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Teen Dies From Hairball Infection: What Is Rapunzel Syndrome?

14 September 2017, 11:36 pm EDT By Athena Chan Tech Times
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A 16-year-old Jasmine Beever, photographed on the left, died from an infected hairball in her stomach. Her friend Billie-Jo Ashwell, on the right, set up a crowdfunding page to help out the teen's grieving family.   ( Billie-Jo Ashwell | Crowdfunding )

A teenager from Skegness in the United Kingdom died suddenly from an infection brought about by a hairball in her stomach. What is Rapunzel syndrome?

Sudden Death

Jasmine Beever of Skegness in the UK had only just attended her grandfather's funeral a few days before her own untimely death. On Sept. 7, Jasmine collapsed while at school and went home to rest. A few hours later, the 16-year-old came out with blotches.

An ambulance promptly brought Jasmine to the hospital where the staff were still able to revive her for 15 minutes, but unfortunately, she did not survive.

"It's just heartbreaking — to bury your own daughter is one thing but to be going through it so soon after losing your dad, you can't comprehend it," said Donna Marshall, the mother of Billie-Jo Ashwell, Jasmine's friend who has since put up a fundraiser to help the grieving family.

Infected Hairball

Post-mortem examination revealed that Jasmine had evidently suffered from peritonitis, an inflammation of the tissue lining in the inner abdominal wall and covers the organs inside the abdomen. As it turns out, a hairball in Jasmine's stomach had become infected, which in turn caused an ulcer to burst and eventually shut down her vital organs.

According to a Facebook post by Donna Marshall, Jasmine had been chewing on and sucking her hair for years and advises parents to warn their children on the dangers of the seemingly innocent habit.

Jo Edwards, the principal of the Skegness Academy, which Jasmine attended before moving on to a local college, paid tribute to the teen. "We will remember her as a friendly, positive, caring and lively girl who brought a smile to everyone's face," said Edwards.

Crowdfunding on JustGiving

As mentioned, Jasmine's close friend Billie-Jo Ashwell put up a crowdfunding page to help Jasmine's family in their time of need. In the page, she also paid tribute to her late friend and described her as someone who would go out of her way to make someone smile.

According to Ashwell, Jasmine's motto in life was "Sometimes one act of kindness is all it takes to give someone hope again." As of the writing of this article, the crowdfunding page has surpassed their £2,000 (around $2,600) goal at £3,187 (around $4,200).

Rapunzel Syndrome

Trichobezoars are hair-like fibers or hairballs that are formed as a result of chewing or swallowing hair and other indigestible materials. These are often formed in the gastrointestinal tract and result in a blockage in the digestive system called the Rapunzel syndrome.

Treating trichobezoars depend on the size of the object. Although an endoscopic removal may be done to remove the mass, a previous study showed that this procedure is only successful in 5 percent of cases, which is why most cases are treated with minimally invasive surgeries.

Often, Rapunzel syndrome is associated with trichotillomania, the compulsive eating of hair, as a result of psychological or mental distress.

Common symptoms are abdominal pain, obstruction, nausea and vomiting, and peritonitis. Rapunzel syndrome is a rare type of gastrointestinal trichobezoar. The first reported case of Rapunzel syndrome was recorded in 1968, and about 30 cases have been reported since then.

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