This 5-year-old can't stop eating thanks to a rare genetic disease

play article
Subscribers can listen to this article
Five-year-old Harlow Williams suffers from Prader-Willi Syndrome, which means she always feels hungry. (PHOTO: Facebook/ holly.williams.3363)
Five-year-old Harlow Williams suffers from Prader-Willi Syndrome, which means she always feels hungry. (PHOTO: Facebook/ holly.williams.3363)

Holly Williams has put a gate in her kitchen to prevent her five-year-old daughter, Harlow, from eating her heart out.

Harlow has Prader-Willi Syndrome, a rare genetic disorder that causes physical, mental and behavioural problems. A feature of the syndrome is a constant feeling of hunger that usually begins at the age of two.

People with Prader-Willi Syndrome want to eat constantly because they never feel full, and they often have trouble controlling their weight.

Holly (25), who lives in Newport, Wales, says she knew her daughter wasn’t healthy from the moment she was born.

“She was tiny and only weighed 2,15kg. She was really floppy, had no strength, didn’t cry and wouldn’t feed properly on a bottle. The doctors assumed it was Prader-Willi Syndrome because they said they could tell from her features too, such as her eyes, nose and mouth.”

Holly Williams, Harlow, Prader Willi Syndrome, foo
Harlow, who lives in Wales, was just six months old when she was officially diagnosed with the disorder. (PHOTO: Facebook/ holly.williams.3363)

READ MORE | This mom longs to hear her daughter speak but a rare brain condition means she can't walk or talk

Children may be born with almond-shaped eyes, a narrowing of the head at the temples, a turned-down mouth and a thin upper lip.

Harlow was diagnosed with the syndrome when she was six months old.

Keeping Harlow from eating herself to death is a full-time challenge, her mom says.

“She eats a full meal and will say she's hungry again straight away. It’s really difficult because she constantly wants to eat and I have to make sure she doesn’t.

“It’s hard to manage and I have to try and explain to her that she’s not really hungry,” Holly says.

She adds, “If I were to leave a plate of cake and I wasn’t around, Harlow would easily eat it all. It’s happened plenty of times before.”

Holly Williams, Harlow, Prader Willi Syndrome, foo
With her mom, Holly, who says she must always watch her daughter around food or else she'll eat everything in sight. (PHOTO: Facebook/ holly.williams.3363)

READ MORE | These kids have a rare disorder that makes their hair impossible to comb

“I make sure she has a healthy and balanced diet, but she's still allowed treats as she's just a child after all, so I don’t want to completely deprive her,” she explains.

The syndrome has also caused other health problems for Harlow.

She weighs 44kg, roughly 19kg heavier than the average five-year-old, suffers from sleep apnea and has mobility issues.

Harlow also has behavioural issues caused by the syndrome, which means she "acts out" more frequently than other children her age.

“I have to be stern with her or she'd rule my life. However, we have a really close mother-daughter bond as we're together all the time,” Holly says. 

She adds, “It can be hard to deal with the conditions sometimes, but because Harlow is my first child I don’t know any different.”

Holly Williams, Harlow, Prader Willi Syndrome, foo
Because of her condition, Harlow struggles with her weight. (PHOTO: Facebook/ holly.williams.3363)

Holly says she’s opening up about her daughter’s condition to raise awareness about her illness and what she goes through every day.

Despite her condition, Harlow is a happy girl, her mother says.

“She's at a mainstream school and is getting on really well.”


We live in a world where facts and fiction get blurred
In times of uncertainty you need journalism you can trust. For 14 free days, you can have access to a world of in-depth analyses, investigative journalism, top opinions and a range of features. Journalism strengthens democracy. Invest in the future today. Thereafter you will be billed R75 per month. You can cancel anytime and if you cancel within 14 days you won't be billed. 
Subscribe to News24
Show Comments ()