Teaming Up for Healthy Living: CHaD and Children's Hospital Boston
I would never bring Alex to any other place. CHaD has helped him in so many ways.Betty, Alex's grandmother and guardian
For a number of years, CHaD's Pediatric Gastroenterology (GI) Program has been providing a wide range of services in southern New Hampshire for patients with gastrointestinal diseases and nutritional problems. And now, thanks to a recent agreement with Children's Hospital Boston, CHaD has further enhanced its ability to provide advanced surgical and outpatient subspecialty care for children and families in the region.
"The biggest change is improved access to our services; we had some pretty long waiting lists before," explains Pamela Hofley, MD, Section Chief of Pediatric Gastroenterology at Dartmouth-Hitchcock Manchester. Three new pediatric gastroenterologists—Drs. Nirav Desai, Maireada McSweeney, and Sabina Sabharwal—have joined CHaD as collaborating providers who see patients at CHaD locations, and in Boston.
"With their expertise in areas like liver disease, lipid (cholesterol) disorders and inflammatory bowel disease, together with our established programs such as the Cystic Fibrosis Center, we really cover all areas of pediatric gastroenterology—from the most common to the most complex," she adds. "Working closely with Children's Hospital Boston also provides us access to clinical trials to help treat disorders like infectious hepatitis."
In addition, CHaD has recruited noted pediatric lipid and obesity specialist Susan Lynch, MD, wife of New Hampshire Governor John Lynch, to be a key member of the newly-expanded Pediatric Lipid and Weight Management Center at Dartmouth-Hitchcock Manchester. "Obesity is clearly a major issue in New Hampshire and elsewhere, and that has prompted the American Academy of Pediatrics to recently recommend universal lipid screening for all children between ages 9-11," says Hofley. "We're able to offer that service to help prevent more children from developing heart disease as adults."
One Patient's Success Story
Since joining CHaD's pediatric weight management program two years ago, 13-year-old Alex Stefanik of Hooksett has been making steady progress on this front, and has undergone a physical transformation that has included losing 85 pounds and going down seven pant sizes.
"He's close to reaching his goal weight, so they want him to maintain right now because they're expecting him to have a growth spurt," says his grandmother and guardian Betty, noting that Alex is already 5'8" and wears size 12 shoes. "And at his next visit, if his lab work looks good, they're hoping to discontinue his diabetes medicine."
These impressive results are especially gratifying to the Stefanik family, who struggled for a number of years to find the right combination of medical management, education, and support for Alex. "We started taking Alex to different specialists at age 3, both here in New Hampshire and also later in Boston, because along with being obese, his cholesterol was sky-high and he was insulin-resistant," explains Betty. "He also struggled with some other health issues, like severe asthma—for a period of time when he was really heavy, he had to have a nebulizer to help him breathe."
Despite developing a good understanding of nutrition and working hard to make healthy eating choices, as well as participating regularly in sports and other physical activities, Alex experienced as many setbacks as improvements. "But as soon as we came to CHaD in Manchester and Bonnie and Janna took over his care, things really started to click," says Betty.
During a recent visit to CHaD, Bonnie Proulx, APRN, MS—who along with Janna Thompson, RN, manages Alex's care—stops between appointments to show you dramatic "before-and-after" photos of Alex taken a year apart. "He's doing great. His overall health is better, his energy is better, and he's finally eating breakfast, which is a huge barrier, right Alex?" says Proulx, ribbing him goodnaturedly.
This draws a smile from Alex, who is normally reserved. "I really like working with Bonnie and Janna," he says after she leaves. "I think they do a good job. Even if I gain a little bit of weight between my monthly visits, they don't get mad or yell at me. They talk to me a lot about what I eat and how much I should eat, and about working out. I have a gym membership now and I do cardio and weight lifting."
"Bonnie and Janna have done an excellent job caring for Alex; if we need to see them between checkups they fit us in, or if I have a question about anything they get back to me quickly by phone or email," says Betty. "I would never bring Alex to any other place. CHaD has helped him in so many ways. In addition to all of the physical and health improvements, he feels good about himself."
"Losing all of that weight has allowed me to do much better in sports," says Alex, who is looking forward to this basketball season perhaps more than any other in the past. "I've been able to make a lot more friends, too. There are just a lot of things I can do now."