At 8-years-old, doctors found a large mass inside young Elia's body.
At the age of 5, doctors diagnosed young Elia Caingcoy with cyclic vomiting syndrome, a condition that causes her to vomit profusely every few months. Elia’s mom, Fides, was shocked. Though it was a lot to handle, she didn’t let that prevent Elia from growing up, taking her condition in stride and doing things the average child does – like joining her church’s choir and becoming one of its star singers.
Elia’s life was going on in its own sense of “normal” until one day in June 2015, at the age of 8, a bout of cyclic vomiting kicked in, and something just didn’t seem right. Elia’s family made several visits to the emergency room of a local hospital until finally admitted, and was transferred to Miller Children’s & Women’s Hospital Long Beach.
Elia was admitted into the Pediatric Intensive Care Unit at Miller Children’s, where an upper GI exam was performed. It was then that care team members discovered a mass outside of Elia’s duodenum – but doctors were not able to determine exactly what it was. The mass was so big that Elia had intestinal blockage, which prevented her from swallowing and caused her to vomit over any attempts to eat
“I was so scared,” says Fides. “I wasn’t expecting it.
We thought it was just cyclic vomiting, but it was
Doctors insisted on performing minimally invasive surgery to remove the cyst and determine what it was, but she also had a severe case of pancreatitis, which is the inflammation of the pancreas. While pediatric surgeons wanted to work to remove the mass from Elia’s body, her pancreas needed to be stable before operating.
The surgery, suddenly and unexpectedly necessary, was daunting to Fides. The care team at the Pediatric Surgical Center at Miller Children’s, who are trained exclusively for pediatric surgical care, helped to ease her worries. “Her care team checked up on her every day. They helped me by thoroughly explaining her results and what was going on,” says Fides. “That was the biggest thing – knowing exactly what was happening in her treatment and how they were helping her.”
Elia, on the other hand, was ready for surgery. The Child Life Program provides specialists to prepare children undergoing surgery by helping to lessen their anxieties and fears. “It was really helpful speaking with the Child Life Specialist,” says Fides. “Elia was a little scared, but they, and her belief in God, helped keep her calm.”
To help progress her pancreas to normal, Elia was fed through a PICC line for a week while her stomach was continuously drained. Once she was stable, Elia underwent minimally invasive surgery to remove the cyst. Minimally invasive surgery allows surgeons to perform complex procedures through tiny incisions, often less than an inch long using “keyhole” techniques.
In most minimally invasive surgeries, a camera and lightweight surgical instruments are introduced to the area requiring surgery through tiny incisions. Guided by greatly magnified images on a television monitor and the latest technological advances in pediatric surgical care, surgeons at
Miller Children’s were able to successfully remove Elia’s cyst. The cyst turned out to be a duodenal duplication – a double portion of her intestine – that was causing Elia to vomit more than usual and impaired her ability to consume anything.
Elia went through a month-long recovery process that put her on an IV diet until her intestines functioned properly again and she was able to advance to eating solids. She is now 9-years-old and healthier than ever before. “Elia hasn’t had a vomiting episode in over 24 weeks,” says Fides. “That’s the longest she’s ever gone since she was 4. She’s doing great.”
Fides owes Elia’s progress to the entire care team at Miller Children’s. “Coming to Miller Children’s helped her so much. When she was elsewhere, her condition wasn’t improving,” says Fides. “Once she got to Miller Children’s, they helped and completely turned things around for her.”
Elia is now back to singing in church productions – that is, when she’s not singing her thanks to surgeons at Miller Children’s. “She could not be more grateful,” says Fides. “She just loves