For Isaac Flaming, a course of antibiotics prescribed to treat a simple ear infection led to Clostridium difficile (C. diff), a serious intestinal infection that causes diarrhea, bloody stools, weight loss, and fever. After four months of dealing with an array of debilitating symptoms, the 7-year-old traveled from his home in Oklahoma to Boston Children’s Hospital to meet with Dr. Stacy Kahn, director of the Fecal Microbiota Transplantation and Therapeutics Program. Under Dr. Kahn’s care, he was treated with a procedure called fecal microbiota transplantation (FMT) that enabled him to regain his health and get back to participating in his normal activities again.
The onset of C. diff symptoms
“It all started in the summer of 2018, when Isaac was at Boy Scout camp with his twin brother, Jonah, and their father. Isaac spiked a high fever,” says his mother, Kellie Jones, who is a pulmonologist and critical care specialist in Oklahoma.
“Upon returning home from camping, Isaac was diagnosed with an ear infection and started on a common antibiotic, Augmentin. Following several courses of antibiotics for the ear infection, he developed loose stools and a fever,” adds Isaac’s dad, Eric, an infectious diseases pharmacist. When Isaac’s stools became bloody, he was tested and diagnosed with C. diff. The doctor put Isaac on a course of Vancocin, an antibiotic used to treat C. diff. The medication helped initially, but as soon as Isaac completed the course of antibiotics, his symptoms came back.
This prompted the family to see a gastroenterologist, who said that Isaac still had C. diff and placed him on a three-month Vancocin taper. At seven years old, he weighed just 44 pounds.
Throughout the course of his illness, Isaac lost 10 percent of his body weight and didn’t want to run or play soccer, his favorite sport, because he had so many aches and pains.
“Isaac was bleeding throughout the day at school and was ashamed of being sick,” Kellie says. “His legs and knees hurt and he had low-grade fevers. He wanted me to carry him because it hurt him to walk. When your 7-year-old doesn’t want to play or eat and cries because his legs hurt, it’s alarming.”
As a clinician herself, his mother was familiar with the concept of FMT and felt this might hold the answer to cure Isaac. “We reached out to a local hospital, but they were not routinely performing FMT on kids,” she says.
This prompted her to ask a colleague for advice. “He suggested I reach out to Dr. Kahn, who was the first one to perform FMT in children. She was so amazing on the phone,” Kellie says. Dr. Kahn felt FMT was the best treatment option for Isaac, whose life was still on hold due to his C. diff symptoms.
After meeting with Dr. Kahn, they knew they had come to the right place. “We trusted her immediately and felt a connection with her. She made us feel like we were heard,” Kellie says. “The clinical coordinator and support staff at Boston Children’s facilitated everything for us so we didn’t have to fret. That made it so much easier during such a stressful time.”
Traveling to Boston for FMT
Since Isaac and Jonah had never been to Boston, they decided to make the trip as a family.
“When we got to Boston, we saw Dr. Kahn on a Monday and she set up Isaac for endoscopy on Thursday. She said if it looked okay, she would do the FMT then,” Kellie remembers.
Things went as planned. Isaac had the FMT as an outpatient procedure and it was a success.
“Essentially 48 hours after the FMT, he was his old self. His legs weren’t aching, his appetite returned, and his weight loss resolved within two weeks,” Kellie says.
“It was really a life changing experience to visit and receive amazing medical care at Boston Children’s Hospital,” she stresses. “Dr. Kahn is one of the most compassionate and caring physicians I have ever interacted with, both professionally and personally. For four months, Isaac had not been himself. Now, thanks to Boston Children’s, he is back to normal again,” she adds.
Learn more about the Fecal Microbiota Transplantation and Therapeutics Program.
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