By: Krystle Crossman
Kavita Kumari, a 15 year old girl from India, was weak. She hadn’t been able to eat for quite sometime because of a pain in her stomach. She had no idea what it was and didn’t get checked out by a doctor until her parents noticed that her stomach was protruding and the stomach pains were noticeable. She was brought to see a doctor at a hospital in Utter Pradesh. What they found stunned them all. Kumari had a five foot long hairball (called a trichbezoar) stuck in her digestive tract.
It is called Rapunzel Syndrome. Our hair is made of keratin which is something that the body cannot break down in the digestive system. It is also very slippery so it can’t be pulled through the body with the other foods that are in there. Eventually it becomes so big that your large intestine becomes backed up, causing immense pain. Kumari needed surgery right away and the doctor had to tell her parents that she may not even make it through the surgery. The CT scan showed that the hairball extended from her stomach all the way through to her small intestines. She was weak from not being able to eat. It was a high-risk surgery but it needed to be done.
Kumari pulled through the surgery just fine and is on the road to recovery. You may be wondering how she got that much hair in her system. There is a disorder that some people have where they eat their hair when they are nervous or upset. Kumari’s disorder was so bad that she would eat her classmates’ hair as well. She is on the road to recovery now and should be able to eat normally soon. Sadly this is not the first time that this has happened. In Kyrgyzstan an 18 year old was experiencing stomach pains and could not eat or drink anything. The doctors discovered that she had this disorder and had been eating hair off of the floor. This caused her to develop a nine pound trichbezoar in her stomach which had to be removed through surgery.