PARENTS

Tall 1-Year-Old Girl With Head Full Of Hair Often Mistaken For A 3-Year-Old Because Of Rare Disorders

13/08/2015 11:14 BST | Updated 13/08/2015 11:59 BST

Despite being only one year old, Penelope Pickup is often mistaken for a a three-year-old because of her head full of hair and 85 cm (2ft 9in) height.

But Penelope isn't just tall for her age, she has Beckwith Wiedemann syndrome, an overgrowth syndrome which causes children to become considerably larger and taller than normal, and she also has hyperinsulinism, which means her body produces too much insulin.

Because of her conditions, Penelope has to attend kidney scans every three months and has an increased risk of cancer.

Mum Gianna Pickup, 29, spoke to The Lancashire Telegraph about what happened after her daughter was diagnosed with hyperinsulinism:

"When I was first able to go and see her, I struggled to comprehend the severity of the situation," she said.

"These were all words to me, all I knew was that my baby was ‘dangerously ill’ in the doctor’s own words."

A photo posted by Gianna Pickup (@giannapickup) on


Pickup said her daughter's birth did not go smoothly.

Penelope had meconium aspiration syndrome, which is when a baby inhales their first stool before or during birth.

Penelope was quickly put on a life support machine called ECMO (extracorporeal membrane oxygenation) which acted as a heart and lung bypass. The procedure involves two tubes, the width of a pen, being inserted into her neck connecting straight to her heart.

Pickup said while few babies have ECMO treatment, the procedure "saved Penelope's life".


Penelope spent six weeks in the Neonatal Intensive Care Unit (NICU) before she was diagnosed with hyperinsulinism.

Pickup said her daughter needed ten types of medication during those six weeks.

Described by the NHS as being the "opposite of diabetes", hyperinsulinism can potentially lead to hypoglycemia which in turn can cause brain damage, blindness and even death.

The hyperinsulinism is said to be part of the reason why Penelope has thick, curly hair.

Pickup told The Mirror: "She was born with lots of curls, but the drug she was put on to control her insulin definitely increased her hair growth."

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A photo posted by Gianna Pickup (@giannapickup) on


When Penelope was four months old Pickup and her husband Lee took her for medical tests to see if she'd need a full pancreas removal to treat her hyperinsulinism.

That was when doctors noticed Penelope's abdominal organs were larger than usual.

After further tests, Penelope was diagnosed with Beckwith Wiedemann syndrome.

Beckwith-Wiedemann syndrome affects an estimated one in 13,700 newborns worldwide. However, some people with mild symptoms are never diagnosed.

Pickup told The Mirror: "It is such a small cross section of babies who have both hyperinsulinism and Beckwith Wiedemann. It's about one in 150,000 in fact."

A photo posted by Gianna Pickup (@giannapickup) on


Addressing the issue of people constantly thinking her daughter is older than she is, Pickup admits she is now able to laugh it off, especially as her husband, Lee is over six foot and has hair down to his waist.

Pickup is currently pregnant with her second child and after many tests has been told he will be a healthy baby.

She added: "Penelope is a little too young to understand everything that's happening, but she does love babies."

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