By Sophie Norris
A mum claims she is repeatedly left heartbroken to discover her ‘starving’ son rooting through BINS for food – because a rare genetic disorder means he can never feel full.
Little Frankie Udall, from Billericay, Essex, suffers from Prader-Willi syndrome, an incurable disease that leaves the four-year-old often screaming in hunger despite having just eaten.
Mum Tayla feels like she is continually ‘starving her own child’ despite knowing it is best for him in the long term – as many sufferers are left obese as they eat up to six times their recommended amount.
The 21-year-old mum-of-two is now showing heartbreaking footage of Frankie screaming after his meals to raise awareness of the life-changing disease.
The disorder leaves Frankie so hungry that he lashes out at his mum and two-year-old brother Albie through frustration and Tayla has even had to install a stairgate to prevent him accessing the kitchen alone.
Frankie and Albie even have to eat in separate rooms as the tot will try to steal his brother’s meal.
Tayla said: “It’s the worst feeling in the whole entire world. I feel like I’m starving my own child.
“He’ll go from totally fine to completely upset and hurting himself when he can’t have food.
“The fact I have to tell him he can’t have any more food breaks my heart. He does honestly think he’s starving.
“As a mum, when your child cries you want to feed them. This goes against your instinct.
“Frankie will eat a meal then want to keep on eating. He’ll wake up thinking he’s starving, eat his breakfast then ask for more and I have to say no.
“He’s in a better routine now since he started school in September and he knows when each meal time is, but when he’s not at school he will try to eat constantly all day and try to get into the kitchen.
“I had to get a stairgate to stop him getting in there – it’s really sad. I left it open by accident a few months ago and he was going into the bin looking for food because he felt that hungry.”
Since starting school, Tayla believes the routine and eating when the other children eat has helped Frankie understand meal times and portions.
The little boy will have two snacks along with lunch during the school day but Tayla has his dinner on the table for exactly 4pm to avoid a ‘complete meltdown’.
One of the main symptoms of Prader-Willi syndrome is obsessive pursuit of food, which can lead to stealing and hiding food.
Tayla said: “Frankie will have his snack at school, then lunch then he’ll want another snack. When he gets home from school I’ll need to have his dinner ready for 4pm.
“If it isn’t on the table by then, he will have a complete meltdown and often afterwards, he’ll ask for more. When I say no, he’ll get really upset.
“I try to give him fruit to make him feel full up while helping him stay healthy.
“After his dinner and pudding, he’ll then ask for more food later in the evening. I have the challenge of trying not to make him feel like he’s going without.
“He constantly forgets he had dinner and will eat a meal then ask for food half an hour later. When we say no, he’ll start screaming.
“Sometimes I’ll know he wants more but I can’t do it. He doesn’t understand that he’s full up.
“I have to let the boys eat dinner in separate rooms because Frankie will try to steal Albie’s dinner.
“He’ll scream and cry because he thinks he’s still hungry. Along with that, he’ll become really aggressive towards me, his brother and often himself. It’s horrific and really hard.”
From when he was a baby, Tayla knew something wasn’t right as Frankie was feeding a lot more than normal children.
As a first-time mum, Tayla admits she dismissed it and thought he was just a hungry baby, even when at the age of two he was eating ‘like he hadn’t eaten before’.
Tayla said: “When he was younger it was a lot harder. I thought he was just a hungry baby because he was constantly eating.
“When he was around two-and-a-half, he’d be putting food in his mouth like he hadn’t eaten before. He wasn’t even swallowing.
“He’d eat and eat and eat. Once he was going through a growth spurt and ate so much that his belly was bloated to the point I thought he’d be sick.
“I do give Frankie a little bit more than you would a normal five-year-old but it’s hard. It’s bad to overfeed him and no matter what I give him, he’ll never fill up.
“We have to give him a high nutrition diet and I’ve been reading about how giving him richer foods could make him fuller for longer.
“When I go shopping, I make an effort not to buy more food than I normally would but I will make healthier choices, such as getting biscuits with less sugar in.
“He went through a stage last year when he got very chubby. We have to give him fruit and vegetables and home cooked dinners to help him maintain a healthy weight.
“It’s very hard. My other son will say ‘can I have a bag of crisps or a biscuit’ but if Frankie sees him eating them he wants some and I can’t give him them.”
Since seeking a professional medical diagnosis, Tayla has been reading about the syndrome and connecting with other parents of children with Prader-Willi.
She claims one of her biggest fears is that Frankie will become obese and find himself unable to keep up with his friends while playing.
Tayla said: “It’s a hard thing to try and learn about because there isn’t much information out there.
“I don’t want Frankie to be overfed and unhealthy. It worries me that he will put weight on when he’s older and be unable to play because he loves being out and about.
“He’s a really active child. I don’t want him to start eating the wrong things.
“I’m hoping that when he does get older, he’ll have learnt how to handle his symptoms and know that overeating is bad for him.
“He’s such a happy boy apart from the Prader-Willi and always smiling. He’s so loving and wants to play with everyone all the time.
“He’s never upset, only when it comes to food. He’s a really happy little boy.
“I like reading other people’s stories and knowing I’m not the only one going through this.
“These symptoms aren’t normal for healthy children. It’s so nice to know we are not alone.
“I’d tell anyone who suspects their children have this to get straight to the doctors and really tell them how you are feeling and what is going on.”