Carter-Ellison was born a happy and healthy baby girl. She giggled, laughed and played with her family. At 3-months-old, Carter was in her mom’s arms while she moved around the kitchen. Like any curious infant, she reached her hand out and touched the food being prepared.
Carter’s mom, Marie, was cooking fish. To this day, Marie still doesn’t know if it was the fish, the oil she cooked the fish in or the spices, but when Carter reached out her hand and touched it to her mouth she began turning red. After a few minutes, Carter broke out into a rash and struggled to breathe.
After a scary visit to the emergency department, Marie took Carter to her pediatrician at The Children’s Clinic, who referred them to the Pediatric Pulmonary Center at Miller Children’s & Women’s Hospital Long Beach.
She was seen by Terry Chin, M.D., assistant medical director, Pediatric Pulmonary Center, Miller Children’s. Dr. Chin immediately diagnosed Carter with food allergies.
“A food allergy occurs when the immune system mistakenly targets a harmless food protein – an allergen – as a threat and attacks it,” says Dr. Chin. “Symptoms of food allergies can range from mild to severe, like in Carter’s case.”
As Carter began to get older, she began having additional symptoms.
“She started having eczema on her feet,” says Marie. “Her skin was scaly all over and always so itchy. We had to change the detergent we used, and I even started bathing her with bottled water. It was so hard to tell what she was reacting to.”
Carter’s condition became complex and after her symptoms were analyzed, she also was diagnosed with asthma and environmental allergies to trees, grass and dust.
Luckily for Carter, Miller Children’s is the only children’s hospital in the region to offer a team of physicians double board-certified in pediatric pulmonology and allergy/immunology with the expertise to diagnose and treat complex and multi-system conditions.
Because all of Carter’s care is coordinated through one comprehensive care team, she can come to Miller Children’s to receive all the specialized care she needs in one place – saving her from having to go to multiple doctors’ offices on multiple days.
The pediatric pulmonary care team, including Dr. Chin, worked on creating an individualized care plan to help Carter stay healthy and active. They call it her “action plan” and depending on the severity of her symptoms, there is a specific medication or therapy that she needs to use.
Recently, Carter began a new treatment that has helped her tremendously called subcutaneous immunotherapy, also known as allergy shots. Every three weeks, she comes to Miller Children’s for a shot. This type of treatment not only reduces allergy symptoms, but boosts tolerance to the allergen over time.
At her follow-up visits, the care team works with Carter and her family to educate them on her different medications, so that no matter where she is and who she is with, her medications can be administered properly.
Now 12-years-old, Carter follows her action plan to help prevent any life-threatening asthma attacks or allergic reactions.
“Carter still gets allergy attacks, and we can’t really tell which trigger it is each time,” says Marie. “She has had episodes where she can’t even walk or breathe that can happen in an instant, but we follow the plan and we manage.”
Carter stays healthy and active despite her conditions. She began swimming and diving two years ago with a local team at Silverado Park in Long Beach. She also enjoys singing and dancing – even singing in her church’s choir.
“Carter likes to feel like she’s free,” says Marie. “The swimming and diving gives her that freedom and helps keep her lungs strong at the same time.”
Carter needed an expert team. She found her medical home at Miller Children’s, and today she dives into the water with confidence.