Baffling medical mystery: The boy who suddenly stopped eating

CEDAR Falls, Iowa – Landon Jones used to be a normal boy, bubbly and energetic, and spent most of his time playing with friends at school and in the neighborhood.

The night before October 14 last year, he gobbled on a box of pizza and a bowl of ice cream. That was the last time he was seen eating voraciously. He woke up the next morning suddenly losing all appetite to eat and drink.

For a year, Landon’s parents have been desperately trying to encourage the boy to eat, to no avail. The words “take a bite, take a bite” has become a household battlecry for Michael and Debbie Landon against the refusal of their 12-year-old son to help himself to a decent meal, just like his younger brother Bryce.

Initially, the parents thought the loss of appetite had something to do with the incessant coughing Landon woke up to in that morning. An x-ray showed his chest was clogged with phlegm due to bacterial infection which was treated immediately.

They were wrong. It was a downhill course for the boy’s health since then.

For a year, Landon drastically lost weight from 104 pounds last year to 68 pounds this year. Last fall alone, he shed at least two pounds a week.

He has been surviving on a gastronomic intake tube inserted in his abdomen just to maintain the nourishment his body required to function normally

A medical mystery

Michael and Debbie Landon have taken their son to five cities in a desperate quest for the answer and cure to their son’s mysterious illness – Waterloo, Cedar Rapids and Des Moines in Iowa; Madison in Wisconsin; and the Mayo Clinic in Rochester, Minnesota.

But all the physicians were baffled and could not exactly point out what was wrong with Landon. Others suggested the boy’s rare and bizarre case could be the only one in the world.

He has gone through a myriad of medical tests – from spinal tap to encephalograms; from abdominal imaging to nutritional and psychiatric evaluations – and all that was proven is he can still smell and taste food, nothing more.

Other medical experts assumed the boy’ disorder may be blamed to a malfunctioning hypothalamus. The pea-sized hypothalamus is the control center at the base of the brain responsible for regulating hunger, thirst, blood pressure, sleep cycles and other autonomic functions.

A glimmer of hope earlier emerged when Landon’s pediatrician suggested if the prescription valproic acid the boy once took to treat his absence seizure three years ago may have something to do with the toxicity in the hypothalamus, although the doctor said she had never read any such case in medical literature.

But Dr. Marc Patterson, a child neurologist from Mayo Clinic, doubted if there is any correlation between Landon’s condition and the previously prescribed Depakote which is normally associated with increased appetite and weight gain, which is quite the opposite of the boy’s case.

The parents are planning to make an appointment with the National Health Institute in Bethesda, which only entertained the rarest medical cases in the United States. (Click here to read more)

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