Girl gets expert care for rare growth hormone deficiency condition

Girl gets expert care for rare growth hormone deficiency condition

6-year-old girl’s development is now on track after treatment for panhypopituitarism


Angela Hershey had no indication that anything was wrong with her baby during pregnancy. But just hours after birth, her daughter Scarlett’s blood sugar dropped so dramatically that her health care team thought there was something wrong with their glucose monitor.

Scarlett Hershey in a checkup appointment with pediatric endocrinologist Stephanie Crossen.
Scarlett Hershey in a checkup appointment with pediatric endocrinologist Stephanie Crossen.

The numbers she was registering were frighteningly low. Her health care team placed her on a glucose drip and fed her aggressively for the next five days. They also tested her other hormone levels. But her numbers did not normalize.

An MRI was ordered. Five days after birth, Scarlett was transferred from Sutter Roseville to UC Davis Children’s Hospital via ambulance. UC Davis was the only nearby facility with the capability to perform an MRI on an infant.

“It is kind of a dramatic blur. I remember the nurse handing me a piece of paper with the word ‘panhypopituitarism’ written on it before Scarlett was transferred, but she asked me not to Google it until I talked to doctors more. And whoa, am I glad I listened at first! When I Googled it, it was terrifying,” Hershey said.

The scan confirmed that Scarlett had panhypopituitarism, a rare condition in which the pituitary gland stops producing all or most hormones. Internationally, there are 4.2 cases of panhypopituitarism per 100,000 people per year. Symptoms can include growth problems in children, slow heart rate, low blood sugar, low blood pressure and problems with reproduction. If left untreated, children can suffer central nervous system damage.

UC Davis Children’s Hospital provided the expert care in pediatric endocrinology that Scarlett needed.

“After Scarlett’s diagnosis, I remember being a scared and desperate new mother when I met Dr. Styne for the first time in the UC Davis Neonatal Intensive Care Unit (NICU). He said, ‘Don’t worry. We can fix everything,’” recalled Hershey. “I remember him specifically saying she’ll someday be able to play basketball, if she wants to, and that she can even be helped to have children of her own. This memory makes me cry every time!” 

Angela Hershey with her daughter Scarlett.

Pediatric endocrinologist Dennis Styne and the UC Davis pediatric endocrinology team equipped Angela with training and parent education so she would know how to best care for Scarlett at home.

Scarlett takes growth hormone, cortisol and thyroid hormones – all of which are essential for growth. The team continues to monitor her.

“Thanks to the commitment and dedication of her mother, Scarlett is developing beautifully and is taller than the average girl her age,” Styne said. 

Scarlett now lives a very normal life as an active and healthy 6-year-old, just as Styne promised.

“The pediatric endocrinology team is truly responsible for giving Scarlett the life she has today. We just have so much gratitude. It is priceless for a mother to feel such confidence in the medical care that her child receives. If you’re lucky enough to pair with this team, they will become family!” Hershey said.