Briggs’ Big Adventure: Third-Grader Documents His Journey to Mayo Clinic for Answers

Briggs_Doc805Like many people facing medical tests, 9-year-old Briggs Wilhoit was anxious about his upcoming trip to Mayo Clinic. "He's usually very easy going," says Briggs' mom, Amy Wilhoit. "But he was really nervous … and was having trouble sleeping." Then Briggs' teacher suggested he document his experience for his third-grade classmates. "That was a game-changer," Amy says. It gave him "a project," and he "had a blast." The result, My Mayo Miracle, is a sweet look at the family's trip to Rochester from Briggs' perspective.

Though Briggs tells viewers that the drive from the family's home in Branson, Missouri, took 10 hours, his journey to Mayo Clinic was actually years in the making. For most of his life, Briggs has lived with puzzling symptoms that included horrible cramps, stomach aches and a persistent rash. After he was diagnosed with a gluten allergy, the family hoped that eliminating gluten would eliminate Briggs' symptoms. But his symptoms continued, and doctors were unable to figure out why. "I just kept thinking, 'This can't be healthy or normal,'" Amy says.

After a family member had a "life-changing" experience at Mayo Clinic, Amy and her husband, Jeff, decided to see if Mayo might be able to help their son. So in March, they brought Briggs to Mayo, where he was seen by a care team that included Jennifer Hand, M.D., a pediatric dermatologist, and Imad Absah, M.D. and Mounif El-Youssef, M.D., both pediatric gastroenterologists.

Amy says the family was "wowed" by the team's professionalism and the camaraderie among the doctors. But what perhaps meant the most to her was the way the team related to Briggs. "When Dr. El-Youssef walked into the exam room, he went straight to the kids and engaged them," Amy tells us. "As a parent, that spoke volumes to me." As did the good doctor's listening skills. "He heard our story. He listened to us, he listened to Briggs," she says. "He took his time."

After some tests at that March visit, Briggs returned in May for a colonoscopy and endoscopy. When the results were in, Dr. El-Youssef "told me what was wrong with my tummy," Briggs says in his video. The tests revealed Briggs has lymphocytic colitis, "a rare condition that probably wouldn't have been caught anywhere else, since the test for this condition was actually developed at Mayo," Amy tells us.

Briggs has begun making dietary changes and taking medication to treat his condition. Meanwhile, Amy is keeping in touch with Dr. El-Youssef and the rest of his Mayo care team through phone calls and Patient Online Services. "It's fantastic," she says. "Anytime I have a question, someone gets back to us so quickly. We live 10 hours away, but I feel like we live in the same town." Once a year, Briggs will return to Rochester for follow-up care. Amy says the family is already looking forward to the trips. "We fell in love with Mayo," she says. "We tell people we left part of our hearts there."

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