A single mother is struggling to cope with her twin boys who suffer from an extremely rare condition – which makes them eternally hungry.
Stevie and Eddie Ahern were born with Prader-Willi Syndrome and autism, a devastating combination that leaves them prone to extreme anger and violent outbursts.
The 12-year-old, 13st boys are becoming increasingly strong and more stubborn, meaning their mum Dianna Schatzlein-Ahern, 55 is considering involving the authorities.
In order to stop them eating, she has to lock up her refrigerator, cupboards, cat food and even cleaning products – which they have been known to try to drink.
Dianna, from New Haven, Connecticut, said: ‘I have to keep everything locked away so they don’t get up in the middle of the night and have a feast.
‘They can never feel full so could potentially eat themselves to death. I even have to lock up all of the medications in my room, then lock the bedroom door once I’m going to sleep. But that’s their disease.’
Prader-Willi affects one in every 25,000 children and leaves them with an insatiable appetite, low muscle tone and speech delay.
Looking after the boys is a 24-hour-a-day job and the constant nature of it eventually took its toll on Dianna’s marriage with their father.
‘It’s difficult for the boys because I’m very strict with their food intake and I only allow them 1,200 calories a day. That can lead to aggression because they don’t understand why I have to do it.
‘Stevie can be very violent, he will just pop and start knocking things over. He goes after Eddie all the time.’
Things came to a head recently when Stevie became aggressive in a supermarket while shopping.
Dianna said: ‘They didn’t have a little carriage for him to push so he became very agitated. Out of nowhere, he started to smash the displays and when a stranger approached to ask if he was OK, he pushed him as hard as he could and the man ended up on his back.
‘Everyone was staring at me and eventually a woman who was a counsellor at a school came to calm him down. She knew not to approach him but it took her 45 minutes to get Stevie into the right mindset.’
As the boys become stronger, Dianna has started to realise that she may need outside help to control them – she has yet to call the police but knows it is only a matter of time.
‘I try to explain to them that they will be taken away from me, that they’ll have to go to a hospital, but they’re not able to understand,’ added Dianna.
Because of the severity of their condition, Diana is unable to have the twins looked after by anyone who does not have a deep understanding of Prader-Willi – leading her to get very little respite.
She added: ‘They’ll eat out of the garbage, we always have to take the garbage and put it outside.
‘I don’t think they’re aware of it, they’re just so hungry that they’ll just eat whatever they see, they’ll eat it off the floor.
‘There’s not a day that goes by when something major doesn’t happen in our lives. I really don’t know how I cope, it’s taxing but I can’t have a nervous breakdown because I’m all they have.’
While Diane does have the boys, she plans on enjoying as much time with them as she can and taking a break whenever an opportunity presents itself.
‘They’re such good kids, they’re very loving to me and I love them so much. They call me the queen.
‘I’ll keep fighting for them as long as I can.’