Turkey dinner to be Christmas wish come true

THREE-YEAR-OLD Katy Burfutt will make her parents especially proud on Christmas Day when she tucks into turkey and cranberry sauce for the first time.

Born three months early and weighing just 1lb 4oz, Katy spent her first six weeks on a ventilator and had to be resuscitated several times.

Too weak to feed normally, she was fed through tubes for three years and doctors warned it could be another six years before she could eat properly.

But her parents, Sarah Bartram and Paul Burfutt, were determined to see her eat normally and decided, with the blessing of a dietician, to stop tube feeding in the hope that Katy would feel hunger pangs for the first time and overcome her food phobia.

It is a pioneering treatment which her parents pushed doctors to consider and now their persistence has paid off. Katy now weighs 22lbs and is eating solid food for the first time.

Miss Bartram, 33, a solicitor, said: "After four-and-a-half months in hospital she came home, but still with a feeding tube.

"It was only to be short-term but unfortunately she developed reflux, which meant she vomited at every single feed."

When she was nine months old, surgeons inserted a tube so Katy could be fed directly into her stomach.

Miss Bartram said: "Three times a day, for an hour each time we would hang packs of feed on a drip stand.

"There just didn't seem to be any light at the end of the tunnel. She would vomit all the time."

By this time, Katy associated food with being sick and had developed a phobia of eating. One night, just 18 months ago, Katy was sick on 17 separate occasions. Her parents, struggling to hold down full-time jobs, were desperate.

Experts suggested that Katy's food phobia could be overcome with "messy food play".

"She started to enjoy playing with food, but would purse her lips and move her head so we were very careful not to force the issue," said Miss Bartram.

A breakthrough came in March last year, just a month before Katy started nursery, during a pub lunch at the Huntsman Inn, near the family home at Holmfirth.

"She put a chip to her mouth and licked it. She sucked this big fat chip like it was a cigar. She didn't eat it, but Paul and I just collapsed in tears."

Almost a year went by before the next big breakthrough when Katy tried a Quaver crisp.

But the big improvement came after her parents withdrew her tube feeds, giving her only water and essential salts at night.

The couple got the idea having seen a documentary about a clinic in Graz, Austria, which specialises in children with "tube dependency".

They even considered sending Katy to the clinic, but the treatment was 27,000 and re-mortgaging their home was out of the question.

Eventually, the couple persuaded medics in Halifax to support their radical suggestion of withholding tube feeding. Health service staff in Leeds had originally rejected the idea, suggesting it might be unlawful.

After four days without her feeding tube, Katy finally began to show interest in food and now, 12 weeks later, she is "polishing off" double portions and her parents are confident she will take Christmas dinner in her stride.

Katy's aunt, Julie Bartram, who is one of several family members to rally round, said: "Getting Katy to eat has been a real struggle. Everyone was very emotional when she started even putting food to her mouth, so it's really lovely to see her feeding herself and especially to hear her asking for food. She takes after her 'Unky Dave' and especially likes cheese."