Stories about: eosinophilic esophagitis

Bringing everyone to the table: Hackathon brings a clinician’s dietary innovation to life

Finding meals a whole family can eat—including kids with food allergies—can be like solving a Rubik’s cube.
Finding meals a whole family can eat—including kids with food allergies—can be like solving a Rubik’s cube.

Elizabeth Hait, MD, MPH, wears many hats. She’s a physician, researcher, wife and mother just to name a few.

But she never fancied herself an innovator—until recently. After participating in Hacking Pediatrics, sponsored by Boston Children’s Hospital in collaboration with MIT’s H@cking Medicine, she now sees potential innovations and innovators everywhere.

“To be an innovator, you don’t need to be extraordinary, you just need to recognize that a problem exists and be dedicated to fixing it,” she says.

The problem she took to last month’s Hacking Pediatrics Hackathon stems directly from her work. As co-medical director at Boston Children’s Eosinophilic Gastrointestinal Disease (EGID) Program, which treats specific food allergies causing gastrointestinal inflammation, she sees families constantly struggling to find new (and healthy) meals that won’t trigger an allergic reaction in their kids.

“Many of our patients can only safely eat a handful of foods, so feeding them with any kind of variety is extremely hard,” she says. “Then if you factor in the likes, dislikes and other food intolerances that often exist in a family, just planning one family meal can feel like a nightmare.”

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Trial and error: Solving a rare, hard-to-diagnose GI disease

Eosinophilic esophagitis is often misdiagnosed, and seems to be on the rise. (Images: Gretjen Helene Photography)

As an infant, Cameron Ledin sneezed and rubbed his eyes whenever his mother, Kim, nursed him. His growth was slow, and as he got older, it became clear that he had serious feeding problems. When he was old enough for solid foods, he refused to eat. When he was old enough to speak, he complained that eating hurt his stomach.

Over the years, Cameron saw allergy specialists at Boston Children’s Hospital repeatedly, and every visit ended with more confirmed food allergies. By the time he was 7, Cameron could eat only 25 foods, and his pain and symptoms continued. Multiple tests—for airway, pulmonary and upper digestive tract problems—had inconclusive results.

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