A never-give-up-spirit and a move to a different climate, were life-changing for one 19-year-old with environmentally influenced intestinal issues.

Deion Gladden, a student at Tarrant County College in Fort Worth, TX, who plans to transfer to the ROTC program at Texas Christian University in the spring, first received care at Children’s National Health System when he was 13 years old. He was not hospitalized for long-term patient care until two years later, in the fall of 2010.

He was diagnosed with eosinophilic esophagitis and acid reflux, along with failure to thrive – a condition in which children don't receive or are unable to absorb, retain, or use calories needed to grow.

“Deion was born prematurely, and as a result had some intestinal issues along with asthma for his entire childhood. It didn't get bad enough for hospitalization until 2010,” said his mother, Faith Gladden. Deion is the second oldest of four children; he has a 22-year-old brother, Jake, a 17-year-old sister named Destiny, and a 15-year-old brother, Donovan.

Gaining Hope

His family first connected with pediatric gastroenterologist Anil Darbari, M.D., through a Children’s National outpatient clinic. “We saw him there for the first time, and then began receiving care from him exclusively after that clinic visit,” Faith Gladden said. Deion’s condition hurt his quality of life for a long time. 

“Going through it I was mad. I was hurt, physically and mentally, and I was tired,” he recalled. But he said he appreciated the care he received from Dr. Darbari, several nurses, respiratory technicians, and other personnel at Children’s National including nurse practitioner Erin Garth, case worker Martha Becker and nurses Teresita Caballero-Quinones and Shaz Mamatova who all “took care of him like he was their family member.”

“They loved him and cared for him in a way that is almost hard to describe because it was so special,” said Faith Gladden. “They cried with me when I was devastated at one doctor's report or another. They commiserated with Deion when he was being tube-fed for weeks, and all he wanted was a juicy burger. They went above and beyond the call of ‘duty’ every day that we were in their care.  … We love them dearly.”

His mother said Children’s National helped her family determine in what type of environment Deion can and can't live. Also, they learned about his medical condition, which they were unaware of before his diagnosis.

“The major difference it made, and continues to make, is that we learned from Dr. Darbari to never give up, because he never gave up on us.  When there was really nothing else we could try or procedures we could undergo, he made sure that he never gave up, and continued to say ‘we WILL figure this out!’” Faith Gladden said.

“[Dr. Darbari] was the one who came up with the idea to try a different climate - and to our great joy it worked,” she said.

New Outlook

Since moving to Texas in February 2011, Deion went from vomiting frequently from the fall of every year through late spring to not “throwing up one single time,” his mother said.

After what felt like decades, Deion said, of not being able to truly eat solid food, “the day I landed in Texas, I ate a stack of pancakes taller than me,” he recalled. Since the move, he put on weight and is a “handsome, thriving, productive citizen” who ended up playing high school football for his junior and senior years,” said Faith Gladden.

In addition to Deion, two of his siblings have also been treated at Children's National. At one point, Deion and his younger brother were on the same floor, two doors down from each other, as Dr. Darbari cared for them both. His sister, Destiny, had slipped capital femoral epiphysis (SCFE) on her hip and Shannon Kelly, M.D., did her surgery in July 2012.

“We are so unbelievably grateful.  He is our miracle, and Dr. Darbari and the others who cared for him were all part of that process. We will never forget them or the care they provided not just to our son, but to our entire family.”

Patient Stories

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