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Three-year-old girl beats rare life-threatening disease after mother finds diagnosis in the midst of a pandemic

Girl beats rare disease
Posted at 10:24 PM, Jan 25, 2021

PLANT CITY, Fla. — A Plant City, Florida, family spent the majority of their 2020 trying to figure out what was wrong with their three-year-old daughter. That’s when the girl’s mom took matters into her own hands and came up with the diagnosis herself.

Watching Leilani play on the living room floor, you’d have no idea she was confined to a hospital bed, fighting for her life, just a month ago.

“She was very slow, she was very shaky, her entire body, she could not even walk because she would just like fall,” said mother, Maria Garcia.

From February to September of 2020, Leilani’s parents made more than a dozen trips to the hospital.

“Literally feeling helpless because there was nothing you could do, and when we got to the hospital, there was literally nothing they could do,” said Father Anthony Patrignani.

That’s when Maria went to the internet and began searching her own answers. What she came up with was a tumor called Insulinoma.

“It made sense just like a puzzle, and I bring it to the doctors and they had the same thought, and they were like, ‘Yeah, it sounds like it,’” said Garcia. “I figured it out, I don’t know how, with God’s help.”

However, coming up with a diagnosis only led to more obstacles.

“The problem is they had to find it, and no one can do that but Children’s Hospital of Philadelphia where they have to take a nuclear scan,” said Patrignani.

In September, the family packed up Leilani and her favorite toys and hit the road.

“And halfway there, we got a phone call saying we can’t get the approval because of COVID,” said Patrignani.

The family waited in Tampa for months, as Leilani’s condition only got worse, until she was finally flown to Philadelphia. On Christmas Eve, Dr. Scott Adzick performed surgery to remove 40 percent of her pancreas.

“I’ve only done 20 or so of these operations in children, and she is the youngest one,” said Adzick. “She may be the youngest patient ever recorded to have an Insulinoma.”

The family just had their one-month check-up since the surgery, and according to Adzick, Leilani is going to make a full recovery.

“There’s a saying that I use that if you save a child, you save a lifetime, and I think that applies to this little girl,” said Adzick.

“Amazing, amazing story and an amazing ending, and we appreciate you,” said Patrignani.

This article was written by Robert Boyd for WFTS.