Marissa Waite lives in the smallest town in Massachusetts, but she has a big story to tell. When her mother Vicky was pregnant with Marissa 13 years ago, an ultrasound detected esophageal atresia (EA), a condition where the esophagus isn’t connected to the stomach.
Vicky was admitted to Brigham and Women’s Hospital for the remainder of her pregnancy. “I’m a take-charge kind of person. When I was pregnant, I thought, ‘I’ll make all the decisions for my baby.’ But when complications arose, I realized I couldn’t make these kinds of decisions alone,” she says.
Boston Children’s researchers have just made a discovery that could one day help Riley and patients like her. By studying the DNA of CLOVES patients, Boston Children’s doctors have pinpointed the genetic cause of CLOVES, just one year after their research project began—and only a few years after first identifying the syndrome. The discovery opens doors to targeted treatment of the condition and to further understanding of other, similar disorders.
In the following blog, Riley’s mother Kristen talks about what’s it’s like to raise a child with such a rare medical condition.
Becoming a parent is an act of love and faith that no amount of planning can ever really prepare you for. And once you begin raising your child, the changes you go through as a person are profound. Raising a child with a rare disease is even more life altering.
You experience all the love, hope and joy, but it’s mixed with almost constant anxiety, stress and strained financial budgets. It requires focus, discipline and intense endurance, but it’s also rewarding and empowering. That’s why I call it marathon parenting.
Marathon parenting can be hard to adjust to. (I always saw myself as more of a short-distance walker.) But sometimes life throws you into a race without giving you time to train; you just need to rise to the challenge.
Under the care of Dr. Fishman and his amazing team, Riley had the malformation and overgrowth removed at just 3 months old. Unfortunately the lesions continued to grow in and on the outside of her body. The Vascular Anomalies Center team did a great job caring for Riley, but weren’t fully sure what was causing the new malformations. (CLOVES was so rare it hadn’t been identified by doctors yet.) As she grew she needed more surgeries and medical interventions. At just 9 years old, Riley has had 16 surgeries, 32 MRIs and countless hospital visits.
By the time Riley was 5, Boston Children’s researchers had identified CLOVES as a specific syndrome, and she was diagnosed with it. It’s a progressive and very rare condition, affecting less than 100 people worldwide. Once Riley had a diagnosis I immediately starting searching for other people who were living with CLOVES so I could figure out what to expect. My searches turned up a few articles in medical journal articles, but little else. What I really wanted was to connect with other families dealing with what we were, but there were none.
It was disheartening, but as I was learning, marathon parents can’t let hurdles ruin their race. I began collecting and sharing information and stories about our lives online, and soon other CLOVES families joined us. Since launching in 2009, our CLOVES Syndrome Community has grown by leaps and bounds. …
The National Geographic Channel’s multi-part documentary, Extraordinary Humans, examines different rare medical conditions, including extreme blood and bone abnormalities. Two Children’s Hospital Boston patients will be featured in the episode,Rare Anatomy: Blood, airing Monday, March 22 at 9 p.m.
Son Pham was brought to Children’s from Vietnam to get treated for an extensive venous malformation on the left side of his face. He was cared for by an interdisciplinary team of specialists from the Children’s Vascular Anomalies Center, including John Mulliken, MD and Ahmad Alomari, MD – who were interviewed for this documentary.