Kristine first started to become concerned when her two-year-old son, Zeq, weighed only nineteen pounds and was severely malnourished. His body rejected all foods, and Kristine was forced to continue breast-feeding him since that’s the only nutrition he could tolerate. When she took him to get checked for allergies, his tests came out positive for every food. The doctors thought it was a skin disease; Zeq was scratching his arms and face until they bled.
A doctor recommended they schedule an appointment with a dermatologist at Johns Hopkins Medical Center in Baltimore, Maryland. The dermatologist at Hopkins knew Zeq’s problem was bigger than a skin disease. The family, who traveled to Baltimore from their home in Virginia Beach, Virginia, saw an immunologist that day who diagnosed Eosinophilic Esophagitis or EoE. Kristine recalls, “I felt like the weight was lifted off my shoulders and thrown right back at me.”
EoE is considered a rare disease. It occurs when eosinophils, a type of white blood cells that normally are found in the bloodstream but collect in the esophagus instead. These cells attack foreign objects in the body to protect from disease and infection, but in the esophagus they are deadly. The eosinophils attack any food the patient swallows as if it were a foreign object, virtually making the patient allergic to every food. To diagnose EoE, immunologists take an upper endoscopy and a biopsy of the esophagus to estimate the amount of eosinophils in the patient’s esophagus. One thousand eosinophils in the esophagus is considered high. Zeq had 80,000!