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Bridget’s story: Optimism and courage trump obstacles
June 23, 2022
CHoR calendar kid Bridget smiling and pretending to sing

    Bridget Syed has been coming to CHoR since she was a toddler and although her road to health hasn’t been straight or smooth, she’s never lost her signature smile for long.

    The beginning of Bridget’s health care journey at CHoR

    Now 19 years old, Bridget was born with a genetic disorder similar to Prader-Willi syndrome that her mom, Miriam, describes as the umbrella for many other health concerns. The condition was diagnosed by our neurology team after a series of seizures when Bridget was 4. As a result of this condition, she also has hypotonia – or decreased muscle tone, hypoplasia of the pituitary gland that impacts production of certain hormones, along with developmental delays. She also battles eosinophilic esophagitis, a chronic condition that causes the esophagus to become inflamed and swollen. Bridget has certainly become a “frequent flyer” at CHoR – for both complex and common health care needs, like the removal of her tonsils by Dr. Kelley Dodson.

    Despite these challenges, Miriam says Bridget continues to be super silly and very funny.

    “She’s very social and forward and I love that about her. She doesn’t beat around the bush. There’s no filter. But, unless she’s in a really comfortable place, most people don’t get to see this side of Bridget,” said Miriam.

    Fortunately, Bridget’s CHoR team has gotten to know and love her too! Bridget has been seeing endocrinologist Dr. Anshu Gupta for many years related to her hormone production. A combination of factors has led to challenges with obesity as well, and Dr. Gupta recently diagnosed Bridget with diabetes. She began working with the team at our Healthy Lifestyles Center on a comprehensive plan for developing and maintaining healthy habits.

    The building blocks of a healthy lifestyle for Bridget

    The Healthy Lifestyles Center has been a great fit for Bridget. Our interdisciplinary team was able to work together to develop an individualized treatment plan – alongside Bridget and her mom – that built on their significant strengths to help them meet Bridget’s personal health goals.

    One of the people Bridget has worked with frequently is Sonya Islam.

    “As a dietitian, I talk with people about changes to something that is often deeply emotional – food,” said Sonya. “Bridget and her family were always willing to consider how eating was helping her towards her overall well-being, and how it could sometimes feel like a barrier. They would approach changes realistically and with open minds. When eating was helping her feel and function her best, we could celebrate and figure out how to build on those successes!”

    Bridget and her mom have worked with our Healthy Lifestyles Center team since 2019 to help make and sustain behavioral changes that also consider her personal and cultural preferences, complexities related to her complete medical picture and any current emotional stressors.

    “We focus on what is controllable and learn to successfully navigate the things that we can’t control to optimize her health outcomes. Bridget asks very pointed and smart questions and has gained great insight about herself. It’s been awesome to watch her take more ownership over her health and its management,” said Dr. Melanie Bean, psychologist and co-director of our Healthy Lifestyles Center. “And Miriam remains a steady source of support – knowing when to step in and when to let Bridget figure things out on her own.”

    Together with Bridget and her family, Bridget’s team ultimately decided to move forward with laparoscopic gastric sleeve resection (weight loss surgery) in December 2021.

    “Surgery was a particularly appropriate option for Bridget as she had really mastered lifestyle changes and had been maintaining her weight for several months. Surgery was the tool to amplify these behavioral changes and allow her to experience greater health benefits,” added Dr. Bean.

    Miriam, Bridget and family moved to Florida for a about a year and were eager to move back as quickly as they could – in large part for care they could count on.

    “We couldn’t get centralized care (in Florida). It was a nightmare. Having everything at CHoR makes my life infinitely easier. Like right now, all of Bridget’s doctors talk to each other on a regular basis,” said Miriam. “We love the entire team. Recently, Dr. Bean, Sonya, Dr. Wickham and Dr. Lanning have been especially supportive following surgery. They’ve been calling Bridget, even on the weekend, to check on her.”

    Hard work, perseverance and a positive attitude lead to great accomplishments

    CHoR calendar kid Bridget holding her graduation capCHoR patient Bridget smiling next to her graduation signBridget graduated from high school last month and will continue her education in a post-graduate program for individuals with developmental delays. While her mom is immensely proud of this accomplishment, it’s one piece of a larger picture.

    “I’m most proud of her perseverance through everything. Wow, she’s been through a lot in her short life. I struggle dealing with it as her mom. I can’t imagine what it’s like being her. She’s handled it like a champ,” said Miriam.

    She’s also a fantastic big sister to her 5-year-old and 2-year-old brothers.

    “Seeing Bridget and Miriam pop up on my computer screen for our (virtual) visits is always a highlight of my day. Bridget is funny, perceptive and wonderfully direct. She’s gaining confidence and independence as a young adult, mastering new skills and learning more each day about what makes her thrive,” said Dr. Bean. “And Bridget’s success is in no small part due to Miriam’s careful attention to Bridget’s needs, fostering her growth and independence, and giving her the scaffolding she needs to be successful and shine. Together, we’ve been able to celebrate her accomplishments – community theater, prom, graduation – and that has been one of my greatest joys. My hope for her is that she continues to grow in her independence and maintains her passion for new experiences and building strong relationships with people.”

    “I literally have a smile on my face when I think about how Bridget has matured into the lovely young woman she is today. She’s smart, charming, straightforward, curious and compassionate. Mom has continually been adaptive to meeting her needs and giving us insights into who Bridget is as a person. This empowered us to be the best providers possible through her changes, while true successes were happening on an everyday basis between appointments,” added Sonya.

    The hope is that Bridget’s surgery and lifestyle changes will help her overcome her diabetes and begin adulthood with health, wellbeing and, of course, the happiness that personifies beautiful Bridget.

    Find out more about adolescent weight loss surgery and ongoing care from our Healthy Lifestyles Center at CHoR.

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