FOR the first 10 years of her life, Tia McCarthy refused to eat and had to be fed through a tube in her stomach.

It was a rare case that baffled the medical world. But now the 15-year-old schoolgirl eats almost everything.

Mum Sue, said: “It took so much longer than I thought, but as she has got older, she has become more able to understand the fact that she has to eat in order to survive.”

Born 12 weeks prematurely with a rare congenital disorder affecting just one in 40,000 children, Tia spent most of her first year in hospital.

Tia’s oesophagus and stomach were unconnected so doctors had to perform a life-saving operation moving her stomach into her chest.

But although Tia has multiple disabilities, there was no medical reason why she couldn’t eat food after the surgery.

Sue, 49, had to plug Tia into a machine every night to pump liquid food into her digestive system.

She even took her to a specialist clinic in Austria where she was starved for three weeks in a bid to cure her.

But five years ago, aged 10 on a trip to Spain, Tia suddenly started to show an interest in trying food.

By Christmas 2012 she had the feeding tube removed.

Sue explains: “It used to take her an hour to eat a simple dish. She would pull faces and she looked like she hated every single bit of food.”

But now there’s no stopping her.

“I like three-course meals”, says Tia, who goes to The Sheiling School in Ringwood for children with complex learning needs and lives in Alderholt.

“I like scallops, ribs, salmon, pizza, fish pie, seabass. I like chocolate mousse, ice cream and jelly for pudding.”

Tia is still under the care of a team of medics who she meets twice a year for review.

Sue adds: “It’s hard knowing Tia will never be able to live independently, but now she is eating I think at least that’s something because that alone means life is so much better now.”