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KCUR: At Kansas City's Children's Mercy Hospital, Doctors Work With Psychologists To Treat Belly Pain

By Elle Moxley 

All kids get stomachaches from time to time, but 14-year-old Joey Sigrist’s pain was different.

When it would hit, he’d spend hours locked in the bathroom, clutching his stomach in agony.

“When you’re in that much pain, you just kind of take in the surroundings. I could hear a clock in a whole different room clicking away on the very back wall, and I could hear the shuffling of feet upstairs,” Joey said.

Nearly 20% of school-aged kids and teens have chronic abdominal pain, but adults don’t always take their pain seriously. That’s what happened to Joey.

“My fifth grade teacher thought that I was faking it,” Joey said. “I would go down to the nurse’s office and lie still on the couch, and one time she came in and told me that she knew I was faking it.”

And there really was something wrong with Joey – eosinophil, disease-fighting white blood cells, had started to attack even though there wasn’t an infection. It’s a rare condition, and it wasn’t until Joey was referred to Children’s Mercy that the Sigrists got any answers.

Jennifer Colombo, Joey’s pediatric gastroenterologist, said it isn’t easy to diagnose abdominal pain to begin with.

“It’s not as simple as you have a positive test for strep throat, we know what’s causing it, so we give you your one week of antibiotics and you’re better,” Colombo said.

First Colombo has to rule out the most common causes of belly pain in children – celiac, Crohn’s disease and cancer. Then she has to take into account all the other factors in the child’s life.

And that’s where Amanda Deacy comes in. Deacy is a pediatric psychologist who sees patients with Colombo. She said many of their patients have been told there isn’t anything wrong with them.

Most gastroenterologists and psychologists don’t see patients together, but Deacy and Colombo prefer to. It helps families buy into a rehabilitation plan that’s as much about healing the mind as the gut.

“We ask kids to go to school when they have pain,” Deacy said. “We ask kids to go to soccer practice when they have pain.”

Deacy helps patients return to school as their conditions allow it. She also helped Joey develop some of the coping skills he uses to manage stress.


Read the full story via KCUR

Learn more about Gastroenterology at Children's Mercy