A 15-year-old girl, who weighs 380lbs (172kg), suffers from a rare condition that makes her so hungry she rifles through bins in search of food.
Anna Hankins, who was diagnosed with Prader-Willi Syndrome (PWS) at two years old, was born underweight, before developing an insatiable appetite as a toddler, which caused her to steal food off plates and forced her parents to lock the fridge.
The teenager, who is so obese she requires oxygen to help her breathe and cannot dress or tie her shoelaces, also endures cruel comments and stares from strangers.
Despite being placed on a strict 900 calorie-a-day diet, Anna, from Louisville, Mississippi, is unable to lose weight due to her body being unable to break down food properly.
Anna’s mother Jennifer Hankins, 37, a bank branch manager, said: ‘She eats anything she can get. She can’t control it. She is hungry all the time.’
Yet, taking part in beauty pageants has renewed the teenager’s confidence, with Anna recently winning the Miss Amazing contest for Mississippi, which celebrates women and girls with disabilities.
PWS affects one in 15,000 babies born in the US.
Anna Hankins, who weighs 380lbs (172kg), suffers from a rare condition that makes her so hungry she rifles through bins in search of food (pictured after winning the Miss Amazing pageant for Mississippi, which celebrates women and girls with disabilities)
Taking part in pageants has boosted Anna’s confidence, with her loving getting glammed up
As a family, Anna’s mother Jennifer Hankins, 37, (pictured with her daughter aged six, son Jack, now 12, and husband David, 41) claims they endure make cruel comments and stares
WHAT IS PRADER-WILLI SYNDROME?
Prader-Willi syndrome is a rare genetic condition that causes problems including constant urges to eat food, restricted growth and reduced muscle tone.
Other potential issues include learning difficulties, lack of sexual development and behavioral problems such as tantrums or stubbornness.
The rare condition, which affects one in every 15,000 children born in England, is caused by a defect on chromosome number 15 – and happens by chance.
Because there is no cure, treatment aims to manage the symptoms – with parents of sufferers urged to get their children to stick to a healthy, balanced diet.
Children with the syndrome can eat up to six times more than children of the same age – and still feel hungry.
It was first described in 1956 by Swiss doctors A Prader, A Labhart and H Willi.
‘She got bigger and bigger and bigger’
Speaking of her daughter’s condition Ms Hankins, who also has a 12-year-old son Jack, said: ‘When Anna was young we didn’t get a lot of information about Prader-Willi and it was hard to comprehend it.
‘We would get up in the morning and in the middle of the night [and] she had gotten up and made a whole cake.
‘We would clean her room and find empty food wrappers and candy wrappers – anything she could get her hands on.
‘We just didn’t know how to stop it. She got bigger and bigger and bigger.’
Speaking of how Anna would steal food, Ms Hankins, who is married to David, 41, a barge tankerman, said: ‘She was very sneaky and quick and fast. It would start out as her drinking out of your cup if you had a sugary drink.
‘If you’re not looking at the food on your plate she would reach over and grab some.
‘We would say, “here’s a cookie”, and leave a box on the counter. You’d come back and whole pack is gone.
‘When she was little, the first words out of her mouth were “I’m hungry” and the last ones were “I’m hungry”.
She added: ‘You want to feed your child. You don’t want them to be hungry.
‘It’s hard to find doctors that understand Prader-Willi, so in the younger days I didn’t know what to do and I would feed her.’
When first suffering, Anna would grab sugary drinks from people and steal from their plates
Anna is not losing weight on a 900-calorie a day diet due to her not breaking down food well
Anna (pictured with Jack) says her condition can make her life difficult sometimes
Anna is so severely obese she requires oxygen (tank pictured) to help her breathe
She is also unable to dress herself or tie her shoelaces with assistance from others
Ms Hankins initially let Anna eat as much as she wanted as she hated seeing her hungry
‘People automatically stare at us’
When Anna was 14, Ms Hankins attended an event at the Children’s Institute of Pittsburgh, where she met PWS experts.
Doctors told Ms Hankins Anna should eat three meals a day, which should include plenty of vegetables, a little meat, rice, fruit and vitamin supplements.
Anna cannot have sweets or fatty foods due to them causing her to rapidly gain weight.
Despite the strict diet plan, Anna still tips the scales at 380lbs.
She said: ‘I have Prader-Willi Syndrome and I get hungry a lot. It can be difficult to deal with sometimes.
As a family, Anna’s size means they have to endure cruel comments and stares when out in public.
Ms Hankins said: ‘We walk into restaurants and people automatically stare at us.
‘Little kids will say, “Oh my gosh, she is so fat”. It is because they don’t understand.’
Anna was born underweight and did not develop PWS symptoms until she was a toddler
Anna (pictured aged two) would get through a whole packet of cookies in one sitting
Pageant organisers claim Anna is very popular and ‘spreads joy wherever she goes’
When on stage, Anna can ‘forget all her problems’, according to her mother
Anna’s favourite thing about pageants is singing, as well as having her hair and make-up done
‘She spreads joy wherever she goes’
Despite her health issues, Anna loves being centre stage and is set to represent her state in the national Miss Amazing contest in Chicago in August.
Anna, who got involved in pageants when she was around nine years old and has since won all three events she has participated in, said: ‘I love Miss Amazing. My favorite thing is singing and make-up and hair.’
Her mother also claims Anna’s participation in pageants has helped make the teen more confident, with her particularly enjoying getting glammed up.
Ms Hankins said: ‘Taking part in Miss Amazing definitely helps with her self esteem and seeing the other girls that have special needs helps her know she is not the only one.
‘She loves getting dressed up, wearing dresses and going up on stage and singing. She loves being the centre of attention.
‘I cry every time. I get nervous and anxious for her but then she gets up there and shines and can be herself.
‘It’s a moment where we can forget about all her problems.’
Lori Brasfield-Sanders, director of Miss Amazing Mississippi, added: ‘The biggest misconception people have regarding people with disabilities is that they cannot lead full, engaging lives.
‘Miss Amazing highlights the special gifts these girls and women do have.
‘Anna is an amazing ambassador – she is very popular and she loves participating.
‘She spreads joy wherever she goes.’