A desperate foster mum is fundraising for life-changing surgery to suck the fat out of her legs, which weigh four stone each and are still growing.
Former support worker Vicki Hull, who has 30-inch thighs, was born with an agonising medical condition that causes fatty tissue to accumulate around her lower body.
Her legs ballooned from the age of 11, but doctors repeatedly told her she just needed to lose weight. She returned for answers nearly 20 times until she became so frustrated she attempted to take her life at the age of 22.
It was then that doctors finally took a closer look and diagnosed her with lipoedema, also known as ‘painful fat syndrome’.
Since then, the 29-year-old’s thighs and calves have continued to grow rapidly.
The condition is making life a misery for Vicki, from Southampton, who now wears size 20 trousers – three sizes bigger than her torso.
She struggles to walk because of pain in her legs, which rub together and cause unbearable strain on her hips and knees.
5ft 1in Vicki, who has a six-year-old foster son, can no longer fit in the bath and seats often buckle under her 16 stone frame – half of which comes from her legs’ mass.
Lipoedema is a genetic condition which Vicki believes her mother, Jayne, 53, who suffers mildly, may have passed onto her.
She has had to make the heartbreaking decision not to have children of her own because she “couldn’t bear for them to suffer in the same way”.
Vicki has been warned that without help she will eventually become completely immobile and her only hope of a normal life is to have a special form of liposuction.
The treatment will remove the fatty tissue, stop the pain and prevent it from getting any worse.
But it is not available on the NHS, which classes it as a cosmetic procedure, so she must now raise £20,000 for the private operation in Germany.
Vikki said: “I go to bed in pain and I wake up in pain. It is constant and it is absolutely devastating because it is only ever going to get worse.
“I struggle to get around and I hate taking my foster son swimming because people stare at me.
“I don’t go to the cinema because I can’t fit in the seats, I can’t ride a bike and I can’t run around in the park, so he misses out.
“It makes me very worried for the future and how it might affect my ability to care for him.
“Worst of all, as it’s genetic, I’ve decided never to have children of my own because I couldn’t bear for them to suffer in the same way.
“That’s heartbreaking to me as all I’ve ever wanted is to be a mummy.”
She added: “Doctors have said my tree-trunk legs will grow and grow and I will become immobile, eventually ending up in a wheelchair.
“I’m already at an advanced stage so it’s just a matter of time and this surgery is my only option.
“But as the NHS view it as a cosmetic procedure - despite the agonising pain this causes me - I need to raise this money to get my life back.”
Vicki’s legs suddenly began to grow rapidly when she was just 11 and by the time she was 18, she couldn’t see her knees when she looked down.
She said: “I used to play roller hockey and kept active but they just grew and grew and grew. I just thought I was a bit chunky but soon realised something else was going on.”
Doctors told Vicki she was just overweight, but even when she dieted and got a personal trainer her legs continued to grow.
She sank into a deep depression and suffered a breakdown in her twenties because of the frustration of not knowing what was happening.
Vikki said: “It got so bad. I wanted to chop my own legs off and I tried to end my life. I just wanted to be normal.
“My mother Jayne marched me down to the doctors and showed them my legs.
“The doctor took one look and said: ‘oh my word’. It was the first time they’d ever even looked at them.”
Vicki was referred to specialists who diagnosed her with lipoedema, which affects mainly women and causes an abnormal build-up of fat cells from the ankles to the waist.
It has continued to make her life hell ever since and Vikki said: “The pain is horrendous and it is only getting worse.
“I get pins and needles, shooting pains, stabbing pains and because there is so much weight on my legs, it’s affecting my knees, hips and joints.
“I have to build myself up to even leave the house because of cruel strangers who stare and make horrible comments.
“I’ve had girls in shops saying ‘she’s not going to wear that, is she?’ and I’ve broken seats before, which is humiliating.”
Her condition has worsened dramatically in the past few years and it has now spread to her arms and waist – meaning she is just one stage away from becoming completely immobile.
Therapy for lipoedema includes massage and compression stockings, but the only treatment available is a type of liposuction.
It targets fatty tissue in the legs but Vicki cannot have it done on the NHS because it’s deemed as a cosmetic procedure, despite her pain.
Her only option is to travel to Germany for the surgery – but she will need £20,000 for the treatment.
Her dad Martin, 54, will pay for the flights and accommodation but her family and friends are now desperately trying to fundraise for the operation to prevent her from becoming wheelchair-bound forever.
They have already raised nearly £4,000 and Vicki, who has also had help from support group Lipoedema Ladies, said: “I’ve met some amazing people and I feel so lucky to have my family and friends. Without them, I know I wouldn’t be here today.”
Her mum Jayne, a senior office clerk, added: “To see your daughter suffer like this has been absolutely devastating.
“The other day she called me up because she’d driven to the supermarket and she couldn’t physically get out of the car because there wasn’t the space. She said: ‘Mum, I can’t get out.’
“It broke my heart, but I won’t stop because we’ve got to get this done for her. It will change her life.”
To support Vicki, visit www.gofundme.com/29drgknm.