17-year-oldhigh school senior, Camilla, has had periods of discomfort in her abdominal area since she was a young child. Her family thought she had a sensitive stomach and treated it with over-the-counter medication. As the pain continued and increased in her teenage years, Camilla saw a few physicians, but she never felt she had any real answers to what caused her pain. Then she visited our pediatrician Dr. Edgar Navarro Garza and was surrounded by an entire health team, including a nurse, specialists, and health coach, Karla Jurado, who Camilla says has given her the guidance and encouragement to keep going.
Dr. Navarro Garza collaborated with several medical specialists and finally arrived at Camilla’s rare diagnosis: superior mesenteric artery syndrome, or SMA. SMA syndrome is a digestive condition that happens when arteries pinch the part of the small intestine that connects to the stomach. That tightening makes it difficult for food and liquids to move through the digestive system. Food often gets backed up and can cause severe pain in the abdominal area.
“She had been dealing with a lot of pain for years,” said Dr. Edgar Navarro Garza. “We have been providing that medical and emotional support that Camilla needs, helping her along the way to get the best medical specialists and coordinate with them to design the best care plan. She knows we are here for her and she is not alone in this journey.”
Undergoing surgery for her SMA syndrome has helped Camilla manage her condition, but the teenager is still under evaluation for other possible medical issues. Her Harbor Health care team is still collaborating with her and her family as they look for answers.
Finding the Emotional Support She Needs
One way she copes with her medical condition is through weekly calls with our health coach Karla Jurado. Karla provides any behavioral support Camilla may need in managing her condition. Camilla credits the emotional support she receives from her health coach as the reason she can live with severe pain and get nutrition through a feeding tube.
“Karla reminds me that my Harbor Health team will not give up on finding all of the answers I need,” said Camilla. “She encourages me and allows me to vent to her. Then, she keeps Dr. Navarro Garza informed about how I’m doing.”
Camilla also finds emotional support through art. She draws to calm her mind and soul and to express her emotions. One of her pieces of art depicts how SMA syndrome makes her feel, displaying words like “pain,” “bloating,” and “nausea.” Karla encourages Camilla’s art therapy as good medicine for her mental health.
“As a health coach, I look at a person holistically,” said Karla. “I always do what I can to support a person’s physical needs, but I am also here to support their emotional needs. I look for ways a person’s care plan can most easily fit into their daily lives.”
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