While 2020 was a challenging year for many people in the US, the life of three year old Lelani was in particular disarray. She was in and out of the hospital more than twelve times from February to September, and parents Maria Garcia and Anthony Petranani simply weren’t getting the answers they needed. Lelani was trembling and unable to walk. Desperate to find out what was wrong, Maria took to the internet. Eventually her research landed on insulinoma, a rare pancreatic tumor.
Insulinoma is a rare neuroendocrine tumor of the pancreas that affects beta cells. This tumor produces insulin and while it is benign in most cases, it can metastasize in rare instances. The cause of insulinoma tumors is often unknown is many cases. There are certain rare genetic syndromes that can increase a patient’s risk, such as tuberous sclerosis, neurofibromatosis type 1, multiple endocrine neoplasia type 1, and Von Hippel-Lindau disease. Patients present with low levels of glucose blood sugar, which can be improved by eating. Symptoms include lethargy, blurred vision, diplopia, nausea, sweating, anxiety, tremors, and palpitations. More severe symptoms include irreversible neurological damage, coma, and seizures. In most cases surgical removal of the tumor (often with part of pancreas) can cure insulinoma; a small number of patients may develop diabetes following the operation. In patients with malignant tumors or whose tumors are inoperable, chemotherapy and medicines such as streptozotocin, diazoxide, and somatostatin may be used. To learn more about insulinoma, click here.
When Maria mentioned her theory to Lelani’s doctors, they realized immediately that she might be on to something. The next step was to locate the tumor, which could only be done at the children’s hospital in Philadelphia. Unfortunately, the COVID-19 pandemic meant that the family were stuck for months in Tampa, FL before they could proceed; all the while, Lelani’s condition continue to worsen.
It was Christmas Eve when Lelani underwent the decisive surgery that removed 40 percent of her pancreas along with the insulinoma tumor. At her next check up, doctors confirmed that she was cured. Sometimes it’s hard to beat a mother’s intuition. Check out the original story here.