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Doctors Baffled By Toddler Who Won’t Eat

January 5, 1987

ORLAND PARK, Ill. (AP) _ Seventeen-month-old Colin Aubin is fed through a tube in his stomach, a method that doctors say may be the only way to treat the youngster who has baffled medical experts by refusing to eat.

″This is the first time I’ve ever run across anything like this,″ said Dr. Peter Whitington, associate professor of pediatrics at the University of Chicago. ″I’ve talked to other specialists. They have no idea what’s wrong.″

Colin, who weighs only 20 pounds, apparently refuses to eat because he doesn’t feel hunger. Most of what he does eat or what is injected through the tube induces involuntary vomiting.

The suburban Chicago toddler’s illness is called infant anorexia, but it is different from teen-age or adult anorexia nervosa because it is involuntary and believed to be neurological, stemming from brain damage.

But Colin shows no evidence of even minimal brain damage.

Four weeks after a normal birth, Colin and his twin brother, Casey, contracted a mild form of viral spinal meningitis. Shortly after recovering from the disease, Colin had a decreased appetite and started vomiting, said his mother, Donna Aubin, 34.

Doctors say a severe case of meningitis could damage the brain and cause anorexia, but tests show that’s not the case for Colin or Casey, who also suffers from diminished appetite and vomiting, but to a lesser degree.

″We’ve been out of state and everywhere. No one knows what is wrong or what to do about it,″ said Mrs. Aubin. ″What we want is to reach a doctor who has had a case like this.″

Initially, Colin was admitted to Chicago’s Wyler Children’s Hospital, treated as an outpatient, given medication and released.

But the medication didn’t work, and doctors, warning that Colin would starve to death, instead inserted a feeding tube through his nose. The procedure lasted six months as the toddler kept vomiting.

Last April, a tube was inserted in his stomach and the stomach was formed around the esophagus to prevent vomiting. That treatment has failed, too.

Whitington and Dr. Ewa Schorr, a child neurologist who has examined Colin at Wyler’s, hope the boy can force himself to eat when he gets older and the involuntary vomiting will cease.

Until then, Colin is dependent on tube feedings for surival. Casey may have to have stomach surgery because of vomiting and slow development.

Meantime, medical costs have hit $120,000 and Mrs. Aubin and her husband, Tom, have refinanced their house to cover the bills their insurers won’t pay.

″Someone out there must know how to help my child,″ Mrs. Aubin said. ″At this point where do we go? The doctors don’t know where. All I know is that my child is suffering.″

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