Nine-year-old Ariana Dufane is happiest when she’s tumbling, whether she’s launching herself off the ground for a cartwheel or practicing how to perform the perfect split. In that moment, the fourth-grader focuses on nothing but strength and balance, a skill she has refined, not just in gymnastics but in life.
Born with intestinal pseudo-obstruction — a disorder of abnormal intestinal motility function that may cause the body to go into intestinal failure — Ariana’s first few months were spent in and out of emergency rooms. Her symptoms began with a distended belly and an inability to have a bowel movement.
“I could tell she was in horrible pain and I didn’t know why,” says Ariana’s mom, Lisandy Jimenez. “She would cry and break out in a sweat.”
Lisandy tried everything — removing milk from Ariana’s diet, a special formula, antibiotics and other medications. When the options ran out, she took Ariana to a gastrointestinal specialist near their home in Stamford, Connecticut. And, when he ran out of options, she traveled to a major medical center in Philadelphia.
“That’s when we got the diagnosis that it was pseudo-obstruction,” Lisandy says. …