As a defensive end, 15-year-old Matthew Brock is used to tough hits. 

However, two years ago he started experiencing severe abdominal pain at home that rivaled anything he felt while on the field.

“It would be so painful. I would be crying sometimes because it would just be unbearable, like just pain in my stomach,” said Matthew Brock. “And I just didn't. I was just scared. I didn't know what was wrong with me. I didn't know if I was dying. I didn't know what was happening."

After a series of tests, doctors at Cincinnati Children’s diagnosed Matthew with pancreatitis. It’s a life-threatening condition that happens when the pancreas, the gland behind the stomach that helps with digestion, becomes inflamed. Matthew’s painful attacks would last for several days. These episodes took place about every other month for over a year keeping him sidelined from his studies and playing sports.

“It's hard because he is like the go getter. He is the one that he wakes up at 6am. And he's in the gym, and he's working, and he's practicing,” said Leslie Brock, Matthew’s mom. And he's, you know, being the leader in regards to everything. And then you see him being so hurt, inevitably and in pain. And it was heart wrenching to be able to watch that.”

To help with a long-term solution, Matthew met with Dr. David Vitale, director of the Interventional Endoscopy Center at Cincinnati Children’s. Interventional endoscopy is a minimally invasive way for doctors to look, test, and treat many conditions that affect a child’s gastrointestinal system. Cincinnati Children’s is one of only a few programs in the United States to offer specialized services for children.

“In the distant past, patients would potentially have to undergo more invasive procedures or have procedures that require there to be cutting on the outside of the skin and go in through that way,” said David Vitale, MD, Director, Interventional Endoscopy Center. “But now, with the advent of these newer endoscopic procedures, we're able to do that in a much less invasive way.”

To understand what was going on with Matthew’s pancreas, Dr. Vitale first performed an endoscopic ultrasound, or E-U-S. The procedure uses a special endoscope with ultrasound capabilities for the purpose of evaluating internal organs of the chest and abdomen, along with the lining of the gastrointestinal tract. The flexible echo endoscope is passed through the mouth into the stomach and small intestine. Here we see ultrasound images of the pancreas.

Testing results ultimately showed Matthew had a genetic mutation that predisposes him to getting pancreatitis. To alleviate his pain, doctors performed another endoscopic procedure called an ERCP.

“So that's endoscopic retrograde cholangiopancreatography, or ERCP,” said Vitale. “That's a mouthful, but it's a, it's a procedure where we actually go in in a non-invasive way. And we, while the patient's completely asleep, go in through the mouth, into the esophagus and down into the very first part of the small intestine.”

During the ERCP for Matthew, doctors found a narrowing within the pancreatic duct. This is an area where the pancreas drains into the intestine. To help alleviate the obstruction, doctors made a cut in the area of the muscle at the opening of the pancreas. A temporary stent was then placed to allow continuous flow and for the duct to heal.

The procedures worked for Matthew, and he hasn’t had any more episodes of pancreatitis.

“Dr. Vitale, who was our hero when it came to that he was the one that kind of pushed us to have confidence in order to take that leap,” Leslie said. “And we did that.”

“Dr. Vitale was the best thing that happened to me on this journey that and my parents always been there for me and always supporting me,” Matthew said. “It’s just amazing. There's nothing holding me back now.”