Florida nurse Maricar Cabral-Osorio told Discovery Fit & Health about a teenage girl who entered the emergency room with a stomach ache and a bulging stomach. The culprit? Tape worms. However, the sad part of this story is that the worms were intentionally fed to the girl by her mother, who hoped that by doing so the daughter might lose weight for an upcoming beauty pageant.
Cabral-Osorio told this story for an episode of "Untold Stories of the E.R.," a Discovery Fit & Health show that features gruesome medical tales. The show aired on Friday August 22.
The hospital workers initially suspected that the girl was pregnant when she entered the hospital with a stomach ache and a distended stomach. However, an ultrasound revealed that she was not pregnant; it showed something more troubling in her body.
"Something was in her intestines," Cabral-Osorio said.
The hospital workers did not diagnose the girl from the ultrasound. However, shortly after the girl left to use the bathroom. A little bit later, the workers heard the girl's screaming from the bathroom.
The nurse went to inspect the bathroom. "It was a toilet bowl full of tapeworms. Blegh!" she said.
The nurse said that the sight in the toilet was very gross. "There were a couple that were very long and wiggling around trying to get out of the toilet bowl," she said. "We were wondering, how did she get those tape worms? And then we saw the mother turn white."
Until that moment, the nurse recalled, the mother had been complaining. At that moment, the mother softened. The nurse said that she began apologizing to her daughter. According to Cabral-Osorio, the mother said, "I just did it to make you a little skinner. You needed some help before we went on to the pageant."
The mother admitted that, trying to help her daughter lose weight for a beauty pageant, she had fed her tapeworm eggs, which then hatched inside her.
It was not disclosed whether criminal charges were ever brought against the mother.
Beauty pageants can be dangerous breeding grounds for low self-esteem among young women, as a lot of value is placed on thinness. A 2003 study of beauty pageant winners found that 26 percent of women surveyed reported having an eating disorder, and almost half reported that they were trying to lose weight.
If you or someone you know is struggling with an eating disorder, you can call NEDA's toll-free, confidential hotline at 1-800-931-2237.