Doctors dubbed 7-year-old Olivia Farnsworth of Huddersfield, England, the “bionic girl” because a rare chromosome condition (chromosome 6 deletion) renders her incapable of feeling pain, hunger, or exhaustion. Her mother, 32-year-old Niki Trepak, explained to reporters:
“Doctors have called her the bionic girl; she’s made of steel – and she’s got no sense of danger.”
Geneticists say they have never come across the disorder before and believe Olivia is the only person in the world with these unusual characteristics.
Lest you think Olivia has an admirable condition, recognize that her rare disorder also renders her impervious to fear or the normal human rules of self-preservation. For instance, little Oliva was run over by a car – and drug hundreds of feet underneath it – but even with tire marks on her chest and several external injuries, she never felt a thing.
“I was screaming and all my other children were screaming as we ran out [to check on her]. But Olivia was just like, ‘What’s going on?’ She just got up and started walking back to me.”
Doctors think her injuries were survivable because she never tensed up while the car drug her body down the street.
She requires no sleep and can stay awake for three days’ straight
Olivia’s condition also means she never gets tired and can easily stay awake for three days and nights without sleep. Her insomnia was one of the first signs that something was different about Olivia.
“She didn’t sleep, but I put that down to her being a fussy baby. At about nine months old she stopped napping during the day. But as she got older, she never needed sleep. She survived on about two hours a night. After about two hours she would be up and out of her room. She’d make any excuse not to sleep – she didn’t like the color of her carpet, her curtains, her bedding.”
Olivia now takes medicine to make her sleep (she gets about six hours sleep per night).
No sense of hunger requires she “condition’ herself to routine meals
Olivia never desires food or water and thus, has to maintain a strict eating schedule in order to ensure she gets enough calories to keep her body operating.
“She eats at school because everyone else does but she doesn’t really need it. She never gets hungry. At home she will go through phases of eating – the same thing for months and months and then go off it – once it was milkshakes, once butter sandwiches, once chicken noodles.”
Already at only seven years of age, Olivia’s condition has presented several dangerous situations for her. Her mother recalls:
“I remember when she was at nursery, one day they rang me and told me she’d fallen and her bottom teeth had gone through her bottom lip tearing a large part of her lower lip away. When I arrived to take her to hospital, she wasn’t even crying. She had to have plastic surgery. The doctor said to me, ‘something’s not right about her.’”
The lack of physical feelings seems to propagate psychological issues as well – according to her mother, she is prone to frequent outbursts of violence.
A unique condition, Olivia is believed to be the only person in the world like her
Unique chief executive, Beverley Searle, said Olivia’s disorder is the first they have come across in the entire world.
“On our worldwide database there are just 100 people with the ‘6p’ deletion. That’s out of 15,000 chromosome disorder cases worldwide – and there may not be anybody out there the same as Olivia.”