August 15, 2008

Young Patient Attracted National Attention

By Brian Bowling

Isabelle Christenson, 10, of Seven Fields in Butler County died at home Wednesday after losing her battle with mitochondrial disease.

Her case was featured in newspaper and television stories and received national attention after British doctors announced they were closing in on a cure for the disease.

Isabelle's mother, Michelle Christenson, told the Tribune-Review in January that she kept family and friends up-to-date with Isabelle's condition by using a blogging service,, provided through Children's Hospital of Pittsburgh.

It helped her to not have to repeat the highs and lows in dozens of phone conversations. "We live day to day with Isabelle," she said at the time. "We've learned not to take life for granted."

Mitochondria are cell structures that convert food into energy for muscles and organs. Mitochondrial disease is a category of about 40 diseases in which different groups of mitochondria do not adequately convert food and cause different body parts to fail.

Isabelle had a stroke when she was 4. She underwent a multiple- organ transplant in 2004 because the nerves in her gastrointestinal tract didn't work properly, a condition known as pseudo obstruction.

She received a kidney transplant in 2006, and she received monthly blood infusions to supply blood cells and platelets her bone marrow wasn't producing.

She is survived by her parents, Michelle and Dan Christenson; her older sister, Madeline, at home; and her grandparents, Barb and Jim Shumaker and Paul and Karol Christenson.

Friends will be received from 2 to 8 p.m. Friday at Devlin Funeral Home, 2678 Rochester Road, Cranberry. A memorial service will be conducted at 2 p.m. Saturday at Cranberry Community United Presbyterian Church, 2662 Rochester Road, Cranberry.

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