CINCINNATI – A young man’s search for answers to his ongoing health problems brought him from South America to Cincinnati and helped him reach an important milestone in life away from home.
Juan Patino moved to the Tri-State from Colombia last year to receive medical treatment at Cincinnati Children’s Hospital. He had trouble eating and keeping food in his stomach from childhood, and doctors in his home country didn’t know how to help.
“I remember the first doctor – he didn’t know what was going on,” he said.
He even tried to seek treatment in as far away as Spain.
“I wasn’t responding to the medication they were giving me,” he said. “I was weak on the medication. It was a very difficult medicine. ”
Patino did some research and found that some of the top doctors in the world for their medical challenges were in Cincinnati. After he met with staff at Cincinnati Children’s Hospital, they told him he had a rare disease called eosinophilic gastritis. The disorder originates from eosinophils – a type of white blood cell – that accumulate in Patino’s gastrointestinal tract.
Though he’s in his 20s and outside the typical age bracket of a patient at Children’s, Patino knew that the doctors in Cincinnati were his best chance for real help. He packed everything up and moved more than 2,500 miles from his home in Cali, Colombia to Cincinnati in January 2020.
Dr. Mark Rothenberg, who heads the Children’s Hospital’s Center for Eosinophilic Disorders, helped enroll Patino in a clinical trial where he receives monthly injections of an asthma drug to help treat his condition.
“We think eosinophils are causing the majority of his problems and we were able to use a very, very high degree of precision therapy to help him,” said Rothenburg.
The treatment seems successful so far.
“After having maybe two or three episodes every day, I can now eat normally,” said Patino.
Despite having left his family in Colombia, Patino continued his studies while battling his illness. He became the first in the family to graduate from college when he graduated from Xavier University in May.
“I really see him as a very brave man and a smart young man,” said Rothenberg. “He graduated from college and did it a lot on his own, almost everything.”
Patino’s treatment is in a phase 3 study. Researchers at Cincinnati Children’s Hospital said they hope it will receive FDA approval in the future.
The Children’s Hospital Eosinophilic Disease Center does not reject people if they are not children. Rothenburg said specific departments work with all ages, even some seniors, who have the same disorder.