The mother of a British teen who went legally blind after eating a diet of potato chips and french fries says she blames the U.K.’s healthcare system for her son’s illness.
Sitting next to her son, who is now 18, James said she is not a bad mom and that she “couldn’t have done any more” to help with her son’s condition.
“I’ve done everything,” James said. “I know people say it’s probably because I’m a bad mom and neglected him. I don’t listen to any of that.”
However, James said she believes the U.K.’s National Health Service should have done more. She told the program’s hosts that doctors “could have saved” her son’s sight if they had realized he had a vitamin A deficiency — one of the many nutritional issues that led to his blindness.
“If they’d done the blood test then and realized [his] vitamin A was so low, they could have given him the vitamin A injections then,” James said.
James added that doctors gave Dyer nutrition shakes and other health products to try, but he refused to stick with them.
Dyer, who is considered completely blind in his left eye and mostly blind in his right eye, was the subject of a study in the American journal Annals of Internal Medicine. In it, researchers detailed the teenager’s diet, which for years consisted almost entirely of Pringles, chocolate candy, french fries and fried, processed meats.
“His diet was essentially a portion of chips from the local fish and chip [french fry] shop every day,” Dr. Denize Atan, one of the teen’s doctors, told the Telegraph. “He also used to snack on crisps [potato chips] — Pringles — and sometimes slices of white bread and occasional slices of ham, and not really any fruit and vegetables.”
Dyer’s symptoms began around age 14, and by 17 he was deemed legally blind in addition to suffering from hearing loss and weakness in his bones. His condition, called nutritional optic neuropathy, is almost nonexistent in developed countries such as the U.K.
The 18-year-old also suffers from a rare eating disorder called avoidant-restrictive food intake disorder, which likely contributed to his pickiness early in life. The disease makes it difficult for people to stomach certain foods based on sensory traits, such as smell, texture or flavor.
James said her son has shown symptoms of the eating disorder since he was 2 years old.
“He would psychically be sick,” she said. “He’d gag — he would choke if you tried to get it in him. It was awful. He would sweat, he was crying and screaming. It was just awful.”
Urusula Philpot, a dietician who appeared on ITV with the family, agreed that doctors had ignored certain aspects of Dyer’s case. She said he should have been given vitamins via injections, as his eating disorder made swallowing certain foods very difficult.
Philpot said that Dyer and his family suffered from an experience that “shouldn’t have happened.”
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