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Hike the incline and find your path

For Cristian Calderon, ballooning to 410 pounds resulted in more than a cosmetic problem and low self-esteem. The 16-year-old from Corcoran nearly lost his young life.

“The more fast food I ate, the more weight I gained…and the more my health and schoolwork suffered,” said Cristian. Eventually he developed painful swelling and trouble breathing, and was transported to Children’s
Hospital for emergency treatment.

Cristian was admitted to the pediatric intensive care unit (PICU) in critical condition with severe heart failure, difficulty breathing and excessive fluid retention throughout his body. He also had severe obstructive sleep apnea (OSA), a disorder in which during sleep soft tissue in the back of the throat collapses and blocks the airway, causing lengthy breathing pauses.

“It was bad,” recalled Cristian as his mom, Maria, agreed.

The PICU team stepped into high gear to save him. His complex care involved using a machine to provide additional oxygen and expand his lungs. He also required pulmonary artery catheterization, inserting a catheter into the right side of the heart and a pulmonary artery to monitor his heart function, pressure and response to therapies. “This catheter is used infrequently and only in our most ill patients,” said Dr. Ana Lia Graciano, pediatric intensivist.

As childhood obesity escalates across the country, the Central Valley is not exempt. “Obese children have a much higher risk of high cholesterol, high blood pressure, OSA, diabetes and cardiovascular disease,” said Dr. Graciano. “Obesity also leads to social isolation and poor self-image.”

For Cristian, caregivers used special equipment to help him move and keep the respiratory mask fitted to his face. After a month in the PICU, followed by three weeks in the inpatient pediatric rehabilitation unit, Cristian emerged 100 pounds lighter with a new perspective: “This was a life-changing event – I was determined to live!”

In rehab, Cristian learned to cook healthy meals and began an exercise program, taking regular walks around the Hospital.

Today the 17-year-old is down to 260 pounds and counting. He works out and thrives on lean meat, vegetables and fruit rather than pizza and sugary soda. He continues receiving pediatric treatment at Children’s, including in cardiology, pulmonology, endocrinology, neurology and rehab.

“I’m grateful for the Hospital and proud of  Cristian,” said Maria.

“The turning point was when Cristian became inspired to do the work,” said Dr. Jennifer Crocker, medical director, pediatric rehabilitation. “And he never looked back.”

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