Grace is an active teen who competes on her school swim team and loves to work out at the gym. But a few years ago, Grace began suffering from severe bellyaches. For hours a day, she would lie doubled over on the couch with a heating pad. Even going to school was hard. "This was a teenage girl who was a prisoner in her own home," said Grace's mom, Mary Pat. "She was afraid to go anywhere or do anything because the pain could start."
Medical tests failed to find the source of the pain. Doctors call this condition functional abdominal pain – chronic belly pain caused by altered activity in nerve cells. Children with this pain can have severe stomach discomfort that cannot be explained by routine tests. "We were desperate," Mary Pat said.
Grace was sent to the Gastroenterology, Hepatology and Nutrition Center at Children's Hospital of Wisconsin. There, a team of caregivers – including a gastroenterologist and a psychologist – treated Grace's pain. The gastroenterologist confirmed the pain Grace felt was real. This made Mary Pat feel like they were on the right track. Grace began working with the psychologist to learn coping strategies and breathing techniques.
Each week, Grace felt better. After a few months, she was able to go back to her normal activities. "Children's Hospital changed our lives," said Mary Pat. "Not just Grace's life, but the life of everyone in our family. We feel so lucky to have this program."
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