Update on Tia Mccarthy _ The girl who never ate

Tia McCarthy: ‘My feeding tube was my lifeline – Now I eat scallops and venison’


Tia McCarthy

Tuesday 24 June 2014

by Tara Russell, Senior Features Writer

LIKE any other teenager just home from school, Tia McCarthy shouts to her brother, Finley, to bring her a homemade jam tart from the kitchen.

It may be a familiar scene played out in family homes across the county, but mum, Sue, looks like she couldn’t get any happier than this moment.

But Tia isn’t like most 15-year-olds.

For the first decade of her life, no food or drink passed through the schoolgirl’s lips because she refused to eat or drink anything in a rare case that baffled the medical world.

Instead she was fed through a tube in her stomach.

But now the teen remarkably eats everything – and she has expensive taste – her favourite food is salmon, seabass, venison and scallops.

She even rates the family meals out of ten just like on TV show, Come Dine with Me.

Mum Sue, said: “She’ll practically eat anything now. It is just amazing.

Daily Echo:

“It took so much longer than I thought, but I think as she has got older, she has become more able to understand the fact that she has to eat in order to survive and so she really tries.”

Born 12 weeks prematurely weighing just 2lb and 3oz with a rare congenital disorder, oesophageal atresia, affecting just one in 40,000 children, Tia spent most of her first year in hospital.

Tia’s oesophagus and stomach were unconnected so doctors had to perform a miracle operation moving her stomach into her chest.

Daily Echo:

Tia was just 2lb and 3oz when she was born 

Though Tia does suffer from multiple disabilities including perception disorder and autistic tendencies, there was no medical reason why Tia couldn’t eat food after the surgery and the condition baffled everyone across the world.

It meant mum Sue had to plug Tia into a machine every night to pump liquid food through a tube directly into her digestive system.

Sue explains: “The tube became part of Tia. That was the only way we could get food into her.”

Driven to despair that her daughter had never eaten a morsel, mum Sue, 49, took her to pioneering medics at a specialist clinic in Austria.

There, she was starved for three weeks in a bid to cure her but though she began drinking, the then seven-year-old still refused to eat.

Daily Echo:

Tia pictured aged seven in Austria undergoing treatment

“It just didn’t work for her at all. She doesn’t feel the hunger thing so it made no difference she was just getting thinner and thinner.”

But five years ago aged ten and while on a trip to Spain, Tia suddenly started to show an interest in trying food. Sue gave her yoghurt and remarkably she accepted it.

Gradually bit by bit she begun eating smooth food like mousse, ice cream, soup, custard and semolina, but was still kept on her drip at night which pumped nutrients into her stomach.

But she suddenly started becoming more interested in food and she began trying different solid foods.

Daily Echo:

Tia pictured with her brother Finley in 2009

Christmas 2012 she had the tube that she once relied on as a lifeline removed from her stomach.

She suffered yet another setback when the wound on her stomach opened up and she had to undergo further surgery.

And it took a while to get used to eating food.

Sue, who loves going horseriding with her daughter, explains it took an hour for Tia just to eat a simple dish.

“She would pull faces and she looked like she hated every single bit of food.

She didn’t look like she enjoyed any of it.”

But now though she still has difficulty chewing, there is no stopping her.

Daily Echo:

Tia with her beloved dogs at the family home in Alderholt, near Ringwood

“Where she has the learning disability she just takes each day at a time and none of it has really fazed her because she can’t remember any of it, but she does understand now why you need to eat.”

In fact, though Sue was told that Tia would not be able to eat much because of the position of her stomach in her chest, Tia loves a three-course meal.

“I like three-course meals”, says Tia who goes to The Sheiling School in Ringwoodfor children with complex learning needs.

“I like scallops, ribs, salmon, pizza, fish pie, seabass. I like chocolate mousse, ice cream and jelly for pudding.”

Sue, who lives in Alderholt, laughs: “I say to her you don’t have to eat all of it. I say you can stop now if you want, but she keeps ploughing in.”

Tia, who is a huge One Direction fan, is still under the care of a team of medics who she meets twice a year for review.

She also has regular contact with a dietician who monitors what she eats, her weight and whether Sue needs to give her additional supplements like puddings and shakes high in calories.

