Compassion Helps Reveal Elusive Diagnosis
Ten-month-old J'meil was running a fever, had stopped eating and drinking, and now was groaning in pain.
"I was getting scared," his mother, Blondie, says. "The doctors we saw couldn't tell us what was wrong, and some of them made us feel rushed. The last doctor we saw suggested we take J'meil to Joe DiMaggio Children's Hospital. At that point, we just didn't know what to expect."
Diagnosing with a Kiss
At the hospital, Blondie described J'meil's symptoms to pediatric pulmonary specialist Morton N. Schwartzman, MD, FAAP, FCCP, Medical Director of the Cystic Fibrosis Center at Joe DiMaggio Children's Hospital. Dr. Schwartzman asked an unexpected question: "When you kiss J'meil, does he taste salty?"
Surprised, Blondie said no, not realizing that salty-tasting skin is one symptom of cystic fibrosis (CF) – an inherited disease that causes thick, sticky mucus to build up in the lungs and digestive tract. So then, Dr. Schwartzman kissed J'meil himself and said, "Yes, he does."
"I wouldn't have thought that a doctor – a stranger – would care enough to do that," Blondie says. "At that moment, I knew Dr. Schwartzman would do everything he could to help my son."
Nationally Recognized Treatment
J'meil entered treatment at Joe DiMaggio Children's Hospital's Cystic Fibrosis and Pulmonary Center, one of only a few nationally accredited cystic fibrosis centers in Florida. "We were welcomed with open arms," J'meil's father, Brent, says. "They responded to all of our questions with answers that were clear and easy to understand."
Thoroughly answering parents' questions is important, says Dr. Schwartzman. "Parents must be educated about cystic fibrosis and involved in decision-making. That helps give CF patients a much better quality of life." While the average survival age of CF patients used to be 6, they now can live well into adulthood – presenting different medical needs than children. To help care for this growing group, the new Joe DiMaggio Children's Hospital Adult Cystic Fibrosis Program has been launched under the leadership of Lance Cohen, MD, Medical Director.
'A Part of Their Family'
Today, J'meil is a happy and active preschooler who loves football, computers and video games. Blondie and Brent are grateful to Joe DiMaggio Children's Hospital.
"We never felt pushed aside, the way we did before," she says. "Joe DiMaggio Children's Hospital cared 100 percent for J'meil and made us a part of their family."