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Advances in health and medicine.
Marjorie Bekaert Thomas
Advances in health and medicine.
SW: Feature Report Channel
Reported November 18, 2011

Middle-Aged Teens - Girls Facing Grown Up Diseases

COLUMBUS, Ohio. (Ivanhoe Newswire) --From grades to boys, parents with girls have a lot to worry about. But that’s nothing compared to what some moms and dads have to go through. They’re dealing with their daughters’ health problems --that usually hit the middle-aged and seniors. We’ll introduce you  to an 11-year-old some call a miracle and a teenager who’s part of a disturbing trend.

Koiya Hartfield is the strong, silent type. At 11-years-old she’s overcome everything from kidney failure to cirrhosis.

“I’ve never seen someone as sick as her come out as good as she did,” Yolanda Hartfield, Koiya’s mother told Ivanhoe.

At just 15 months, Koiya needed a liver transplant. 

“I gave her a piece of my liver,” Yolanda said.

It worked fine for about ten years, then her body started rejecting it. Koiya developed cirrhosis. Alcoholic cirrhosis is the fourth most common cause of death in adults between 45 and 54-years-old. Koiya’s condition was caused by a bile duct disease she was born with. As she waited for a second liver transplant, her kidneys failed. She developed encephalopathy and almost went into a coma. Her dad felt helpless.

“She was asking me on a regular basis, am I going to die,” Nathaniel Hartfield, Koiya’s father said.

Valerie Braaten’s mom knows what it’s like to hear that question.

 “I thought could it be possible? She was just 15,” Mim Braaten, Valerie’s mom told Ivanhoe.

A small spot changed everything for the competitive dancer.

“I thought I had the mole my whole life,” Valerie Braaten, a teenager who had melanoma told Ivanhoe.

“Wasn’t scary, wasn’t black, wasn’t irregular, wasn’t very large,” Mim explained.

It wasn’t in her sixth grade picture, but you can see it on her collarbone in her freshman photo. Then, her friends brought it up…

“So that gave me the suspicion that the mole was growing larger,” Valerie said.

A week after it was removed she learned she had stage 2 malignant melanoma.

“It was very surreal you never imagine it happening to you,” Valerie said.

Doctors at Nationwide Children’s Hospital say the average age of diagnosis for the deadly skin condition  is 60. But, they’re seeing an increase in melanoma in kids ages five to 16. And it’s responsible for one out of every ten cancers in teens.

“I remembered I had a bad sunburn I think the spring break before and I as kind of wondering if that had possibly contributed,” Valerie said.

Experts say along with sun exposure, tanning beds could be big contributors to the melanoma increase in children. California just became the first state to ban kids under 18 from using them.  A new study shows invasive melanoma may be more common in kids than adults with the disease. Valerie had cancer removed from her collarbone. 

“Then, I was cancer free,” Valerie said.

From cancer, to high cholesterol, more and more kids are living with adult diseases. In fact, one in five kids in the U.S has high cholesterol. And get this, up to half of all new diabetes cases in American children is type 2 or what used to be called adult-onset diabetes. The CDC estimates children born in 2000 have a one in three chance of developing diabetes.
For Hispanic children the projected risk is one in two. And gum disease isn’t just for grandparents. It’s estimated 50 percent of kids have periodontal problems. Girls have a higher risk of developing it than boys because of increases in female sex hormones during puberty. While a lot of adult conditions in kids are preventable. Koiya’s were not. She’s still on a feeding tube, but a donated liver saved her life…again.

“They gave a sweet and wonderful person, you know, a second chance,” Yolanda said.

Against the odds, it seems she’s beating the grown up problems that have plagued her childhood.

“She will have a good life.  Yea.” Yolanda concluded.

Would you want to know if your child was at risk of getting an adult condition?  Right now there’s a debate about genetically testing kids for adult onset diseases like cancer and heart disease.  The American Academy of Pediatrics has come out against it, claiming there’s no proof the information will help parents reduce the risk their children will develop those problems. However some parents believe the test results could help them prevent disease in their kids and help them maintain healthier lifestyles.

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