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Grace's story

Grace

Rob and Faith McClelland of Sayre, Pa., watched their once exceptionally active and robust young girl dwindle in spirit and become a pale, tired and unusually withdrawn teenager. Diagnosed in 2008 with ulcerative colitis, Grace started treatment at a local clinic, but was referred to Janet Weis Children’s Hospital two years later when it was discovered that the medication she was taking was  doing significant harm to her system.

Grace had been taking the steroid Predisone for two and a half years to treat her ulcerative colitis. By the time she was admitted to Janet Weis Children’s Hospital in October 2010, the high dosage already had caused her adrenal glands to shut down, severe osteoporosis, and ultimately stopped Grace from growing. During her ten-day October stay, the pediatric specialists developed a personalized plan for Grace to wean her off of the long-term steroid, and improve her health.

Unfortunately, slowly stopping the Predisone caused her ulcerative colitis to flare up. Dr. Rick Focht, M.D., a pediatric gastroenterologist at Geisinger, said, “Her active life had decreased entirely, so her colitis was not being controlled and her colon was severely inflamed. Her weight was in the 76th percentile and her height in the 4th percentile.”

Given Grace’s anemia, blood loss, long-term steroid damage, weight loss, stunted growth, osteoporosis and adrenal gland failure, Dr. Focht suspects that her condition was so severe, she could have faced permanent damage to her body had she been left unchecked.

Dr. Focht continued to wean Grace off of Predisone and started Remicade therapy to keep her colitis under control. The results were dramatic. Within two months of beginning Remicade treatments, she was back to swimming 90 minutes three to four times a week, and earned the honor of “Rookie of the Year” for Bradford County, 2011-2012 swim season.

Faith speaks highly of her experience at Janet Weis Children’s Hospital, and the exceptional care that Grace received. “Everyone we interacted with at Geisinger wanted to know how we were doing and it seemed like everyone cared. We cannot say enough about the team.” Even as a clinician himself, Rob Sr. said, “I could relax; I knew they had the ball.”

Rob Jr., one of Grace’s three brothers, remembers, “For a while we all thought she was going to die. She was really, really sick.” But even in the scariest of times, he knew his sister was in the best hands, and describes Janet Weis Children’s Hospital as looking and feeling “the least like a hospital as you could get.”

The Janet Weis Children’s Hospital benefits from the kid friendly “extras” Children’s Miracle Network provides. From the decorated ceiling tiles, to the interactive fountain and train in the lobby, these fun additions are necessities to families staying with sick children. As Rob Jr. observed, the children’s hospital is more homelike than clinical from the CMN funding. “CMN allows us to fund so many things in our department and the children’s hospital,”Dr. Focht says. “Many of our patients are benefitting from CMN every day and week.”  CMN directly funds the endoscopy equipment used to diagnose children who have conditions like Grace.

Today, Grace is an active seventeen-year-old. Dr. Rick Focht,M.D., reports that her height is now in the 50th percentile and she is growing normally. Last year, she ran a half marathon in under two hours, placing first in her age group.

Grace continues to see Dr. Focht every eight weeks to continue her Remicade treatments, but her mother Faith does not mind the frequent visits because she trusts Dr. Focht’s expertise, health care leadership, and compassion. Her father, Rob, adds, “Finally, Grace is just worried about normal teenage girl things, and that is all worth the long drive and the time it takes out of our days.”

“When she was admitted to Janet Weis Children’s Hospital in October, 2010, Grace had gotten to a point where she could not ‘do life’ anymore,” her mother recalls. And true to her name, Faith believes, “God led us to Geisinger.”

Gifts to Children’s Miracle Network help purchase endoscopy equipment used to help diagnose children who have conditions like Grace.

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