When their 8-month-old son began having violent gastrointestinal episodes, Chris Winn and his wife, Alicia, were understandably concerned. But when he would begin choking, they were frantic. After visiting two emergency rooms in one day, they left with little information, although the young boy’s pediatrician did recognize his symptoms as an allergic reaction. A later appointment with a Dallas specialist was equally frustrating when the baby was diagnosed with “indigestion.”
Finally, a referral to Children’s Medical Center and to Dr. Drew Bird, director of the Food Allergy Center, brought the family relief and peace of mind.
“Dr. Bird immediately recognized it as Food Protein-Induced Enterocolitis Syndrome,” said Mr. Winn, a director of the Winn Family Foundation.
FPIES, as it is called, is a type of food allergy affecting the gastrointestinal tract. Classic symptoms include profound vomiting, diarrhea and dehydration. Since it is a non-Immunoglobulin E food allergy, it cannot be diagnosed with readily available food allergy tests. In the first months of life, FPIES reactions are most often caused by cow’s milk protein formula, and sometimes by soy. For infants experiencing FPIES with solid foods, rice and oats are the most common triggers.
“Just getting a clear diagnosis from Dr. Bird really put us at ease and gave us comfort that we were in good hands,” Mr. Winn said. “Then to have him put in place a plan to keep our son growing and healthy gave us peace of mind that our instincts were correct and that we weren’t overreacting.”
With advice from Dr. Bird and the help of a Children’s dietitian, their son, now a busy toddler, is symptom-free and as healthy and happy as his twin sister.
That peace of mind is what he, his wife and family hope to share with others. Inspired by the care their son received, the Winn Family Foundation has given $250,000 to Children’s Medical Center Foundation to support the Food Allergy Center and establish the Winn Master Physician in Food Allergy, to be held by Dr. Bird. That gift, when added to gifts in 2013 from the Winn Family Foundation, brings their total giving to Children’s to more than $375,000. Two gifts last year provided $50,000 each for facility improvements in The Heart Center and the Pauline Allen Gill Center for Cancer and Blood Disorders, and a $25,000 gift supported the Food Allergy Center.
Mr. Winn’s parents, Steve and Melinda Winn, established the family foundation in 2011 to support children’s health initiatives. Chris and Alicia Winn are Lifetime Members of the Friends of the Food Allergy Center at Children’s.
“North Texas has a higher incidence of food allergy than the rest of the country,” said Chris Winn. “The best minds in this field should be working in Dallas. We are confident that this will enable Dr. Drew Bird to continue to take great leaps forward.”
Dr. Bird, who is also a Dedman Family Scholar in Clinical Care at UT Southwestern Medical Center, said, “It is especially meaningful when patient families support the mission of the Food Allergy Center. This endowment will allow us to broaden the scope of our research and care for children with a variety of food-induced allergic diseases.
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