National Jewish Health Gave Noah Fitzsimmons ‘Second Chance at Being Normal’
During the first 14 months of his life, Noah Fitzsimmons violently tossed his body because he itched from head to toe with severe eczema, a chronic skin condition characterized by rashes and inflammation.
“He was so consumed with itching that it was all he could do,” Noah’s mother, Julie Fitzsimmons said. “He didn’t eat much so he couldn’t grow. He literally couldn’t focus on anything but how badly his body was itching and hurting.”
Noah and his twin sister, Noel, were born nine weeks early in December 2010. Both babies suffered breathing problems and spent seven weeks in the hospital before coming home tethered to oxygen and heart monitors.
After a few weeks, Noel was doing fairly well, but Julie and her husband noticed something was different with Noah.
“We were seeing Noel progressing and reaching milestones like eating and sitting up, but Noah was consumed with shaking his body so he wasn’t hitting any of those normal marks,” said Julie, noting that at one point Noel also weighed 10 pounds more than her brother.
A few months after coming home, rashes and raw red spots started appearing on Noah’s body and face. Julie, a mother of six who at the time lived with her family west of Denver in Silverthorne, Colorado, took Noah to multiple doctors who prescribed creams and steroids to treat the severe outbreaks that caused the infant’s skin to bleed at the joints.
“Nothing ever really cured everything,” Julie said. “It always sort of felt like they were putting on a Band-Aid. No one really knew how to treat Noah.”
Finally, Noah was referred to National Jewish Health. After spending just one weekend in March 2011 at the nation’s #1 respiratory hospital, his quality of life improved drastically.
Julie vividly remembers the friendly woman who greeted Noah at National Jewish Health because she consistently referred to him as “handsome.” That made a huge impression on Julie because people constantly stared at her son when the family ventured into public.
“He was a mess,” she said. “His head was literally covered in scales. It was hard to see him like that.”
Julie also recalls sitting across a desk from the pediatrician in the Pediatric Day Program.
“He reached across and took my hand and said ‘It ends here, today. We will get you some answers,’” Julie expressed tearfully, a break in her voice.
After a two-day series of tests, the concerned mother had the answers she was promised. In addition to severe eczema, also called atopic dermatitis, Noah had asthma and severe allergies to eggs, peanuts and soy among other conditions.
The medical team at National Jewish Health assured Julie that her son would flourish as long as she followed the strict routine they then taught her.
The daily regimen included a healthy dose of steroid creams, lotions and wet wraps, which made Noah look like a little mummy. Wet wrap therapy was pioneered at National Jewish Health and has been shown to reduce symptoms an average of 71 percent. He also had to take nine prescription medications to treat his various skin infections. With help from her mother, Julie rigorously followed Noah’s care plan.
Healing was almost instantaneous. Within three weeks of visiting National Jewish Health, Noah started crawling for the first time, and he was walking within six weeks.
“He came alive, and his personality shined,” Julie said. “National Jewish Health gave us our child back because they gave us the tools to help him.”
Today, Noah is a thriving 7-year-old who can keep up with his peers. While he still struggles at times with his asthma and eczema, he is a happy child who now lives with his family in suburban Phoenix.
“We were so lost. We didn’t know what would happen to our son,” Julie said. “He will always have this disease, but National Jewish Health gave him a second chance at being normal.”