An impoverished Indian father plans to sell his own kidney to fund life-saving treatment for his three morbidly-obese children.
Sisters Yogita Rameshbhai Nandwana, 5, and Anisha, 3, and their 18-month-old brother Harsh, are among the world’s heaviest young children.
Weighing 34kg, 48kg and 15kg respectively, the food they eat in a week is enough to feed two families in a month.
Their father Rameshbhai Nandwana, 34, of Gurjarat, India, is planning to sell his kidney to obtain the money needed to see top specialists.
“If my kids continue to grow at this rapid rate, they will have major health issues. We’re terrified they will die,” he said.
Yogita and Anisha’s daily intake of food comprises 18 chapatis, three pounds of rice, two bowls of broth, six packets of crisps, five packs of biscuits, 12 bananas and a litre of milk.
Their extreme hunger means that their mother Pragna Ben, 30, spends most of her day in the kitchen preparing their meals.
“My day starts with making 30 chapatis and a kilo of vegetable curry in the morning. After that I am again in the kitchen preparing more food,” their mother said.
She added, “Their hunger never stops. They demand food all the time and cry and scream if they’re not fed. I am always in the kitchen cooking for them.”
The couple is also parents to Bhavika, 6, who weighs an average 16kgs.
“When Yogita was born, she was extremely weak and weighed just 1.5kg. We were worried for her health,” Nandwana said. “So, we fed her a lot during the first year of her life to build her strength and by her first birthday she had bloated to 12kgs.
Similarly, the third daughter Anisha gained weight and weighed 15kg by the time she was one. The couple realised their children were suffering from a disorder when their son gained weight rapidly in his first year.
We started looking for medical help and consulted many doctors but they would just refer us to bigger hospitals that I couldn’t afford,” the father explained.
With a salary of just Rs3,000 a month, Nandwana is still able to fulfill the growing appetite of his children. Working for a daily wage, he explained that there are some days when there is no work at all.
“I work in fields, dig wells, and do whatever menial job I can find to earn money,” he said, adding, “I’m constantly worried about finding the money to feed my hungry children.”
Despite his paltry income, Nandwana spends about Rs10,000 a month on food for his children and says he “cannot leave them starving”.
“If I don’t have the money, I borrow it from my brothers and friends. But I make sure I feed my children when they need,” he added.
The father has spent Rs50,000 seeing doctors and seeking treatment over the last three years. However, there has not been any improvement in his children’s condition.
“As parents, it pains us immensely to see them unable to move,” the father said. “They cannot walk; they cannot do anything on their own. Selling my kidney is a desperate measure. I’m now desperate to get the right help for my children,” he said.
Their mother cannot pick them up so she has to watch them roll around when her husband is at work — or use a trolley to pull them around.
“They need me to help them bath or when they need the toilet. I’m only 40 kg so it’s impossible for me to pick them up. It’s very difficult when my husband is at work,” the mother said.
The children are restricted in their movements due to which they are unable to attend school. All they do is play with each other all day.
“I want my daughters to get an education and play like other kids. I want them to have a life. This is no life,” the mother said.
Local doctors believe the children are suffering from Prader-Willi syndrome, but do not know how to treat it.
The rare genetic condition constant hunger, reduced muscle tone, restricted growth and learning difficulties.
A pediatrician at Mandavia Children’s Hospital in Gujarat said, “There is an abnormal accumulation of fat in these children. They’re not able to breathe properly, and they wheeze. Their condition could be due to endocrinal disease or Prader-Willi syndrome.”
The pediatrician concluded that the right treatment could only be ascertained after a proper diagnosis at a top hospital.