Keniel Maldonado Lopez – Chronic Idiopathic Constipation Patient Story

Keniel Maldonado Lopez at UPMC Children's Hospital of Pittsburgh

Heroes Need Help Too

Boom! Pow! Zing! Super 7-year-old Keniel slides into the room decked out as a Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtle. He somersaults onto his shell-covered back and flashes a peace sign.

“He’s always jumping and playing,” his mom, Keitza, laughs. “He can’t sit in one place. He acts like he doesn’t have anything wrong.”

As Keniel bounds around the room, you’d never suspect that he was anything but an active little boy. But when he was two years old, Keniel started spending a lot of time in hospitals. He complained of belly pain and had trouble going to the bathroom.

Keitza and her son traveled from their hometown of Barranquitas, Puerto Rico to visit doctors around the island.

Each time, they got the same treatment: a screening, enemas, and laxatives. Doctors gave Keniel high doses of milk of magnesia (magnesium hydroxide) and mineral oil to help him pass a bowel movement.

“The doctors gave him lots of medicines, but never gave a good diagnosis,” Keitza said. “He was in the hospital six or seven times for this condition.”

Ultimately, the treatments would fail, the discomfort would return, and Keniel would struggle to pass a bowel movement.

“It was the same thing over and over again,” Keitza said. “We spent three or four years going through this struggle. It was so tiring for both of us.”

Doctors told Keitza that they could operate on Keniel. But the surgery would result in him needing a colostomy bag, an external bag to hold the excreted waste.

“I told them no. I didn’t want to do that to my baby,” said Keitza.

A Super Mission: From Puerto Rico to Children's Hospital of Pittsburgh

Doctors referred Keniel to UPMC Children’s Hospital of Pittsburgh. The knowledgeable doctors and high-quality care — plus the Ronald McDonald House Pittsburgh — seemed like a good fit for the family.

With help from the International Services department at Children’s, Luis De la Torre, MD, and his team reviewed Keniel's case. Dr. De la Torre is founding director of the Colorectal Center for Children.

After pulling together paperwork and making an appointment, Keniel and Keitza went to Pittsburgh to meet with Dr. De la Torre face-to-face.

Not All Heroes Wear Capes

Keniel Maldonado Lopez and his mother, Keitza, at UPMC Children's Hospital of PittsburghDr. De la Torre found that Keniel’s colon wasn’t only impacted, but that a section had become enlarged and didn’t function. He wanted to remove the part of the colon that wasn’t working.

“He talked me through everything,” Keitza remembers. “He explained how they would operate and what exactly they would do.”

Keniel underwent the 5-hour surgery on February 23.

“I spent the whole time crying, but Dr. De la Torre was so incredible,” Keitza said. “Everything went perfectly.”

Keniel had a smooth recovery, and after three months, they went home to Puerto Rico.

Six months later, they returned for a follow-up visit.

“We met with Dr. De la Torre. He checked Keniel and said everything looks good,” Keitza smiled.

While Keniel still takes medicine, he has already gone from taking four laxative tablets each day to only two. He doesn’t have the pain or constipation that he suffered from for years.

“We are so happy,” Keitza said.

A super support system of family and friends have helped Keitza and Keniel throughout their journey.

Keitza’s mother came along during Keniel’s surgery, and her father has always been one of his biggest fans. Keitza’s 15-year-old daughter has cheered on her brother, and friends in the states have made it feel more like home.

With a flash, Keniel zooms into the room — this time as Ironman. He flings himself on to the sofa, rolls off, and slides across the floor on his belly.

He smiles widely at his mom.

“He is healthy, happy, and normal,” she said.

But Keniel isn’t just normal…he’s super.

Special Thanks

Keniel and Keitza got support from The Chronic Disease Fund of Puerto Rico and from Fundación Caritas Alegres.

The International Services Department at UPMC Children’s worked with these groups to handle the logistical and financial arrangements.

Contact Us

To seek a consult or refer a patient to UPMC Children’s Hospital of Pittsburgh, contact our International Services.

Contact the Colorectal Center for Children to:

  • Learn how to schedule a consult.
  • Refer a child for colorectal care.
  • Learn about the center's services.
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