On any given afternoon Matthew Rankin can be found playing on the swings, running around his house with a plastic sword and even handcuffing his mother Lisa. You wouldn't know the 5-year-old Stamford boy has eosinophilic esophagitis, or EE.

“He is like every other child out there, until it’s time to eat,” Lisa Rankin says of her youngest son.

EE is a disease in which higher than normal amounts of white blood cells attack the esophagus, Cincinnati Children’s Hospital’s website says. The attacks are brought on by food allergies. Matthew’s allergies include wheat, dairy, soy and about five other types of foods. If Matthew eats any of these foods, he almost immediately begins vomiting and will have severe stomach pain, Rankin said.

The family members understand Matthew’s disease and have all adopted his diet, although friends often invite his two older brothers over for pizza, pork or whatever Matthew can’t eat. Matthew understands his limits and has never complained, Rankin said.

“If I say, ‘Honey if you eat this, your belly will hurt,’ and he is like, ‘No way,’” she said.

Matthew was diagnosed with EE just before he turned 2 when his parents asked his pediatrician about the disease. The disease was first identified in 2004 and is so rare it is often misdiagnosed by doctors and is virtually unknown by others, including Matthew’s pediatricians.

“I say he has eosinophilic esophagitis, and I get a blank stare for a good 10 seconds,” Rankin said, explaining trips to the pediatrician with her son.

In addition to avoiding certain foods, Matthew also takes corticosteroids and has an endoscopy done of his esophagus every three months at the Cincinnati Children’s Hospital so doctors there can track the progression of his EE. The Cincinnati facility is one of the few children’s hospitals to specialize in eosiniphilic disorders.

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