NEW YORK (PIX11) – Being a teen can be one of the most awkward times of a person’s life. “Bathing suits, short, short sleeve shirts. Oh those were awful,” says Sarah Bloch. But this is far from a typical 13-year-old’s insecurity. Sarah shares pictures of her eczema, and narrates. “It was so painful. My feet, I could barely walk on them. My hands were all cracked. Thick cracks. Deep, long, cracks.”
Sarah suffers from eczema so debilitating she was hospitalized four times in her young life. Put on I-V antibiotics. And she’s part of a growing group of children across the U.S. The CDC Reports a spike in all allergic skin conditions in children — yp 70% over a 14 year period.
Her mother Sheri tells the story from a different, but equally desperate, perspective. That of a parent whose heart breaks over not being able to help her ailing child.
“At six-years-old she’s first hospitalized. She was six-months-old when I picked her up from her crib and saw blood on the sheets from where she had scratched herself raw. And then in the hospital three more times.” The Blochs were told Sarah would outgrow her severe dry skin by the time she was six, seven at the latest. But it only got worse.
I ask Sarah to describe it to me, since I can’t walk in her shoes. “It’s like having poison ivy 24/7, every day of your life.” “Everywhere?” I ask. “Everywhere. It’s that itchy.”
Sheri tells me of their quest for healing. “We went from dermatologist to dermatologist for years. We went to the best hospitals in New York City for treatment. They covered her in Aquaphor, it caused a massive Staph infection.” Finally, one of the doctors recommended the family go west to National Jewish Hospital in Denver.
“It was a leap of faith,” said Sheri.
“We’re the last hope.” We’re talking now to the head of the Children’s Eczema program at National Jewish, Dr. Donald Leung. “It’s not a big money maker like plastic surgery is,” says Leung with a wry smile on his face, “but it really improves the lives of a lot of people.”
Their main treatment is deceptively simple. It’s called soak and seal. Using the same topical ointments the children are already prescribed, the children are slathered in them, then they soak in a tub for 15 minutes. And then wraps are applied head to toe to seal in the moisture. They repeat this three times a day for up to two weeks. At the same time, specialists work with the family. “We work to discover the triggers in their diet which brings out the eczema. So many of these families only see a dermatologist for ten minutes, this is a totally different level of treatment.”
Indeed. Sarah was in “remission” for six years. And after her second trip to National Jewish she proudly shows off her newly cleared skin. “I feel amazing. My whole life has changed.”