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The Suburbanite
  • Green family starts organization to educate about infant feeding difficulties

  • When Jason and Kim Elkins of Green welcomed their newborn son to the world at 31 weeks, they never expected to have to tube feed him for an entire year. However, that’s what happened. Brodie, now 1, refused to eat and consequently was forced to have a tube surgically implanted in his stomach.

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  • When Jason and Kim Elkins of Green welcomed their newborn son to the world at 31 weeks, they never expected to have to tube feed him for an entire year. However, that’s what happened. Brodie, now 1, refused to eat and consequently was forced to have a tube surgically implanted in his stomach.
    “He came home with a tube down the nose, and he had that for roughly six weeks until we realized he wasn’t eating the way that most babies should be eating,” Jason Elkins said.
    Brodie’s condition, which perplexed the family and doctors alike, left the family feeling hopeless and without many resources.
    “The more resources that we found, we realized that there are nearly 750,000 kids in the U.S. that have eating disorders, and that’s a lot of kids,” Jason said. “And you start thinking about it and go ‘How many kids went undiagnosed?’ ”
    That’s when the pair decided to start C.U.P.C.A.K.E., or Caring, Understanding Parents, Coping and Accepting Kids with Eating Disorders, to both educate parents about infant eating disorders and provide a safe space for families struggling with similar illnesses.
    “There’s a center out in Arizona called the P.O.P.S.I.C.L.E. Center, and we started looking at that and me and my wife both said, ‘There’s nothing like that in this area,’ ” Jason said.
    Brodie is the brother of Alexis, 7, and Austin, 13. With an active lifestyle and children involved in sports, Jason and Kim have struggled with dealing with a child who needs extra attention.
    “We’re forced to tube feed him every three hours, and we have an active lifestyle,” Jason said. “Throw in the mix a kid who’s overall healthy but needs to be tube fed, you can’t just whip out a feeding pump in the middle of a football field and start feeding him, so the stress level gets really high.”
    The Elkins family strives to create an organization that fuses research, family-based therapy and medical needs all under one roof. They hope to share their story with area families to open the conversation about conditions like Brodie’s. Kim said down the road, she would even like for the foundation to have a brick-and-mortar center in the community. Now, the pair is working closely with Akron Children’s Hospital’s Neonatal Intensive Care unit to begin developing a program.
    “Our main objective is to open a facility where you have everybody under one umbrella,” Kim said. “We need something where everybody’s working together to help the families, so you’re not going to 10 different professionals to find an answer.”
    Kim said it takes 31 muscles for a person to swallow, so there are many ways feeding can go wrong. She said eating is a learned behavior, so feeding issues cross neurological, medical and psychological fields.
    Page 2 of 2 - For Kim, though, the biggest issue with Brodie’s condition has been a lack of understanding from people around her.
    “Brodie has been to multiple doctors, and the one thing that’s always said to us is ‘He’ll get it, don’t worry, he’ll get it,’” she said. “Well, here we are a year later and we’re still being told ‘Don’t worry, he’ll get it.’ ”
    Jason and Julie said they don’t know for sure when Brodie will be able to eat on his own, but they cited a 14-year-old friend who still uses a tube due to a protein allergy.
    “I think it’s important for us to make it known to the community that there are kids with feeding disorders,” Kim said. “It’s almost like a silent disorder because so many people don’t know about it. You have so many different opinions from so many people in the medical field, and some families leave the state of Ohio to find answers, and we shouldn’t have to leave the state to find answers.”
    The C.U.P.C.A.K.E. foundation will host a fundraiser, “Tubing for Tubies” at Brandywine Ski Resort on Feb. 10 from 11 a.m. to 5 p.m. A portion of the proceeds from tubing and sled riding will go toward the foundation.
    For more information about the foundation, visit www.cupcakefoundation.org, visit their Facebook page or call 330-808-2160.