Hi. I am Alyssa Meisel, an 18 year old taking college courses. The only thing that makes me different than most other fun-loving teenage girls is a disease called methylmalonic acidemia or MMA, for short. I was fortunate to be diagnosed with MMA (Mut 0) before I was born.
As a result, my treatment was directed by the terrific metabolic team from the Children's Hospital of Philadelphia (CHoP) immediately after my birth in May 1998 at the University of Penn Hospital, where my Mom's labor was induced. After being transferred to CHoP that first morning, I spent 2 weeks in the NICU until the doctors could assess my progress and develop a diet that was appropriate for me.
According to my metabolic physician, Dr. Paige Kaplan, I was the first MMA patient at CHoP to be treated from birth based on a prenatal diagnosis of MMA.The doctors knew to check me for the devastating disorder because I have a brother, Blake, who had died a year earlier from the disease when he was only 8 days old. Unfortunately, despite supplemental newborn screening, he was already in a coma and suffered serious brain damage (from acidosis) before the results of the screening were returned. Blake is in Heaven and is my Guardian Angel. Because of him, I have a great chance at life.
I have another big brother, Clayton, who is my best buddy. He does not have the disease, although he may be a carrier. I love Clay very much. My Mom and Dad tell me I am very blessed to have such a caring brother to watch over me.
While I am able to eat by mouth, I prefer to be fed through my G/J tube. I have had my g-tube since I was 7 months old after refusing to eat my formula for several months. My Mom tells me the feeding tube is a God send and that it has saved my life. It enables me to take awful tasting medicine, have feeds administered when I don't want to eat and prevent me from fasting, especially overnight!
I am on a low protein diet that is comprised mostly of Nutren 1.0 and two medical foods (Duocal and Propimex 2). Because of my protein restrictions, I do not eat meat, legumes or much dairy. My list of favorite foods is limited, but includes asparagus, brocolli, carrots, sugar snap peas, spaghetti squash, dill pickles, salt & pepper potato chips, popcorn and french fries (McDonald's are my favorite). Most of the time, I would rather cook than eat!
Over the years, I have been diagnosed with gastrosophogeal reflux and cyclic vomiting. Medications have helped me control these issues. The J tube has enabled me to manage the episodes of vomiting that do occur. Like many children with MMA, my kidneys have suffered damage from the constant high levels of acid in my system. Therefore, I am also treated for chronic kidney disease and am currently awaiting a kidney transplant via a living donor. Because of the MMA and related conditions, I have to take several medications each day. These include zantac, calcitriol, flagyl and more recently EPO shots. I am also on a supplement of carnitine.
Since I was born, I have been hospitalized several times due to flu bugs that would not allow me to keep my special formula down. This happened more before I turned one year old. Between the ages of 6 and 8, I had numerous hospitalizations as a result of cyclic vomiting and bouts of acute pancreatitis. This was very painful.
Because of the frequent hospitalizations related to pancreatitis, we had a mediport placed to allow easier access to my veins during emergencies. However, after over 5 years with very limited use of the mediport, we decided to have it removed in early 2013. The doctors also changed my G-tube to a G-J tube that allowed food to by-pass my stomach when vomiting became severe. This allows for me to be cared for at home often instead of going to the hospital. At those times I am on continuous 24/7 feeds.
Putting my disease aside, I have lots of family and friends. I also have a dog named Cookie. She is a lhasa-poo.
When I'm not playing with Cookie, I enjoy high school musical and theatrical productions, Penn State football, reading and music.
In the past, I have enjoy horseback riding (which I hope to start riding again), softball, camping, and playing board games / cards. I’m told that I am quite the card shark! I had to give up soccer because I used to vomit from all of the running. I do very well in school, too. My favorite subjects are science and math. I am currently taking online college classes until my kidney transplant. I intend to major in nutrition at Messiah College.
I am truly blessed to participate in the research study being conducted at NIH. I am very hopeful that Dr. Venditti and his team will find a cure for me and others like me very soon. Also, I am blessed by the many Angels (family, friends and even strangers) that help with the fundraising for research.
My Mom and Dad would like to add a few notes now, so I must go.
Take care and XOXOX,
From Mom and Dad:
Alyssa is truly a blessing in our lives. Through the loss of our son to MMA, we know how devastating the consequences of this disease can be. While caring for a child with MMA has extremely stressful moments, we try to put those times behind us as quickly as possible and attempt to lead "normal" lives. God has a purpose in all that he does. We just pray that he will guide us in fulfilling his purpose for us.If any one would like to contact us, please do not hesitate to call (717) 582-2195 or email us at firstname.lastname@example.org. We would be happy to answer your questions or just talk.
Bonnie and Denny Meisel
This and other family stories about children afflicted with MMA may be found at www.mmaresearch.com and clicking on the Family Stories tab.