Three- year- old Malia is playful, perky and full of personality- big traits that once overshadowed her. Shortly after she was born, Malia stopped growing.
“She started off in the growth chart and she slowly just slid off. Probably around six months she completely fell off the growth chart,” says Kourtney Dobbs, Malia’s mother.
Specialists with Golisano Children’s Hospital ran a series of tests and found Malia has congenital hypopituitarism, meaning her pituitary gland doesn’t work properly.
“The pituitary gland sits right in the middle of the brain and it’s responsible for many, many hormones. One of the main hormones it produces is the growth hormone or GH,” says Dr. Cayce Jehaimi, pediatric endocrinologist with Golisano Children’s Hospital of Southwest Florida.
“She was so far behind, I thought it was hard to believe she would even catch up with other kids,” says Dobbs.
Tens of thousands of children are stymied by various growth hormone deficiencies. Typically treatment involves daily injections of synthetic HGH. The same hormone sometimes abused by athletes can be a game-changer in children who need it.
“There are many causes of growth hormone deficiency, the most common just means they have one growth hormone missing from their pituitary gland and those often times need growth hormone only during the growth phase, after which we stop,” says Dr. Jehaimi.
Hypopituitarism is far less common. Malia needs long-term thyroid replacement therapy and HGH injections. But she is growing up despite her hormone deficiency.
“I don’t feel like if we go out in a group of kids her age that she’s the only one behind,” says Dobbs.
Today she’s a petite girl who’s grown into her super-sized personality.
“The best example is children who have growth hormone deficiency, they end up on growth hormone and they do very well. Their self-esteem improves, their muscle mass improves, their strength improves. It’s just a very beautiful story,” says Dr. Jehaimi.