Dwayne Morton, Baltimore

In June 2008, Dwayne suddenly started having severe stomach problems and was unable to keep food down.  He was wasting away, losing nearly 30 pounds in only a few months. His initial battery of tests came back normal, but he continued to have problems so his grandmother took him to a gastroenterologist. His mother was serving her second tour of duty in Iraq so his grandmother was taking care of him.  

Dwayne was subsequently diagnosed with a condition called achalasia, a rare disorder of the esophagus that affects 1 in 100,000 people. The smooth muscle of the esophagus loses its normal ability to contract and move food down toward the lower portion of the stomach. This leads to difficulty swallowing, difficulty keeping food down, malnutrition and weight loss. In September 2008, Dwayne saw Dr.  Fizan Abdullah, a pediatric surgeon at Hopkins Children, whom Dwayne liked instantly. 

“When Dwayne likes a doctor, you can tell and he really liked Dr. Abdullah,” his grandmother, Veronica, says.

Everything was on track until his family's military insurance refused to pre-authorize the surgery. Dr. Abdullah and his staff were on the phone with the insurer nonstop explaining why the surgery was necessary.The doctor said even if the insurance didn’t come through he would do the surgery for free. In the 11th hour, the insurance company agreed to authorize the surgery. His mother was able to get leave and made it to Baltimore the day after his surgery.

“Dr. Abdullah went well beyond the call of duty in how he fought for us…it felt like we’re part of his family. It felt like Dwayne was the only patient they had the way they took care of him,” said Dwayne’s grandmother, Veronica.

Only a few months after the surgery, Dwayne was eating and drinking and had regained 20 pounds.