By the young age of four, Christopher was already overweight due to PWS.
For the first 10 years of Christopher Dowd's life, his parents knew something was not quite right, yet no one could tell them what, if anything, was wrong.
Lacking the sucking reflex, Christopher spent his first month of life in the NICU on a feeding tube. He did not cry and moved very little. Doctors did not know what was wrong with an otherwise seemingly healthy newborn.
As Christopher grew, his parents enrolled him in early intervention programs, which helped with his already delayed motor and cognitive development. By the age of three, the fact that something was not right became strikingly apparent when he suddenly went from failure to thrive to having a ferocious appetite. Between the ages of three and five, the weight just started piling on, despite efforts to curtail his food intake.
Around this time, Christopher's behavior started to change as well and he would have terrible temper tantrums and outbursts. By age 10, Christopher was much shorter than many of his peers, and the Dowds were referred to Winthrop and Dr. Angulo because of the pioneering work he had been doing with growth hormone therapy.
At first sight, Dr. Angulo suspected that Christopher had Prader-Willi Syndrome and immediately ordered genetic testing be performed to confirm this assumption.
"I actually felt relieved that after 10 years of floundering without any answers, we finally had a diagnosis," said Mrs. Dowd.
Today, Christopher is able to ward off obesity problems that PWS patients struggle with all their lives.
One of the biggest challenges the family faced was finding a doctor to diagnose their son's disorder. "Our challenges were met once we went to Winthrop," she said, adding that Winthrop's support group for parents and family members of PWS patients has also been a tremendous help. "Doctors used to tell me that I fed my son too much. They just didn't understand. There was a lot of ignorance back then."
Now age 22, Christopher has thrived over the years thanks to Dr. Angulo and Winthrop's Division of Pediatric Endocrinology and Genetics. While he (like most PWS patients) still has issues with weight, the growth hormone therapy has helped him keep his weight under control and build his muscle mass. He now works out with a personal trainer to keep fit. Recently, with the help of a job coach, Christopher landed his first job, working in the medical records department of a local hospital. His co-workers were informed of his condition and are working with him in eliminating food temptations from the office.
"The care and support we have received at Winthrop over the past 12 years has been wonderful," said Mrs. Dowd, whose pride for her son and his accomplishments is evident in every word she speaks.