Nobody knows why Tia didn’t eat, but Sue says for now she is grateful she can enjoy the simple pleasures of her daughter blowing out the candles of a birthday cake and eating it as well as going out for meals together – something many families take for granted.

“It’s hard knowing Tia will never be able to live independently because she has a lot of problems but now she is eating I think at least that’s something because that alone means life is so much better now.

“She can go out for dinners and at least be able to enjoy food and drink now. It’s really lovely.

“People say she is a joy to go out with and I am so proud of her.”

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  1. Miah crosby

    April 16, 2017 at 11:46 pm

    I’d love to see pictures of the doctors on the documentary now.. the dark haired lady could have been a twin for my deceased grandmother..
    Anyway I can’t believe it took three years for her to eat solids!
    Best wishes to all

  2. sh

    April 10, 2017 at 6:58 am

    I’m so happy for you, I saw the documentary on You tube, but I never got to see the end. I’m so glad that she is able to eat now.

  3. Vito

    March 30, 2017 at 3:07 pm

    This girl has hunger of God. Needs spiritual food.

  4. AspieGirl

    March 27, 2017 at 2:50 pm

    I’m so glad this young girl made it and does finally eat and enjoys life 🙂

    I really can’t understand how people can blame the mother. Being in the autism spectrum myself I know, that many people with autism have problems with change, and as the feeding tube is some sort of routine even the change from “not eating” to “eating” made Tia feel kind of desperate. The specialists in Austria clearly stated that Tia has massive difficulties in adopting other children and lerning how to eat by observing them didn’t work either.
    Also many people in the autism spectrum do have problems with movement of the body (walking, posture,…).
    Autists start doing things when they are ready to do them. That applies to the diapers-potty training as well as to when someone starts changing habits.

    The mother may have a too close bonding and truly has difficulties in letting her child “grow” and “leave”, but how could it be different? She had to see her baby undergo various surgeries and probably had more than once been anxious of losing her child.
    She’s definitely not perfect, but imho she does the best she can do.

    No one knows what the specialists in Austria and the doctors back home and Sue’s family had discussed during the years. Therefore no one should judge on wether Sue did do the right thing with continuing feeding during the night or not.

    For those who still are in doubt: read “Billy the cat”, it’s about a young boy in the autism spectrum whose life did change after the family got a cat. That boy started potty training late, too.

  5. Maria Lopez

    March 12, 2017 at 3:58 pm

    It’s nice to see her better

  6. Nic

    February 5, 2017 at 3:22 am

    One thought on “Update on Tia Mccarthy _ The Girl Who Never Ate”

    I can’t believe some of you are blaming the mum for Tia’s inability to eat!
    Firstly, her Mother tried so hard and even was willing to pay for her fees at the specialist centre until they wavered it off. It was $10,000!!! And they weren’t well off either.
    We should all be happy that Tia is now able to eat and enjoy the exquisite foods in life. You go girl!
    Sue, you’re an amazing Mother and I hope you to know that. You struggled through the hardships and I know how tough it must have been to see Tia go through an awful lot just to get where she is now.
    So, let’s stop blaming Sue! YES, she didn’t potty train Tia. YES, she could have FORCED Tia to eat. But would Tia learn? Would she ENJOY the food she eats? The progress she has made is astounding, given that she had not taken a bite in ten years.
    Anyhow, you’re an awesome mum Sue. The haters gonna hate, but in the end, you’re the one with a Daughter that now can eat unlike a decade before. So don’t listen to what the haters say, because you’re ultimately benefitting from it. Is Tia THEIR Daughter? Nope. You followed your heart, and miraculously solved her supposedly unsolvable problem, and for that and many other reasons, you’re amazing!!:)

  7. Parah

    November 19, 2016 at 10:02 pm

    It’s sad to see the amount of people blaming the mother for some of Tia’s issues when she was younger. If you’ve seen the documentary, you will understand that Tia’s mom is a single mother with two children. I’m sure she had lots to deal with other than, for instance, potty training Tia. For example, keeping her alive. She also had to raise another child, evidently on her own.
    People in the comments, please be sensitive. My heart hurts that you care to criticize others when you have quite plainly never experienced their situation. To Sue, Tia, and Finley, I truly hope that you can remain positive and loving towards each other <3 Sue, you seem like such a caring, wonderful mother. Tia and Finley, make sure you give her and each other lots of hugs! Family is wonderful. I am so happy you are doing well.

