While sleeping over at her aunt’s house, 15-year-old Amiyah woke up in the middle of the night with horrible stomach pain. She called her mother, Gidget, from the road to tell her they were headed to the local emergency room. Amiyah thought her appendix had burst. By the time Gidget arrived at the hospital, it was clear that Amiyah’s situation was far more serious, so they sent her to Johns Hopkins Children’s Center.
The nurses tested Amiyah’s blood and what they saw was shocking — both the sugar and the fat levels in her blood were dangerously high. Moreover, the fat was visible to the eye. Additionally, Amiyah’s blood pressure had skyrocketed. She was immediately admitted to the Children’s Center, and within 10 minutes, she was intubated in the pediatric intensive care unit. Her condition worsened rapidly as doctors tried to find the source of her pain.
Amiyah was heavily sedated and breathing with the help of a tracheal tube when the first scans came back and showed the source of her abdominal pain. Amiyah had necrotizing pancreatitis, a condition that occurs when the inflammation and damage from pancreatitis cause tissue in the pancreas to die. While pancreatitis in adults generally has a small number of causes such as gallstones or alcohol intake, Amiyah’s pancreatitis was quite different. The high fat level in her blood led to poor circulation to her pancreas, which in turn caused severe pancreatic inflammation. Clearly, it was taking a rapid and drastic toll on her body. Fluid was leaking into her abdomen, and doctors from the adult/pediatric gastrointestinal division were called in to place a tube in her side to siphon out fluid until surgery could be safely performed on her pancreas. At the same time, her doctors were fending off several other emergencies arising because of the necrotizing pancreatitis, including kidney failure.
Amiyah was placed on dialysis to treat her kidneys, and she underwent 26 blood transfusions during the four and a half months that she was an inpatient at Johns Hopkins Children’s Center. Gidget became a fixture at the Children’s Center as she waiting by her daughter’s side, and she became familiar with the medical team. With the complexity of Amiyah’s illness, doctors from every division of the Children’s Center worked in tandem, helmed by Sapna Kudchadkar, to get Amiyah better.
“At that point, my trust was in Johns Hopkins Children’s Center and the providers there,” Gidget says.
Finally, the fluid levels in Amiyah’s body and the fat levels in her blood had stabilized enough for surgeons to successfully remove the damaged section of the pancreas. What followed was a long road of therapy to rebuild the muscle mass and regain the movement control Amiyah had lost over her nearly five months at the Children’s Center. But with support from friends, family members, and her team at Johns Hopkins, Amiyah found the strength to give her all to her journey toward recovery.
Amiyah will need that strength as she continues to recover. Because she lost part of her pancreas through her illness and lifesaving surgery, she will take insulin for the rest of her life. Doctors still don’t know the cause of the necrotizing pancreatitis. What she and her mother do know is that they were in the best place possible when Amiyah needed help.
“I love all of my doctors,” Amiyah says. “Thank you for taking care of me. They’re family to me.”
“Amiyah should not be here today based on statistical data,” Gidget says. “Johns Hopkins Children’s Center saved my child. If you don’t believe in miracles, you heard one today.”