Paris, 22, loves to walk and run in Central Park. She grew up sprinting around the park with her family. But her running life wasn’t always so easy. After Columbia University recruited her for its track team, a gastrointestinal illness sidelined her dreams.

Since the 10th grade, Paris had to dash home between classes to use the bathroom. Her digestive problems were difficult to manage in public. They worsened as she and her family searched for a diagnosis. Doctors suggested she had an eating disorder, a parasite or irritable bowel syndrome. Nutritionists prescribed unusual diets. A physical therapist suggested massage.

Pain kept Paris from running during her freshman year in college. She forfeited her spot on the team and left school on medical leave. She stayed in her bedroom for most of the next three years. A friend recommended Dr. Marc Levitt, Chief of our Division of Colorectal & Pelvic Reconstruction. In their first meeting, he recognized her symptoms and offered a solution. Paris felt validated immediately. “Everyone at Children’s National Hospital wanted me to feel better,” she says. “No one would give up.”

Paris left our hospital full of hope after her first surgery. A few months later, Dr. Levitt performed a second surgery. “It was the best day of my life,” she says.

Paris recovered quickly and soon will return to college. She can’t wait to explore screenwriting, art history and the culinary industry. “My life is great now. It feels like I won the lottery,” she says. “Everyone in my family thinks of Dr. Levitt as an angel.”

A young patient at Children's National Hospital.

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A young patient at Children's National Hospital.