Growing up, Christopher Padilha was a perfectly healthy child. He ate regularly, and even though he was a bit on the smaller side, his health and growth were typical.
But one Friday night, at the age of 5, that changed.
“Friday is pizza day at Christopher’s school and that’s what he had for lunch that afternoon,” remembers his mother, Palmira. “But that night he got violently sick, woke up in pain and had terrible diarrhea. It was frightening.”
The next day Palmira took Christopher to see his pediatrician. The doctor suspected Christopher might have been suffering from an acute reaction to gluten, so Palmira removed all gluten from her son’s diet. However, Christopher was still experiencing serious gastrointestinal distress.
The pediatrician then suspected that Christopher may have developed a sudden intolerance to lactose and suggested removing dairy from his diet. Unfortunately, Christopher remained in great pain and continued going to the bathroom almost hourly.
“Once food allergies were ruled out, the doctor was stumped,” Palmira says. “The pediatrician suggested Christopher see a specialist for some more in-depth diagnostic testing.”
After researching their options, the Padilhas decided to see Dr. Alejandro Flores at Boston Children’s Hospital in Boston.
Flores is highly regarded among pediatric gastroenterologists, but for the Padilhas, the 45 miles that separated their Worcester home from Flores’s Boston office made the trip a daunting one.
“At that point, Christopher was very sick and had to go to the bathroom almost constantly,” Palmira says.
Based on the results of a colonoscopy, Flores was finally able to give the Padilhas a name for the mystery illness that had been plaguing their son: Crohn’s disease. Flores explained that Crohn’s is caused by an inflammation of the digestive tract and is typically treated with medication. …