A mysterious illness identified, top-notch care delivered

What should have been one of the Catalano family’s happiest moments quickly turned somber as they feared that the condition the newest addition to their family faced was serious.

- By Ali Koide

Wyatt James Catalano, who recently turned 1, was diagnosed with diffuse cutaneous mastocytosis, a disease of the white blood cells.
Courtesy of the Catalano family

“He was so handsome and so big! He was a little tank,” Shannon Catalano said, recalling the joy she felt the first time she and her husband, Steven Catalano, held their youngest son just one year ago. “I immediately knew his name was Wyatt James.”

But then, she noticed the odd bumps and blisters covering Wyatt’s body from head to toe.

“You can hold him for just a minute,” a nurse told them. “But we need to take him to the neonatal intensive care unit.”

What should have been one of their family’s happiest moments quickly turned somber as they feared the seriousness of Wyatt’s condition. The dermatology team suspected it could be a skin disease, but they couldn’t know for sure.

‘I wanted to cry’

Wyatt needed to be transferred to Lucile Packard Children’s Hospital Stanford.

“I wanted to cry as I thought about the fact that his first drive was in an ambulance to another hospital, instead of home with us,” Shannon said. “As a mom, we always do whatever we have to do in order to take care of our littles. I didn’t care that I had just given birth and was still healing — so long as I could be with my sweet Wyatt.”

A special transport team came to bring the newborn to the children’s hospital, whose specialists quickly got to work. The next few days were excruciatingly slow as Wyatt endured countless tests to rule out different diseases.

Rare disease

Finally, after six days of poking and prodding, the diagnosis came: diffuse cutaneous mastocytosis, a disease of the white blood cells. Wyatt is one of just 30 infant cases to have ever been reported in the United States. He is at risk of going into anaphylactic shock at any time, and doctors are unsure of the effects an EpiPen — the last line of defense — would have on an infant. The good news: The disease is somewhat manageable with daily medication, a modified lifestyle (limited exercise, heat, cold, sunlight) and frequent check-ups.

I love this hospital for a lot of reasons.

“I feel incredibly blessed to live in the Bay Area and have access to this world-class hospital,” Shannon said, holding back tears. “They have the expertise that other hospitals don’t. If it wasn’t for Lucile Packard Children’s Hospital we may still not know what was wrong with Wyatt and how to treat him.”

Today, Wyatt, who celebrated his first birthday at the hospital in October, is a perfectly happy boy: He loves to eat avocados, dance to country music, and play with his big brother and big sister. Almost daily they’ll meet a stranger concerned that Wyatt has chicken pox or that he’s contagious (he’s not), and the family takes these opportunities to raise awareness of Wyatt’s disease and share his story.

“I love this hospital for a lot of reasons. His doctors are the best,” Shannon wrote on a Facebook advocacy page for her son. “They care and each patient truly matters.”

About Stanford Medicine

Stanford Medicine is an integrated academic health system comprising the Stanford School of Medicine and adult and pediatric health care delivery systems. Together, they harness the full potential of biomedicine through collaborative research, education and clinical care for patients. For more information, please visit med.stanford.edu.

2023 ISSUE 3

Exploring ways AI is applied to health care