If little Inara Herdman needs to eat, it’s not her mother she turns to – it’s a tube feeding machine she’s been hooked up to since the day she was born. Inara’s organs didn’t develop properly in the womb and she was given just a five percent chance of survival.
Miraculously, she has survived, but you could hardly say that she’s thrived. She was born prematurely with half a diaphragm and her liver, bowel and intestines in her chest cavity, crushing her heart and lungs and requiring a series of life-saving operations. “My first ever quick cuddle was on day 21 of her life,” says Inara’s mother Bonnie Lintott (32).
Inara spent so long in intensive care she became psychologically dependent on being fed goats’ milk through a feeding tube, even though there is no longer any physical reason why she can’t eat. At two years old, she weighs 10kg – the same weight Inara’s older sister was at five months.
“She’s just skin and bones,” her mum sighs. “She hasn’t gained weight for a long time.” She tires easily, dragging the feeding machine and pole around with her, which is plugged into a peg in her stomach for nine hours a day.
“If she’s hungry, she’ll go up to the machine,” Bonnie sighs. “We’ve tried everything from pate to chocolate, but as soon as she starts to swallow she gets the gagging reflex.”
Without being taught how to eat, Inara faces an uncertain future, but there is hope she can be taught to eat at a special clinic in Austria. Her family and the Neonatal Trust are raising $65,000 to send Inara to the NoTube Clinic in Graz, Austria next month, which has a 96% success rate.
“The clinic uses several different methods such as intensive physiotherapy to build up the muscles in their mouth and jaw,” Bonnie explains. The doctors first identified a problem with Inara’s development in the womb at Bonnie’s 12-week scan and she was given the choice to terminate her pregnancy – but Bonnie and her partner, Ryan Herdman, ruled it out.
Inara has brought the family so much joy, but her health issues haven’t been easy and Bonnie looks forward to the day when her daughter will turn to her when she’s hungry. “I don’t want her to be tube fed for the rest of her life. We all deserve the right to eat,” she says.
Donations are welcome to account number 03-0674-0449488-00