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Local baby struggles with mysterious illness

October 12, 2012
By LEVI PASCHER , The Leader Herald

GLOVERSVILLE- Five-month-old Isabelle Sherman is fighting for her life.

She has a mysterious illness that is puzzling doctors at Albany Medical Center Hospital. Instead of growing like a typical baby, Isabelle is losing weight, and her diagnosis is a work in progress, said her mother, Stephanie Sherman.

Isabelle, whose family lives in Gloversville, has been diagnosed with a number of medical problems, including severe gastroesophageal reflux disease, reactive air-way disease, scoliosis and failure to thrive, but none of these diagnoses can explain why she's still the size of a newborn, her mother says.

Article Photos

Five-month-old Isabelle Sherman, shown with her mother, Stephanie Sherman, is fighting for her life as she battles an illness that’s puzzling doctors.

"The whole dilemma is that what exactly is doing this to her remains a mystery," Sherman said. "We still don't know if she will ever be completely OK because we don't know what is causing this."

Isabelle is severely swollen and on a ventilator after suffering from a blood infection. She went into full respiratory failure last Friday, her mother said.

The blood infection was caused by a bacteria in feces that got into her blood stream, but doctors don't know how, her mother said.

"This is a complex case, and skilled specialists are continuing to evaluate this patient to determine the most effective course of treatment," an Albany Medical Center spokeswoman stated in an email.

Isabelle's mother said when Isabelle was a month old, she began vomiting all the time, so she had to have two gastroesophageal surgeries. During the second surgery, doctors took the top of her stomach and wrapped it around the bottom of the esophagus, which made her physically unable to vomit or burp, her mother said.

Since the surgery, she has been fed a high-calorie diet through a feeding tube but still didn't gain any weight, her mother said.

When Isabelle was admitted to Albany Medical Center on Sept. 20, she was at a dangerously low weight of 7 pounds, 14.5 ounces.

"Her weight was always considered a critical concern, but that has kind of been put on hold with her recent blood infection," Sherman said.

Isabelle's parents have been meeting with an Albany Med specialist regularly, but tests haven't brought back any promising answers. The specialist at the hospital took muscle and skin from Isabelle's leg to test for a rare metabolic disease Wednesday but the results of those test won't be available for three weeks, said her mother.

Isabelle's primary paediatrician, Dr. Govind Rao from Amsterdam, declined to comment on the baby's health Thursday.

Her mother said she had no choice but to no longer work because no day care would take a child who uses a feeding tube.

Sherman's husband, Kenneth Sherman, lost his job because he was missing work to be with their daughter when she was going in and out of hospitals.

"It has been hard," said Isabelle's mother. "I miss my kids and whole family being together."

Today, Stephanie stays at Albany Med with Isabelle all the time while Kenneth stays home to take care of the house and their three boys.

Stephanie Sherman said the Ronald McDonald House has offered her a room, but she preferred to stay by the side of Isabelle during the night.

"It has been rough with the trips back and forth and not having everyone together," said Kenneth Sherman.

The trips back and forth between Gloversville and Albany and other medical costs have put the family in debt, said Stephanie Sherman.

She said her credit cards are maxed out, and the family had faced the possibility of being evicted from their apartment in Gloversville.

Faith's Hope Foundation, out of California, stopped the eviction process by paying back rent, Stephanie Sherman said.

The family of six hopes to raise money to get them to the Children's Hospital in Pennsylvania, which specializes in mystery illnesses.

Isabelle has more than 5,000 friends worldwide on her Facebook page titled Help Isabelle Grow. On the Facebook account, people have been sending messages of prayer in different languages and are able to donate through a PayPal account called "Go Team Izzy," Stephanie said.

To date, the family has received about $5,000 in donations.

"The support is great. Just to hear that I'm staying strong when I feel like I'm falling apart is amazing," Stephanie Sherman said.

Levi Pascher covers Gloversville news. He can be contacted at



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