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Mothers persistence leads to correct medical diagnosis
Andrew October 2011
A healthier Andrew poses for a picture with this family: mother, Sarah, father, Mike, and brother Alexx in October 2011. - photo by Photo Contributed

The determination of a mother to help her children can be of a boundless supply. Just ask Turlock resident Sarah Mascorro, who for years has been struggling with obstacles in her efforts to have her son, Andrew Mascorro’s, medical conditions diagnosed and treated.

Andrew, 16, has been afflicted with autoimmune disease, which has opened the door to a myriad of conditions that have affected his health.

With autoimmune diseases the body’s immune system mistakes substances and tissues normally present in the body for pathogens and attacks them. According to the American Autoimmune Related Diseases Association, approximately 80 to 100 different diseases have been identified as autoimmune based. The diseases are almost always chronic and usually undergo periods of flare-ups and remissions. Some are considered to be life-threatening.

The National Institutes of Health estimates that 23.5 million Americans have some form of autoimmune disease.

Mascorro’s journey into a world filled with doctor visits, hospitalizations, medications and tests began when Andrew was three years old and she noticed something amiss.

“I gave him a hug and felt his heartbeat pounding away like mad,” Mascorro said. “I checked his pulse and it was over 200 beats per minute. We went to the emergency room right then.”

After a multitude of tests the doctors diagnosed Andrew with a thyroid disorder and put him on medications that he would take on and off until he was 12 years old when the diagnosis was changed to Hashimotos disease, a disease in which the immune system attacks the thyroid gland.

When Andrew was six years old he started having unexplained weight loss and was tired no matter how much sleep he had gotten the night before. A diagnosis of Type I diabetes soon followed.

As Andrew grew into his teens his conditions seemed to stay in check, but then one day last year he was out mowing the lawn and a peculiar feeling swept over him.

“I had only done a little bit of work and I was breathless and shaky,” Andrew explained. “My body felt like I had grabbed a hold of a cactus.”

Andrew was also experiencing pain in his muscles and joints and Mascorro noticed his skin was darkening in certain spots. Mascorro said she immediately went online and started researching his new symptoms and each search was leading her back to Addison’s disease.

Addison’s disease occurs when the body’s adrenal glands fail to produce enough hormones needed to keep the body in balance. It can be life-threatening if the body is thrown into an adrenal crisis.

Addison’s disease is considered a rare diagnosis and for this reason Mascorro said she had a hard time finding a doctor to believe her concerns were valid.

“They told me that I was being an overreacting mom and that I should stay off the Internet,” Mascorro said. “I heard it so often that I started to doubt myself. But then my husband said to me, ‘since when do you take no when it comes to our kids’ and that fired me up.”

For nine days straight Mascorro worked the phone, speaking to one health professional after another until she finally found a physician to take her concerns seriously and scheduled Andrew for some tests. The results were positive for Addison’s disease.

“I had faith in her,” Andrew said of his mother. “When it comes to my health she’s always right.”

Mascorro’s difficulty in getting a diagnosis is not uncommon. The AARDA conducted a survey among autoimmune disease patients and the majority reported having significant problems in obtaining a correct diagnosis. Many of the respondents said they were told the symptoms were just in their heads or that it was caused by too much stress, the AARDA reported.

Mascorro is familiar with the pacifying responses, but advises to stay persistent.

“Listen to your instinct,” she said. “If their answer doesn’t feel right to you, then keep pushing. Don’t doubt yourself.”

Feeling healthy once again, Andrew is back to doing his chores, playing video games with his brother Alexx and joining in the family fun during trips to the beach. And he likes to approach his condition with the best attitude he can muster.

“It’s just another thing to take care of in life,” he said. “It could be a lot worse.”

Mascorro’s experiences have inspired her to reach out to others. She launched a Facebook page, AutoImmune Disease, a few months back to help spread awareness of the disease.

“I just want to do what I can to help educate others dealing with this disease,” she said.

To contact Sabra Stafford, e-mail or call 634-9141 ext. 2002.