I was born on January 29, 1992 with a birth defect called gastroschisis, which meant that my intestines extended outside my body through a small hole in my abdominal wall. I received a liver, small and large bowel transplant in December of 1992, just before my first birthday. Though I was transplanted in Pennsylvania, I have been cared for by the brilliant team at Boston Children’s Hospital ever since.
When I was first recovering in Pennsylvania, my parents were told that I would never be able to swim in the ocean because I would have to have a central line in for the rest of my life. Well, to that person I would like to say:
Six-year-old Gianna DiCarlo is an active dancer and gymnast. Though she’s a healthy eater now, Gianna’s stomach bears a long scar, a remnant of three surgeries she underwent as an infant. She was born with gastroschisis, a striking birth defect in which the abdominal wall doesn’t seal fully during fetal development. As a result, her intestines developed outside her body. She was fed through an IV for several weeks and was stitched fully shut at age 2.
Today, Gianna occasionally dons a two-piece bathing suit to spread awareness about her condition. Meanwhile, researchers at Boston Children’s Hospital have isolated stem cells from amniotic fluid, aiming to use them to treat birth defects like gastroschisis.