When 10-year-old Farrah Eckert arrived at Children’s Hospital of Philadelphia (CHOP) for her first appointment with pediatric kidney stone specialist Gregory Tasian, MD, MSc, MSCE, she and her family had almost given up.
“We were at our end,” says her mom, Jacquelyn. For weeks, Farrah had been getting sicker and sicker. Nothing her medical team tried seemed to help.
But during that first visit with Dr. Tasian, Farrah turned to her mother and said, “I really trust him, mom.”
It was a turning point for the family. “We left his office that day with hope,” says Jacquelyn. “And we had not felt hope since May 20.”
A surprising diagnosis
May 20 was the day that Farrah’s family took her to the emergency room at a hospital near their home in Westampton, N.J., and learned the cause of her 104-degree fever, stomach pain and nausea: she had four kidney stones.
“You don’t think of a child and kidney stones — they just don’t go together,” says Jacquelyn. “We were scared to death.”
Over the next several weeks, Farrah was hospitalized five times with infections and high fevers. “We were getting nowhere,” said Jacquelyn. “I looked at my husband and said, ‘We need to find someone else to help us.’ ”
Care from a team of experts
At a neighbor’s recommendation, the Eckerts made an appointment with Dr. Tasian at Children’s Hospital’s Pediatric Kidney Stone Center, which was created in 2008 to care for children with kidney stones and conduct research to find better treatments and prevention strategies. The center’s team has cared for more than 1,660 children and offers the most advanced treatment options, including minimally invasive procedures that they customize for pediatric patients.
At that first appointment, Jacquelyn says, Dr. Tasian acted fast — and with incredible compassion: “He immediately calmed all my worries and anxieties. He spoke to Farrah on her level and took the extra time to make sure she understood what was going on.”
Minimally invasive treatment options
In late July, Farrah had a percutaneous nephrolithotomy at CHOP. During the procedure, Dr. Tasian inserted small instruments into Farrah’s kidney through an incision in her back and used them to break up and remove the largest of her kidney stones.
Three weeks later, Dr. Tasian performed a ureteroscopy, a procedure that removes stones from the kidney and ureter using a laser and digital scope without the need for incisions. Four days after Farrah had the ureteroscopy, she and her family left for vacation.
“She was a brand-new child,” says Jacquelyn. “I hadn’t seen that child since May.”
A search for answers
Farrah’s journey is far from over: in the fall, she developed five more kidney stones. Dr. Tasian performed another ureteroscopy in November, and is working closely with Children’s Hospital nephrologist Lawrence Copelovitch, MD, and other members of the Stone Center team to understand the cause of Farrah’s kidney stones so they can find the best ways to prevent them.
The Eckerts are hopeful about Farrah’s future — and they are thrilled that she is in such caring, capable hands. “The doctors and nurses at CHOP give us their time, their love and their compassion,” says Jacquelyn. “We would never go anywhere else, ever.”
Originally published November 2016