Hirschsprung's disease, named after Harold Hirschsprung who first described the disorder in 1888, is a congenital blockage of the large intestine caused by missing nerves in a portion of the bowel. Without these nerves, the muscles cannot push material through, and the end result is a big belly. A really big belly. A really, really big belly.
signs of Hirschsprung's Disease occur very early in newborns and infants,
as they are observed to have a failure to pass meconium after birth.
Okay... Deep breaths... sniffing salts... I'm okay...
Back to Hirschsprung's Disease - so, yeah, the baby has trouble pooping and when he does (Hirschsprung's is five times more frequent in boys), the stools are explosive or watery. Sometimes in more mild cases, the symptoms may not be noticed until the child is older, constipation gets worse, and the child develops a swollen belly. The disease also causes malnutrition and the child's growth is slowed.
The treatment is to surgically remove the defective portion of the colon. Most commonly, the rectum and abnormal part of the colon are removed. The healthy part of the colon is then pulled down and attached to the anus. The surgery is often done in two stages: a colonostomy in the first stage, and the reattachment of the healthy colon in a later stage. Generally, in first world countries, this issue is caught and treated early and little lasting damage is done to the baby.
Consider, however, the fate of those unfortunate enough to be cursed with both Hirschsprung's Disease and the misfortune of living in a third world country? The website for Praanadah Specialty Hospital in India displays in graphic detail several extreme cases of Hirschsprung's in older children. The suffering these poor kids must have experienced, I can't even imagine.
This kid from a very poor family is a REALLY awful case. I'm not sure his age, but it says that he spent 13 years with this horrifying prolapsed colostomy.
There are more pictures and stories at the Praanadeh Specialty Hospital website.
Consider, however, the even WORSE fate of those who suffered from this disorder many years ago, before surgical treatments were available. The most famous of these is the sideshow freak known as "The Human Balloon". His colon grew to be 9 feet in length and contain 47 lbs of impacted excrement. He died at the age of 29 and his colon ended up in the magnificent Philadelphia Mütter Museum. He must have suffered tremendously throughout his life... but then again, how many of us can say that our colon will end up memorialized as a stuffed toy?