Avera Medical Minute: Big Grape event goes virtual, honors sisters this week

Published: Sep. 8, 2020 at 7:18 PM CDT
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SIOUX FALLS, S.D. (Dakota News Now) - The Big Grape is an annual fundraiser for pediatric care at Avera Children’s Hospital. This year’s event is being held online the weekend of September 7 through 11, which includes a silent auction.

The event includes naming the “Little grapes,” honoring some of the many children who have courageously fought a health crisis. Today we introduce you to two sisters, both “little grapes” and how they’ve come through a difficult journey.

Elena and Claire Brandt are just like so many other kids in southern Minnesota.

“I like to bake. I like to do crafts, yeah crafts,” said the sisters.

They’ve also had some unique medical challenges to overcome.

“When I was two when I first started having EOE,” said Claire.

Clair was having pain after she ate. Her mother Danielle Brandt knew something was wrong.

“And so she had her first scope shortly after her third birthday and was diagnosed with EOE. And I had never heard of that before I’m a nurse,” said Brandt.

Avera Pediatric Gastroenterologist Dr. Stephen Naton explains what they found.

“EOE is Eosinophilic Esophagitis. It’s related to an antigen such as a food allergy, causing inflammation in the esophagus,” said Dr. Nanton.

Symptoms can vary depending on each person.

“Difficulty swallowing or poor growth or vomiting, similar to acid reflux,” said Dr. Nanton.

Claire was put on an elimination diet, gradually reintroducing a food, and scoping again every time. She was getting better, while her older sister Elena became ill.

“That week it was like the whole week and we just couldn’t figure it out,” said Brandt.

“So then they brought me to Dr. Nathan,” said Elena.

Both of the girls were found to have EOE.

“Just kind of a shock,” said Brandt.

“The incidence in siblings is about two to three percent. So for Claire, her symptoms responded to the typical treatment, which is identifying which food is causing the inflammation and avoiding that,” said Dr. Nanton.

“One by one, we would reintroduce a food group, and then scope and then see how she did,” said Brandt.

Now that they know what foods cause the inflammation, they have a new way of eating, feeling better, and sharing their story by being designated as Little grapes for the Avera fundraiser “The Big Grape” on September 11th.

“Well, we had a photo shoot and an interview,” said Claire.

Now that they’re feeling better, they only have to worry about what to wear and hope it will include a new dress.

“Yes, hopefully,” said Elena.

Avera is hosting the fund drive online this year, including a silent auction. The final day is Friday, September 11th. Visit to donate or place a bid for The Big Grape, Reimagined: Fund drive for the Avera Children’s Hospital.

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