SACRAMENTO (CBS13) – A family is sharing their battle with a mind-boggling disease that’s tough to diagnose. They hope their story will prevent other families from having the same struggle.

Little Piper Gengler was born a happy little girl at a healthy 10 pounds, but one year later, her mother, Courtney, would experience the most stressful time of her life.  Piper had just started eating solid foods when everything went downhill.

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“We didn’t know what was wrong. We thought we were going to lose her. She was screaming out. Living off of milk and popsicles. We thought the worst. We feared the worst,” said Courtney.

By the time Piper was admitted to UC Davis Children’s Hospital, you could see her ribs and spine.  She couldn’t even walk. That’s when doctors diagnosed her with Celiac Disease.

UC Davis pediatric gastroenterologist, Dr. Kelly Haas, says while Piper had a rare extreme form of the disease. it’s actually more common than many think.  And an early diagnosis is critical.

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“Over time, that damage to the small intestine can cause issues with absorption of nutrients, issues with growth,” said Dr. Haas.

“No one in my family had Celiac. It never crossed my mind that that could be what it was. So it was traumatizing for the entire family,” said Courtney.

Piper is probably more advanced on healthy eating than most of us, but she’s now a healthy happy three-year-old.

“I would suggest any parent ask your doctor to test for celiac. It was a simple blood test,” said Courtney.

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