  8. Elda

    September 18, 2016 at 1:06 pm

    I urgently need to know name of clinic she was treated at? Please if anyone knows. Eldararias@gmail.com

  9. Barb

    May 19, 2016 at 10:01 am

    I stumbled on the documentary and wanted to find out what happened to Tia. Having a FTT premie who had acid reflux and later diagnosed with sensory issues I find some of the uneducated comments disturbing. Until you have been their yourself you can not fathom the difficulties of a child on the spectrum. And that is what is it, spectrum. One child may be potty trained at two, another at 7. One may eat and another may have oral feeding aversions. My child did not eat, was tube fed, went to a world renowned feeding program and failed to eat solid foods. He did go home drinking liquids. It was a long slowwwww process until he ate enough to get the tube out at age 6. Eating is a learned process.. The art of mastication is lost when that milestone is messed. The jaw strength for chewing food is not there plus the control to move the food to the back of the mouth prior to swallowing is not there. There can also be the fear of choking. It too blew my mind, why wouldn’t my child eat if hungry.

    In Tai’s mom’s defense. Not having a definitive diagnosis must have been very challenging and heartbreaking. With a diagnosis you have qualified help. With early diagnosis and intervention things MAY or MAY not have progressed at a faster rate. You just can’t force someone on the spectrum to do anything unless they want to so forcing or “beating” borders on child abuse. Congrats to you Tai!

  10. Sophie fielder

    November 29, 2015 at 11:00 am

    Well done Tia you are really cute

  11. Amanda

    November 23, 2015 at 9:53 pm

    So there is real story the drinking diet did work but she had surgery complication(any surgey can hage complications) thus 1 step forwars two steps back scenario. And within few yrs from Austria trip she decided on her own to try again. The program did work just had a surgery complication.

    1. Julie

      February 15, 2016 at 10:11 pm

      No the Program in Austria didn’t work at all.. Her mother explains above that Tias body doesn’t process Hunger Signals so all that happened with the ‘Experts’ was Tia was losing weight! Tias moment of realisation happened on a Family Holiday in Spain where she was Relaxes and became naturally Curious about food/trying foods.. But after Spain and improvements was when her tube feed was removed the area re-opened and she need further surgery.. But she got back back on track.. (Which was nothing to do whatsoever with the Austrian Clinic nor the documentary!)

  12. Joel Henderson

    September 9, 2015 at 12:16 am

    I agree with Tiffany, someone should have beat that A$$ a few times and she would have ate a long time ago. She knew who she could get over on! Her mother is lonely and knows nothing else so Tia wont live regular. her mother invested so much emotionally I can’t see her functioning without Tia and she is always probably used her as an excuse not to do anything.’

  13. Tiffany McPherson

    September 9, 2015 at 12:11 am

    I can’t believe that you all are sitting here praising this.

    I saw that documentary and I wanted to cry, her mother treated her like a CRUTCH. Her mother didn’t potty train her, she was 7, had an opinion but couldn’t go to the BATHROOM or put on her own clothes….what kind of mother does that.
    Kids do what they can get away with. For them to sit and accept her licking food was totally inappropriate. You saw that tiny baby drinking out that cup and kids biting off that cracker. THEY ASKED HER If she wanted the tube there?
    I am sorry, if she couldn’t swallow or she had no throat or stomach I would feel sorry for her.
    She was babied, I have a special needs child and he is treated JUST like my average children with little needs.
    She could have gotten that girl more help, she should have beat that ass when she pissed or pooped her pants….7 and can talk in some diapers? NO! My cousion has CLASSIC Autism, he is 6 and he TRIES.

    You enabled her, so that decade was on you mom. YOU were too present during her treatment in Austria, you didn’t GET what they were saying, you just didn’t want to accept the change either….You didn’t want your crutch to be gone.
    Good Job Mom, you managed to get away with not feeding your child for 10 years,.,,,I hope she isn’t in Nappys anymore?! You will never encourage her to go away to college, she will never meet a boy, she will never be a mother because of your restricting behaviors. I heard a bunch of I can’ts she can’ts….Better hope she don’t meet a boyfriend to take off during the night. I would be out of your house the first chance I got!

