90ºF

Mother shares girl's cautionary tale on eating sunflower seed shells

Girl learns painful lesson about eating seed shell

Sunflower seeds nearly cost a Michigan girl her life. 

A fun time at at northern Michigan summer camp came to a painful stop when Tessa Shane, 9, dropped to the floor.

"I got a call from the camp that they had made the decision to send her to the emergency room for what they thought was constipation," said her mother, Jennifer Shane. 

Jennifer Shane said she had a gut feeling it was something much more serious. 

"She was just laying down, to the point where before they sent her to the emergency room she was just crying and screaming in pain on the floor of her cabin," said Jennifer. 

She made the four-hour drive in the middle of the night to go get her daughter and bring her back home where surgeons immediately ordered an abdominal x-ray. That's something which had not been done yet. 

"Just from the x-ray itself you already saw that there was an obstruction there. They continued to treat it as constipation because they just saw that she was obstructed and nothing was happening," said the mother. 

X-ray showed mass in stomach

The x-ray showed a mass in Tessa's stomach. 

"Eventually they gave her an enema. From the enema ... all of the sudden they started pulling out sunflower seeds that were whole," said Jennifer. 

Doctors figured out the softball-sized mass was made of hundreds of whole sunflower seeds. The seeds had clustered together. 

"I had like one whole bag (of sunflower seeds)," said Tessa. 

She was rushed into surgery to have the mass of seeds removed. 

"Had she not gotten it removed when she did, she could have become septic," said Jennifer. 

A septic state could have been deadly for the 9-year-old girl. 

Shells can't be digested

Tessa had been eating the seeds with the shell. 

"Those shells, when you eat them whole, are not going to digest," said Jennifer. 

She hopes incidents like Tessa's can be avoided by more parents reminding kids that eating whole sunflower seeds without breaking apart the shell can lead to this type of emergency. 

Tessa said she won't be eating sunflower seeds ever again. 

The surgeon told Tessa's mother that he had never seen a case like this. 


About the Author: