Ask 7-year-old Carlee Aluise what her favorite food is and she confidently answers "I like macaroni and cheese!" But it wasn't always that way. When she was a baby and it was time for solid foods, she refused to eat. This then continued for months.
By the time she was a year old, Carlee had received a diagnosis of failure to thrive. Her mom, Dawn, contacted the county Infants and Toddlers program to see if their nutritionists would be successful. Still no luck.
"When anyone tried to feed her, she would scream and scream. It was horrible," Dawn says, adding there was "a lot of gagging." Ultimately, doctors had to insert a feeding tube so Carlee could get the nutrients she needed.
"Carlee first arrived at Mt. Washington's Feeding Clinic when she was 17-months-old," says Feeding Day Program Manager Ellen Wingert. "She was only at the 15th percentile for weight and the 10-25th percentile for height. A naso-gastric tube was giving her the majority of her calories."
To determine why she couldn't eat, doctors performed an endoscopy, with a biopsy of her esophagus. The findings indicated Carlee suffered from Eosinophilic Esophagitis (EE). Eosinophils are a type of white blood cell that infiltrate the esophagus causing swelling, nausea and vomiting. EE is often triggered by food allergies.
Further testing determined Carlee was allergic to a host of foods like eggs, corn and oats. She was referred to pediatric gastroenterologist Dr. Richard Katz, also VP of Medical Affairs. Dr. Katz recommended she come to the hospital's Feeding Day Program. Now that the source of the problem was being treated, therapists helped Carlee overcome the fear that had developed of swallowing any type of solid food.
"We wouldn't have been able to do it without Mt. Washington Pediatric Hospital. The team here is wonderful. There is a very positive, upbeat atmosphere," Dawn says.
"There's a lot of consistency and tons of support." Carlee smiles and giggles as she remembers Miss Ellen-Program Director Ellen Wingert.
"When I first met Carlee, she was so quiet and refused anything except a few sips of juice," Ellen says. "Now, when she comes for follow-ups, she's excited to tell me about the new foods she's added to her diet. I'm so proud of her."
So, when did Dawn and her husband Joe realize Carlee was on the road to recovery? "We had a cookout at the house...Carlee had a whole plate of chicken nuggets and French fries and I said 'Wow!'"
Carlee still comes for checkups. She's outgrown her dairy allergy. Her weight is now normal and she gets 100% of her nutrients by mouth. "I never thought this day would come," says Dawn.