abdomen. There was very little gas in the abdomen area. The hair had spread in the stomach and travelled into his intestines. When we opened his stomach a 4 ft hairball came out in the exact shape of the stomach.”
Sivam’s mother, Munni, who also has two other sons, told reporters, “I’d seen him plucking his hair and eating it but I just assumed it would come out in his stool. I didn’t know he was eating it so regularly and over a nine-month period. When I saw the CT scan reports I was devastated. I was sure he wouldn’t survive. I am thankful to God that my son has survived this and is now absolutely fine.”