#HopeforCristina: Cristina Di Corte seeks a bone marrow donor at Sheridan


Just 70 people worldwide are reported to have a rare disease called Mitochondrial Neurogastrointestinal Encephalopathy Disease (MNGIE). It’s a disease that Cristina Di Corte, 23, was diagnosed with two years ago.

It forced her to learn how to walk again, and dropped her weight down to 68 pounds. The genetic disease affects the digestive and nervous system and worsens with age.

With help from OneMatch, a network dedicated to educating and helping find stem cells, Cristina and her dad came to Sheridan on Oct. 8, for a donor drive.

Cristina Di Corte helping a student with the swab kit.

Cristina Di Corte helping a student with the swab kit.

“I watched the video on Cristina and was touched by her story and her outlook on life,” said Robert Pace, a volunteer for OneMatch.

“She’s such a brave and strong person. She’s not only looking for a donor for herself, but is willing to help others find theirs.”

Both of Di Corte’s parents are carriers of the disease. “The two biggest symptoms I battle with everyday are vomiting and diarrhea,” said Di Corte.

“My stomach muscles don’t work well, which causes food to sit in my stomach. It creates bacteria, which causes those symptoms.”

Prior to the disease the Mississauga woman was a healthy high school student who loved eating and hanging out with friends. Soon after graduating high school, symptoms of MNGIE began to pop up. “People thought I was making myself sick, but I’ve always been petite. It kind of hit me out of nowhere,” said Di Corte.

Di Corte hooked up to her TPN machine, which helps her eat indoors.

Di Corte hooked up to her IV machine, which helps her eat indoors.

At first, she wasn’t sure what it was, so she sought medical help.“They checked for irritable bowels, colon cancer, celiac disease. Then they thought it was anorexia.” After getting checked for various diseases and even staying at an anorexia clinic for a week, Di Corte’s health took a turn for the worse.

“My body stopped working,” said Di Corte.

“It wouldn’t take to anything and you become drained.”

Di Corte ended up going to the hospital, where they inserted a catheter into her arm. It allowed her to access the food and medicine she needs to survive. After countless trips to the doctor with no new information, Di Corte started seeing a genetic doctor out of Mount Sinai Hospital in Toronto.

With his help, he was able to see that Di Corte’s stomach muscles weren’t working, although he wasn’t sure what the cause was. “He sent me to another genetic doctor who immediately told me that I had MNGIE. I did blood work, which had to be done twice. In total, it took six months for me to know for sure,” said Di Corte.

“They told me straight away that the only thing I could do would be to get a bone marrow transplant.” Another symptom is nerve damage, which Di Corte has in her legs and hands.

“It’s difficult walking. Last summer, I actually lost the ability to walk. I had to relearn how to walk on my own,” said Di Corte.

Di Corte hasn’t done everything on her own; she has help from her family. “It’s hard. That’s my daughter,” said Cristina’s father, Tony. “As a father, I would love to switch places with her, but that’s impossible. I hope that there is a match for my daughter.”

The catheter in Di Corte's arm that helps her eat.

The catheter in Di Corte’s arm that helps her eat.

When Di Corte was at her lowest, her siblings created a Facebook page and Twitter account, spreading the news of what had happened with their sister. With the buzz from social media, local news began to pick up Di Corte’s story and she now even has her own documentary.

Now at a healthier weight of 82 pounds, Di Corte hopes to find a donor and to start enjoying life to the fullest. She even hopes to be on Ellen one day. “My friends and family have sent info in, but didn’t hear anything back. I would love to be on Ellen.”

To get more info on MNGIE and how you can be a donor [modal id=”14507″ style=button color=default size=default]click here[/modal]

Di Corte's cabinet and fridge with all of her medicine and food.

Di Corte’s cabinet and fridge with all of her medicine and food.


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