(WECT) - A family in Kansas is facing a challenge few could even fathom - their child can't eat any food.
3-year-old Joshua Gardner has been diagnosed with Eosinophilic Gastrointestinal Disease, which means his body thinks that food is a parasite.
"I mean even if he just had a little sip of something to drink, he would almost immediately vomit it back up, and he was literally starving to death," said mother Cathy Gardner.
To get nutrients Joshua has a special formula whit no proteins in it that his body may see as food that goes straight into his stomach.
Depriving a child of food can be very hard.
"He felt it was just me being mean, and it wasn't me," said Cathy.
Incredibly, Joshua isn't the only child in the family who has the condition - all four the Gardner children likely have it too. Doctors think heredity and food allergies may both play a role.
Hope was diagnosed with a milder form of the disease. She eats, but must take 20 pills a day. Brenden and Timothy haven't been diagnosed yet.
The two-year-old hasn't been able to keep enough food down to do the test. He is able to swallow a special formula which is something Joshua couldn't do.
The disorder is rare and affects about 1 in 10,000 people. The Gardners have started a foundation to help other patients.