New Zealand may have a growing obesity problem, but for these young people, their weight issues really aren’t their fault. They suffer from a disease where their stomachs are unable to tell their brains that they are full, and they always think that they are starving. Inside New Zealand: Insatiable Hunger follows four Kiwi families with children suffering from the devastating effects of Prader-Willi Syndrome on Thursday, July 10th at 9:30pm on TV3.
Despite the obvious shortcomings of a disease that puts sufferers in danger of literally eating themselves to death, PWS is coupled with other cruel side effects. Low muscle tone limiting exercise and a slow metabolism make over-eating even more dangerous, while behavioural problems make life even harder for sufferers’ loved ones, who are already dealing with padlocking food in the cupboard and keeping sufferers out of rubbish bins.
Two Kiwi children a year are diagnosed with this non-inherited lifelong and life-threatening disease. It does not discriminate between race or gender, and it is not known how it is caused. Ironically, the disease which will see these children balloon begins with them having stunted growth, and stunted development.
While PWS has no known cure, regular growth hormone injections have been proven to reduce fat and improve muscle tone, significantly helping with obesity and related complications. Yet although these injections are funded in other countries, Kiwi kids suffering from PWS face an ongoing battle trying to qualify for the treatment in New Zealand. Pharmac, the New Zealand government drug-governing agency, has strict criteria for funding the treatment, which many PWS kids do not fit into.
Inside New Zealand: Insatiable Hunger follows four young people suffering from the disease at different stages of their lives. This includes tiny, doll like 18-month-old Amelia Reid, who only sat up by herself at 14 months of age. Amelia needs to have the growth hormone treatment so that she can at least have a chance at developing normally.
We will also meet three-year-old Cameron O’Reilly, whose parents have been paying upwards of $10,000 per year for him to have the treatment. Cameron has finally nailed the art of walking, and with his growth hormone treatment has now been able to graduate to the big kids section at kindy. However, this may be Cameron’s last year with free access to food and treats, as the insatiable appetite will kick in sometime between now and five years old.
In Northland, 11-year-old Darcy Harris faces being shifted out of the mainstream education system due to his behavioural problems caused by the disorder. Getting caught stealing his classmates’ lunches, and with violent outbursts, he is putting a lot of pressure on the staff at his small rural school.
Finally, Inside New Zealand: Insatiable Hunger talks to 22-year-old Francie Thornton, who is of the old era of PWS sufferers. She is not eligible for the growth hormone treatment, and will be forced out of her sheltered flat if she can’t control her eating – and her temper. She is strictly monitored by minders, and should be on a 1,000 calorie per day diet, but Francie is resourceful…
Inside New Zealand: Insatiable Hunger witnesses these four young people and their families as they struggle with life as PWS sufferers on Thursday, July 10th at 9:30pm on TV3.