United States

Baby Cured of Rare Disease Goes Home for Christmas

A baby girl who has spent her entire short life in hospitals is going home in time for Christmas.

Ella Vallecalle was born in October with a rare disease called hyperinsulinism, which causes her pancreas to secrete too much insulin.

Doctors in her hometown of Tucson, Ariz., referred the family to the Hyperinsulinism Center at Cook Children's Medical Center in Fort Worth, one of two such centers in the U.S.

"So they called us and said we have a baby. We can't do anything more. We need your help," said Dr. Paul Thornton, the center's medical director.

Cook Children's congenital hyperinsulinism program is recognized for its advanced treatments.

The FDA has given an investigational license for the center to use a new drug called 18F DOPA.

The drug, when used in combination with a PET-CT scan, helps diagnose focal lesions in children with congenital hyperinsulinism.

"We can see the part of the pancreas that makes too much insulin, and if there's one part that makes too much insulin, and our surgeon is able to remove it, then we can cure the patients," Thornton said. "This is one of the rare diseases that we can say we genuinely cure a patient."

Doctors removed the small lesion responsible for the excess secretion on Ella's pancreas and cured her of the disease.

"This is a big change form the past. In the past, all the babies would end up having 98 percent of their pancreas removed. They'd be in the hospital for 30 or 60 days and would get diabetes by the age of 15," Thornton said.

"For me, it was like her being able to be born again. For me, it was like having my baby all over again," said Ella's mother, Carol Vallecalle. "This is the best Christmas present, to be able to be home for Christmas."

"I know she's going to have a full life. She's going to be able to do whatever she needs to do. She'll be able to walk in the sand on the beach and fall in love and never have problems again of hyperinsulinism," Vallecalle said.

Contact Us