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Monday, April 18, 2016

A Tough Illness for a Young Family

By Carrie Vittitoe

From left, Jennifer Walls Dalton, Levi Dalton, (11), Taylor Dalton (15), and Peyten Sizemore (4) Photos by Patti Hartog

Brand new parents are often surprised by how much poop and spit-up a newborn baby can produce. If it isn’t your first rodeo, however, you know what to expect and how much laundry detergent to have on hand.

Jennifer Walls Dalton was already a mom to Taylor and Levi when her third child, Peyten, came along in 2012, so she knew that the copious vomiting and diarrhea were beyond the scope of what a normal newborn produces. Plus, Peyten was a very fussy baby. Jennifer says, “No matter what formula we tried, she was sick all the time.”

Peyten’s father and other paternal family members have a history of pancreatitis, but doctors were hesitant to diagnose her with the condition because she is so young. Acute pancreatitis is typically considered an adult disease, and Jennifer says she was told that Peyten wouldn’t show symptoms for another 20 or 30 years. Because pancreatitis is so rare in children, doctors wanted to rule everything else out.

She was finally diagnosed with hereditary, chronic pancreatitis in November 2013, soon after her first hospitalization. Jennifer says, “Her pancreas enzymes were off the charts. She was admitted and put on a morphine pump.”

Peyten has been hospitalized 12 times in two years, for about a week each time. During each stay, she is on intravenous fluids to give her digestive system a rest and narcotics for pain management. For several days, Peyten can have no food, liquids or even ice chips, and Jennifer says, “She’s a little unbearable after four days of it.”

Managing Peyten's illness has been time consuming and difficult for the family. 

Because of her pancreatitis, Peyten has to follow a very strict diet. She is limited to 15 grams of fat per day and nothing fried or fatty. Her diet mostly consists of “chicken and broccoli and broccoli and chicken,” says Jennifer. Peyten also takes Creon every time she eats, which aids her digestion.

The most challenging aspect of the disease for Jennifer and her family is the suddenness of Peyten’s attacks. Jennifer says, “She can be fine and then the next minute is on the ground in so much pain she can’t walk.” It is difficult to have routines and schedules.

Plus, Peyten’s future is more uncertain because having chronic pancreatitis at such a young age puts her at an increased risk for developing pancreatic cancer. This risk is one of the reasons Jennifer met with transplant specialists at Cincinnati Children’s Hospital to discuss Peyten’s candidacy for total pancreatectomy with auto islet transplantation (TP/AIT).


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