  14. Michelle Beck

    July 31, 2015 at 8:29 pm

    My 8 year old daughter accidentally started the documentary on YouTube (she was looking for videos on mermaids) and I wouldn’t let her turn it off because I wanted to know if Tia would eat like many of you, I became invested in her outcome as well.

    Both my daughter and I read the update together and she was thrilled to find out she likes 1D. 🙂

  15. Dee Smith

    July 24, 2015 at 10:26 pm

    This little girl never was capable of receiving normal nourishment in her first year of life, until she had corrective surgery, and that also means she didn’t receive natural doses of her mother’s natural gut bacteria. These are needed to help the gut lining develop the proper ‘docking’ cell surfaces, to which bacteria bind, and help these cells go through a development cycle that causes them to become very complex biochemical processing centers, necessary for both absorbing and processing nutrients and for bacteria to develop a matching ability to convert some food nutrients to enzyme co-factors and co-enzymes, that we human’s can’t make for ourselves.

    Tia’s first food was yogurt, chock-full of healthy probiotic bacteria and enriched with the type of nutrients that her gut needed.

    We now, in 2015, know that gut bacteria can drive dietary preferences, and they can, in turn, make us either fat, or thin.

    Look up these papers: Hypothesis: Bacteria Control Host Appetites, in the Journal of Bacteriology (Vic Norris, et al, 2014) and How The Bacteria In Our Gut Affect Our Cravings For Food, by Vincent Ho.

    The ‘Hypothesis’ paper provides insight into the priming of critical neurochemicals produced by key biochemical pathways. You don’t just feel better if you eat well, your behaviors support continued adherence to healthy foods, and you crave poor quality foods (sugary snacks, for instance) much less. The same can be said to be true for exercise, which may also drive preference for daily activities that are helpful and make us feel, and look better.

    What the Swiss physicians who treated Tia should have done is this: they should have given her a fecal transplant from her mother, and then fed her a liquid diet to build the microbiome environment in her gut.

    See: Gut Bacteria May Affect Appetite (PsychCentral website.)

  16. Lonnie

    May 23, 2015 at 12:16 am

    After seeing the documentary I just HAD to go in search of an update.. I’m very happy that she’s now enjoying food.. as soon as I saw that she enjoyed pizza and ribs I knew she’d be fine 🙂

    Brilliant documentary.. had me quickly emotionally invested in her well being.

    1. Betsy

      July 20, 2015 at 7:13 am

      I echo Lonnie’s comments; I, too, wanted to see how Tia turned out. But I was wondering (when watching the documentary) why a 7-year-old was still wearing diapers? Why didn’t the Mother attempt to potty-train her even in the daytime? And in this update I read: “…bit by bit she begun eating smooth food like mousse, ice cream, soup, custard….but was still kept on her drip at night…” — WHY was she put back on the enabling tube at night?? Makes you wonder if the mother just couldn’t stand the thought of her child not needing her for even the most mundane of activities (eating, toileting) that even toddlers can master for themselves. Why didn’t the mother see before age 7 the need to train her child to eat orally, as the babies in the documentary were learning to do? Even the head of the program said Tia was waaaaaaaaaaaaay older than she should be for starting to learn how to try/tolerate/enjoy various food textures. I assumed her not being able ‘to walk well’ stemmed from her lack of necessary nutrients – could she have had easily-corrected rickets or scurvy? I noticed in her list of favorite foods, there is not one fruit or vegetable. At 15, she should have way more variety. No, I am not a nutritionist; just a mom who would worry if her children/grandchildren never even tried the variety offered to them. I pray that Tia is nearly normal, and that she continues to improve.

