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Treating Pancreatitis After Cancer

Treating Pancreatitis After Cancer Kloe Salerno

The words "There's nothing more we can do" don't usually precede a full recovery. Against all odds, for Kloe Salerno they did.

First hospitalized for a relapse of childhood leukemia, Kloe received chemotherapy that triggered pancreatitis. Soon her liver showed signs of veno-occlusive disease, and she developed GI bleeding. By the time the doctors had stopped the trial therapy for her liver, Kloe's pancreatitis had turned deadly.

"She became septic. Her abdomen was filling with infected fluids. They kept saying they had seen pancreatitis before, but not like this," said Brandi Salerno, who stayed at her daughter's side as they moved from hospital to hospital and specialist to specialist and the weeks turned into months.

That's when Kloe's aunt, searching online, found Andres Gelrud, MD, and the team at the University of Chicago Medicine.

"When Brandi called us, we immediately devised a plan of care," said Gelrud. "Kloe was so sick. She had a complete pancreatic ductal dysfunction, but I was able to reconnect it using an ERCP [an interventional procedure that uses an endoscope and X-rays to help physicians visualize blockages]."

According to Gelrud, the medical team tried to work endoscopically as much as possible. However, when they discovered a "wall" of damaged tissue, surgeons performed a videoscopic retroperitoneal debridement (VARD) -- a novel procedure that combines minimally invasive techniques with a more traditional surgical approach.

"The VARD saved Kloe," Gelrud said. "Dr. Matthews, the surgeon, was superb. The interventional radiology team was superb, as well. It was just an incredible team effort."

On January 24, 2015, the team's extraordinary skill and experience paid off. For the first time in more than a year, Kloe and her mother went home.

"I said I wasn't going to leave the hospital without my daughter," said Brandi. "Thanks to Dr. Gelrud and Dr. Matthews, I was able to keep that promise."

Summer 2015

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