Lifestyle & Human Interest

'With God's Help,' Mom Figures Out Age 3 Daughter's Diagnosis to Help Save Toddler's Life


Many times when we, or a loved one, start experiencing concerning new symptoms, we rush to Google. Even the mildest symptoms will often lead to a self-diagnosis of catastrophic proportions, and so the internet and the public’s sleuthing “skills” often end up causing more harm than good.

But it paid off in a big way for mother Maria Garcia of Plant City, Florida, whose daughter started to display some odd behaviors.

Leilani, just 3 years old, was slow, shaky and constantly fell down when she tried to walk, Garcia told WFTS-TV. While everyone else was worried about COVID-19, from February to September of last year Leilani was in the hospital a dozen times with the mystery illness — and still, no answer.

“Literally feeling helpless, you know, because there was nothing you could do, and when we got to the hospital, there was literally nothing that they can do,” Anthony Patrignani, Leilani’s father, said.

Garcia began to search online, and soon she found a condition that sounded like it described all the difficulties Leilani was experiencing. She asked the doctors about the possibility of it being a type of pancreatic tumor called an insulinoma.

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“I bring it to the doctors and they were like — they had the same thought, like, ‘Yeah, it sounds like it,'” Garcia said in a WFTS video.

“And I figured it out, I don’t know how, with God’s help.”

But without proof, the idea that Leilani had an insulinoma was just a possibility. The problem was that very specialized equipment was needed to scan for the tumor.

“The problem was they had to find it, and there’s no one that can actually do that except for Children’s Hospital of Philadelphia,” Patrignani explained.

So they set out to make the trek to the hospital where Leilani could get a nuclear scan, but COVID restrictions threw a wrench in the works.

“And halfway there, we got a phone call saying, you know, we can’t do the approval because of COVID,” Patrignani continued.

There was nothing to do but wait. And wait. For months, and all the while Leilani’s condition was worsening.

Finally, on Christmas Eve, the family got the best present: Leilani finally went in for surgery, the insulinoma was found and 40 percent of her pancreas was removed.

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“I’ve only done about 20 or so of these operations in children, and she is the youngest one,” Dr. Scott Adzick, who performed the surgery, said.

“She may be the youngest patient ever recorded to have an insulinoma,” the doctor added.

“There’s a saying that I use that if you save a child, you save a lifetime, and I think that applies to this little girl.”

A month later, things are looking up for the little girl.

She’s improved dramatically, and her parents are grateful for the diagnosis, treatment and recovery.

“Amazing, amazing story and an amazing ending,” Patrignani told the doctor, “and we appreciate you.”

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