A year later, Andrew keeps coming back to Mary Bridge
Almost a year ago, 8-year-old Andrew Mistachkin unexpectedly found himself at Mary Bridge Children’s Hospital as doctors attempted to diagnose whatever was causing his extreme weight loss, abdominal pain and fever.
Though a test for Crohn’s disease initially came back negative, it turned out that’s what he was suffering from — a chronic inflammatory bowel disease that affects the digestive tract.
Today Andrew is managing his Crohn’s and doing much better, but still coming back to visit his Mary Bridge doctors, nurses and Child Life specialist Tryphena Pinch whenever he can.
“I just really like my doctors,” he says. “I can’t wait to see them.”
Andrew is the youngest of three siblings and lives in Aberdeen, about an hour-and-a-half west of Mary Bridge Children’s Hospital.
After he complained of abdominal pain and a fever last May, his family took him to the local emergency room. The ER suggested follow-up with primary care, where the family was told to drive him to Mary Bridge right away.
“And before you know it, there’s lots and lots and lots of blood draws,” Andrew recalls when he first arrived at the hospital.
It took a long time to diagnose him, says his mother, Jennifer. Doctors eliminated things gradually.
“There were seven or eight doctors looking at him for different reasons,” she says. “They couldn’t figure out what was wrong.”
Andrew remembers the surprise when Crohn’s disease was finally confirmed.
“The doctors were blown away because I wasn’t showing any signs,” Andrew says. “If I could have, I would have shown as much as I could.”
One benefit of all the tests, though, was the discovery of an unrelated congenital heart defect. Andrew’s heart is being monitored by a cardiologist every six months now, and he may need an aortic valve replacement in the future.
To manage his Crohn’s disease, Andrew takes several medications and follows a special diet. He keeps a food journal, tracking not only what he eats, but how it makes him feel.
Taking all those meds wasn’t easy at first, but Mary Bridge Child Life Specialist Tryphena Pinch worked with Andrew to make it more fun. Pinch created a chart that Andrew added stickers to every time he took a medication on time. When his chart was full, he received a prize.
“Andrew is a wonderful kid,” Pinch says. “He struggled at times with his new routine and voiced his dislike, but never gave up. He is courageous and brave.”
It was memories like this that made Andrew want to say thank you — in the form of ice cream. His mom suggested a gift basket might be more practical, and the family paid a special visit to the hospital to drop it off last September.
“He’s a super sweet, loving kid,” Jennifer says. “He has such a great attitude.”
Andrew isn’t shy about how miserable he felt while in the hospital last year, but he’s still eager to visit his care team whenever his family is in the neighborhood.
“Every time we drive through Tacoma he says ‘I wanna see my doctor at the hospital,’” Jennifer says. “Even though he was so sick and miserably unhappy, and after being poked and told what he could and could not do, he talks about them all the time.”
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Roxanne Cooke tells stories in words, photos and video.More stories by this author