Allergy

Updated 03 May 2018

Young dancer stopped growing at age 11 after allergies made her scared to eat anything

"The only things I would eat were sausages and pasta because in my head all I knew was that food made me ill."

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This ballet dancer stopped growing at the age of 11 after her food allergies became so severe that she refused to eat anything but sausages.

Errin Godwin Whalley suffered her first allergic reaction to hummus when she was just a one year old.

She became so terrified of eating that doctors were forced to administer a feeding tube.

As a result, the now 17-year-old, from Pitlochry in Scotland, would only eat sausages and pasta. At the age of 11, the dancer was the same size as a six-year-old child because her diet had stunted her growth.

But now the student has overcome her eating problem – and has even managed to follow her dream of becoming a dancer, securing herself a place at a prestigious Royal Ballet school.

"I don't remember much about my first reaction as I was just a baby then but I remember just being so scared of trying new things and being so anxious around meal times,” says Errin.

"The only things I would eat were sausages and pasta because in my head all I knew was that food made me ill.

"All I could manage was moving food from one plate to the other."

The teen's mom, Myette (52) and dad, Mike (43), battled to keep their daughter healthy through her extreme phobia, and were terrified that she would deteriorate.

"We were on our way to Devon for a holiday when Errin had her first allergic reaction,” says Myette.

"I passed her a cracker with some hummus on in the back of the car when her lips started to swell, she turned a funny colour and she was struggling to breathe.

"Eventually an air ambulance was sent and she was initially diagnosed as having an allergy to sesame seeds and eggs.

"From there it progressed to other allergies, such milk, peas and all dairy, and from then on she considered all foods as being dangerous."

"She got so thin that you could see her bones."

Things took a turn for the worse for the brunette beauty when she was four years old. Errin was admitted to the Royal Lancaster Infirmary with a virus.

Doctors were worried that her body was too malnourished to be able to fight the infection.

It was later discovered that Errin was suffering from a condition called Multiple Pituitary Hormone Deficiency (MPHD) – a condition that causes a shortage (deficiency) of several hormones produced by the pituitary gland, which is located at the base of the brain, according to the Genetics Home Reference.

However, with the help of her parents and doctors, the girl eventually started to consume certain foods, until she was eventually munching on spaghetti bolognese and even a roast dinner.

"When she first ate a roast dinner we were all cheering but there are still certain foods she finds stressful such as fruit or anything that's mixed, like risotto," says her mom.

Errin, who is just 1,2 meters tall, is now on a daily growth hormone injection to replace the hormones her body is not producing.

But despite her condition and her small size, the brave teen has made her way into the Ballet West School.

"Mike and I ran a theatre company for many years so in many ways she born into the industry.

"She would sit at the side of the stage in her carrier as a baby while I performed and when we took her to watch the Nutcracker she was hooked.

"Ballet West has been great and supported her throughout her condition,” says the mom-of-two.

Errin is now hoping to achieve big things in ballet as well as studying for her A-level exams.

"With the medical help and sheer hard work she gained the strength and techniques needed to become a ballet dancer,” says Myette.

"Being small helps her get the roles where she is picked up and thrown around.

"It can be a hindrance for some dance schools as they like dancers a certain height, but she is determined to carve her own career and there are short dancers out there.

"You have to prove yourself a bit more by jumping higher and turning quicker. It is also good for playing young characters.

"She has worked extremely hard to gain this place."

Sources: Magazine Features

Pictures: CATERS/WWW.MAGAZINEFEATURES.CO.ZA

 

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Dr Morris is the Principal Allergist at the Cape Town and Johannesburg Allergy Clinics with postgraduate diplomas in Allergology, Dermatology, Paediatrics and Family Medicine dealing with both adult and childhood allergies.

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