Seven-year-old Tia McCarthy was physically incapable of eating. It was a puzzle that continued to mystify the medical community in spite of their best efforts to correct it. The fascinating and touching documentary The Girl Who Never Ate profiles her struggles as she embarked on a groundbreaking research project that was her last hope.
Entering the world 12 weeks prematurely, Tia was born with a rare disorder that left her oesophagus unattached from her stomach. She underwent a long and complicated surgery at four months of age, during which her stomach was lifted to the centre of her chest and reattached. Typically, children who have this procedure are able to assume regular eating habits after a period of four weeks. Not so with Tia, and doctors were baffled as to why. In place of solid food, the little girl was sustained by liquid nutrients that were injected directly into her abdomen on a daily basis.
Tia is an ordinary, precocious girl who otherwise appears perfectly healthy, and she’s accepting of her condition because she knows of nothing else. Her mother, however, has been desperate to find the answers behind Tia’s mysterious abnormality and to uncover a solution that can enhance the quality of her daughter’s life. She took her daughter’s story to the media in the hope that someone in the world can offer a potential cure.
Her prayers were answered in the form of a 3-week research course in Austria which boasts of a 100% success rate. The film follows Tia and her mother as they travel to the clinic and take part in their controversial treatments, which include a period of controlled starvation. The course places an equal emphasis on the psychological aspects of the disorder. Will they wean Tia off of her feeding tube and teach her to eat solid foods in a matter of weeks? The process is often emotionally wrenching, but it sets in motion a series of revelations that could forever change her life.
The medical mystery at the centre of The Girl Who Never Ate is undoubtedly intriguing, but it’s the emotional heartbeat of the film that proves most rewarding.
This documentary was filmed in 2006, so a lot happened since then. Read an update on Tia McCarthy’s progress.
Directed by: Dominick French