Sheila Pitre 2013 Thibodaux Children's Clinic Doctor's feature for Voila!Dr. Sheila Pitre (BS ’87)

21 years in practice | Pediatrics | The Children’s Clinic of Thibodaux

“I grew up in a farming family, and my parents insisted that we went to college. If we could stay local and save money, then we did. When I got to medical school, I realized that Nicholls had given me a very strong base. The pre-med classwork really helped me get through the first couple of years in med school.”

I knew one thing when I started medical school — I would never go into pediatrics. When I did my pediatrics rotation, though, I fell in love with it. I enjoyed the patients and the parents, and I guess it was meant to be.

I’ve kept a picture of one of my patients — Isabel — on my desk for a long time. I started seeing her as a newborn. We weren’t sure what was wrong with Isabel at first. She would slough her skin and hair very rapidly. She couldn’t sweat. She grew teeth very quickly and then lost them by 6 months old.

I started doing some research and sent her files to a geneticist who diagnosed her with a rare form of ectodermal dysplasia, a genetic condition with only six previously reported cases in the world. All of the tissues in her body were aging rapidly, which led to infection. There’s no cure. All I could do was try to prevent her from getting infections and to intervene quickly when she did. Because she couldn’t sweat, temperature control was critical, too, and I monitored it regularly and tried to maintain a steady balance in her body.

Isabel was a fighting little girl. She enjoyed going to Disney World and spending time at her family’s camp in Mississippi. She loved life and so did her family. Kids tend to handle illness — even fatal illness — better than their parents do. They’re more worried about their parents than they are about themselves.

We lost Isabel one year ago at the age of 5. You try your best to help, but there are those kids who you just can’t save. I believe that God put these kids on earth for a reason, and that’s to teach us how precious life is. Isabel was one of those kids. She was a blessing.

— Written by Stephanie Verdin, publications coordinator

This article originally appeared in the fall 2013 issue of Voila! magazine. Click here to read the entire issue.