Woman trapped in 12-year-old's body seeks help for rare illness
All Kate Quinn wants is to be like other women her age.
But the 25-year-old suffers from a rare and little-understood medical condition which means she never hit puberty. She's never had regular periods and she's never needed to buy a bra. And, poignantly, Kate believes she'll never find love until she becomes a 'real' woman.
Now brave Kate, from Mooncoin, Co Kilkenny, has gone public about her condition in a desperate bid to attract the attention of an expert who can help her with her plight.
She is believed to be the only woman in the country who suffers from Caudal Regression Syndrome (CRS), a rare disorder which results in an abnormal development of the lower spine. As a result, she stands just 4ft 9in tall and her body has only developed to the stage of a 12-year-old.
The fact that she has not experienced puberty appears to be a side effect of her condition, although doctors have struggled to understand why this might be the case.
The cruel condition has shattered Kate's confidence and robbed her of the everyday things that her female friends take for granted.
And she says until she finds a solution to the puzzle, she never expects to find romance because she doesn't yet feel like a woman.
Last night, Kate told the Irish Independent she wanted to raise awareness of CRS, which is thought to affect just one in 25,000 people worldwide.
The condition is so rare that she only learned herself that she had it two years ago, after seeking a second opinion on her health problems.
She has been told that the lack of hormone production is not usually related to the condition but could have been caused by the strain placed on her body by the CRS. Although there is no known cure for CRS, Kate hopes an expert might take notice of her lack of hormone production and be able to suggest a solution.
She's endured daily injections for seven gruelling years to kickstart her development, but so far the treatment has proved futile.
She would dearly love to go to college, but daily trips to the clinic have made working or studying almost impossible.
"The longer it goes on, the worse you feel because at 12 or 14 you feel you might develop but now at 25 you start wondering if it's too late and ask yourself if you'll ever develop," said Kate. "When you're a girl you want to develop into a woman, so when that didn't happen I was just left there. My body has yet to develop to the age it should be at, so I kind of hide away. I never was able to go and buy a bra, because I don't even fit into the first bra you would wear. I've been in limbo with this problem since I was 14 and still there don't seem to be any answers."