      1. Julie

        February 15, 2016 at 10:00 pm

        If you had read the updated information you wouldn’t be so Rudely Judgmental! It clearly explains that Tia has other issues to manage such as Perception difficulties and she is on the Autistic spectrum… The Clue ‘Multiple Disabilities stemming from being a veryfragile premature baby with a medically complex problem requiring repositioning her Stomach in her Chest.. If you have any awareness of children with complex needs you would already know that many also experience digestion and this can also affect elimination processes – hence why it is not unusual /fairly common for Autistic Children to use Pads or diapers later than Neurotypical children (with whom you were comparing Tia with in the Documentary or assuming a standard sevelopmental norns. I watched this documentary and some things were interesting and other parts I questioned.. And Tias mother even explains how the treatment was actually detrimental to Tia as Tia did not get the Hunger signala during the intervention (withdrawal of tube feeding) and she was losing weight. It is very interesting that the actual answer was through Normalising family life and taking the pressure, emphasis off ‘Treatnents’ off Tias eating problems and letting Natural Curiosity, Social Learning processes take place in a Relaxed, Loving and Nurturing Environment.

        1. SFR

          March 12, 2016 at 8:59 am

          Change ONLY happens when discomfort of some type has set in. No one ever decided to change because they are comfortable and doing well. Tia QUICKLY began to drink fluids. The act of sustenance is a highly rewarding activity. Gaining drink when thirsty is accompanied by a huge dump of serotonin in the brain. This primary reward system increases the chance that drinking fluid behavior will occur again in the future. Tia also demonstrated remarkable awareness of food intake by others in asking, “Why do you have so many chips?” This process may seem punitive, but in fact it was far more punitive to keep a child on a feeding tube their entire life. MANY people live well and with good nutrition with a liquid diet. Calories and nutrients obtained from eating 5 oz of chicken or drinking the equivalent in soup or pureed food makes no difference. Vitamins from raw broccoli or good vitamin supplements are processed by the body in the same way. There is no real benefit nutritionally to eating solid food that requires chewing. The mother interrupted important developmental lessons when she reinserted the feeding tube. Tia was 7 yo but because Mom interfered with the developmental feeding process after the surgeries she prolonged the experience. As Tia was demonstrating independence, she against interfered with the self feeding developmental achievement tasks. Munchausen’s by proxy provides explanation for why a parent might find themselves doing these behaviors. If ever there is a case of too much love…these situations suggest such. The over relience on Mom and enmeshed relationship create roadblocks to developmental achievement. There is absolutely no reason that the nightly feedings continue now except that it is a rewarding bondng experience for Mom. Tia is drinking well and now eating small amounts of food. I hope Mom can get a therapist so she can manage the natural aging of Tia. Mom has another child who would benefit from healtheir interactions, and she will need to lead a happy, full life even as Tia becomes an adult. Mom spends a lot of time discussing, “….it is sad she will never be independent and will always need specialized care…” I suspect that is what Mom is hoping and being the great mother that she is, she will be sure to continue this behavior pattern until Tia is 40 yr old. I feel sorry for Tia. I really do. Mom might enjoy the results of having more faith in Tia and her abilities while providing good treatment for her real disabilitites.

          1. Michelle

            August 30, 2016 at 1:21 pm

            I thought of the exact same thing when I saw the documentary. Adults being overly attached to the kid and claiming the kid has this and that disability and how they’re so hopeless when its the parent that needs a life of her own. Truthfully it’s Tia’s mom that requires some therapist intervention. I feel bad for Tia because she was intentionally spoiled and i hope the consequences aren’t dire going on to her in middle age because her mom still spoils her and treats her like a handicap.

          2. See Goddess

            March 9, 2017 at 2:55 am

            I was dismayed to read Tias mother said that she will never live independently and always need care. That is what I call a Negative Prophesy. My Mom always said I didnt have the patience for children and it was probably best not to have them and guess what I didnt have any and I really regret it. My 16 yo niece is on the spectrum and has sensory integration and bipolar. She hardly ate as a child and is still a size xs. She graduated high school early and at 16 is going to school in NYC and her family lives in California (her sister goes to a different school also in NY.
            I find when a fsmily member makes a positive change or recovery the family unknowingly tries to make things as they were, big recovery requires the whole family to commit to change. Hope this mom can find more joy in Tias acomplishments amd less in taking care of her. Autism plus bipolar and developmental disabilities can be very difficult a friends daughter lives in a smallgroup house with other adults with disabilites, she works, she loves it. Dream BIG for Tia!! We Love Tia Have a Super Life Tia!

        2. Daisy

          March 14, 2017 at 6:14 am

          Thank you! I just saw the documentary and looked for an update. My first thought at her comment was did you not watch the same documentary that I did. All the answers to her comments were in the film.

        3. D Nothnagel

          March 31, 2017 at 3:02 pm

          It is WONDERFUL to hear that Tia is doing so well. My prayers to/for all of you for a BLESSED life together.

      2. Sue

        March 5, 2016 at 10:46 pm

        I agree, and first of all, I get she was a premi. She had medical problems. But as said, after test. there was NO reason Tia could not eat or swallow. Her mother had a serious problem that led to Tia’s eating problem. Sue, even treated her son so bad. Sue gave Tia anything she wanted, ATTENTION!!! See, at first it was Sue that got all the ATTENTION!! Since Tia was a infant, but as Tia got older Tia was getting more attention then Sue. Tia was still in NAPPIES at 7 yrs old!! SUE, that was YOUR fault. Why would you do that to your child. Are you afraid of loosing ATTENTION? Treating your son like he wasn’t there/alive snapping at him all the time. But did you ever think of disipline. with Tia?? NAPPIES?? you were lazy or you did not want your daughter to grow up. Afraid she would not need you as much. What about your son, how is he doing??? A little messed up from the lack of love and attention?? You could of ask the doctors for test but you opt not to, taking Tia to a special clinic. They PROVED nothing was stopping her from eating. The gave her a label to make you feel better, because she does have friends and does things with them WITHOUT YOU!!! I feel as I seen in the doc as the doctors said, SUE/MOTHER needs to be away and STOP babying TIA!! Your just responsible for her not eating as Tai if not more.. Do not place your self up there as a great loving mother, you hinder her and most likely your son. Now I see why your husband/boyfriend did the “IM OUT OF HERE” on you. Sue, you are a serious piece of work. Is Tia POTTY TRAINED YET??? Or did you take her to a clinic for that as well?? Harsh?? Yep, but true. I truly hope you didn’t destroy your son, with the lack of love, attention, motherly instincts just didn’t kick in when he was born, because he did not have to have this so called over board attention. Sue, What do you do now?? Neither of your kids need or WANT THAT KIND of attention. Are you lonely?? That Tia was a minor, you got the attention and now you do not?? Wonder how you fill the emptiness??

      3. Kmurphy

        March 7, 2017 at 9:41 am

        Are you kidding?? Those are your questions?? You are a rude ignorant person. Did you not hear the part where they said she has a mild form of Autism?!? This was a single mom. NONE of the specialty doctors she visited her whole life could figure it out. You expect her mother to be able to???
        You do realize many autistic kids are on feeding tube their whole lives. Many in diapers their whole lives! Her brain wouldn’t allow her to do the things normally functioning kids do.
        Her mom tried everything she could. She never knew about the clinic to help kids eat and neither did her doctors.
        I think it is beyond sick that you sit at your computer and hurl insults in this moms direction. You think any mom does not want to see their child succeed?? I’m sure she was scared to let go control… Once she left the hospital she was on her own.. no team of doctors to encourage her or help her get through every day.
        Take a good look in the mirror. You are a judgmental ass hole! If you have children I sure hope you never have to go through this and face idiots like yourself.

    2. Anne Marie

      January 2, 2016 at 5:11 pm

      I did the same thing after I stumbled onto the documentary this morning and watched it. The date at the end of the credits was 2006. I felt like I , too, had to search and find out if there were any more current updates on this girl and her family. I was surprised to hear they actually put her back on feeding tubes at times. It took quite a long time after the hospital stay, but Tia finally won the battle and started eating on her own. Her mother was so patient, loving and strong. How many single mothers could do that ? (At least it looked like she didn’t have any support from anyone.) Good for Tia, and her Mom as well.

  17. michael goldsholl

    January 3, 2015 at 6:58 am

    I am so thrilled that this beautiful beautiful girl has her life back.. Her mother a guiding angel. What a blessing that this is all worked. Bless them both!!!

  18. Alan

    December 31, 2014 at 9:27 am

    I followed-up on the original airing of the documentary, lovely to see Tia has been turned onto solid food. Good story.

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