Girl, four, who's never eaten food is the same size as her one-year-old brother

Little Bella Cole, four, suffers from an undiagnosed genetic condition that makes her throw up when she eats.

The youngster hasn’t been able to eat in her life and has to be fed through a tube directly into her intestines for sixteen hours overnight.

The rare condition means Bella weighs just under 24lb – and wears 12-18 month sized clothes.

She is the same size as her one-year-old brother Teddy.

Parents Philippa Rabbitts, 31, and Matthew Cole, 35, a roofer, often have to correct strangers who assume the two are twins.

Bella’s family, from Essex, has raised money for an operation to help her, but are now fundraising to get her to America for specialist treatment.

Philippa, a full-time mum from Chelmsford, said: ‘Bella understands that she has a tube in her belly.

‘She knows about it and she knows that other people don’t have them. She can’t use things the way other four-year-olds do.

‘For example, for her toilet training, I have to carry around a special seat to go on top of the toilet.

‘If I didn’t, she would fall down the toilet. All the normal things she should be doing at the age of four have to be adapted for her.’

Bella’s condition means she vomits every morning and night.

Mum Philippa added: ‘For us, because we’ve seen it so much we are used to it, but for other people who don’t see it so often it can be really concerning for them.

‘It was her birthday last week and for a child to not be able to have birthday cake is heartbreaking.

‘She can’t be on milk forever.’

Bella was born early weighing 4lb 11oz at 37 weeks after she stopped growing in Philippa’s womb.

Philippa was induced and gave birth to Bella by c-section.

At six weeks Bella was refusing any form of food – she stopped taking milk and started vomiting frequently.

She was given a nasogastric tube aged six weeks and then a tube into her intestines when she turned one – and this is still how she is fed today.

Bella still vomits multiple times a day – and doctors have no idea why.

Therapists believe the daily vomiting had caused food aversion, and her family fear the longer she is tube fed, the harder it is going to be to wean her on to real food.

Her family believe the first step to help Bella eat and stop vomiting is to have another tube placed in her stomach, replacing the one that feeds her intestines.

Faced with a twelve-month NHS wait, they raised £10,000 to pay for it privately, and she will have this operation in August.

They hope to then take her to Marcus Autism Center based in Atlanta, America, to help her eat normally, and wean her off the tube.

But the treatment alone costs £35,000, leaving the family to fundraise to cover the costs.

‘We know it won’t be an overnight fix,’ Phillipa said.

‘The treatment process can range from four to eight weeks, but we cannot afford to send her to America for any more than four weeks.

‘We hold fundraisers and once the lockdown restrictions are less strict we will be able to continue to hold fundraisers.

‘During the lockdown, we have managed to raise £5,000.’

The family hope to take Bella over to the US next February,

Phillipa added: ‘We are desperate for our daughter to eat for her sake – to enjoy all the lovely foods that children love to eat!

‘Even though she vomits many times a day you would never know, as she always has a big smile and carries on as normal.

‘We would be very grateful for any donations towards what would be life-changing for Bella.’

To donate towards Bella’s operation, you can visit her JustGiving page.

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