Desperate families turn to hospitals when their hunt for formula comes up dry

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(CNN)Three-year-old Alexis Tyler survives connected Gerber Lil Crunchies food puffs and the cocoa spirit of a specialty nutritional look called Neocate. Her parent hasn't been capable to bargain that look for her since March.

In the adjacent fewer days, doctors volition commencement the process of admitting Alexis to the infirmary to surgically implant a conduit into her tummy truthful her parents tin provender her thing else.

Alexis Tyler.

The babe look shortage successful the United States has meant large stress, inconvenience, and disbursal for millions of families, but for immoderate children, the hunt for look has led to the infirmary erstwhile their families can't consistently find the benignant they need.

The occupation doesn't look to beryllium common. According to interviews with children's hospitals astir the nation, astir infants and children—even those connected specialty formulas—have been capable to enactment with nutritionists to find acceptable substitutes. But immoderate haven't yet recovered thing that works for them, oregon their families can't find it consistently.

Alexis has autism spectrum upset and refuses to devour immoderate different foods. The look provides each her nutrition.

"We've had to support her connected formula. She's been connected it her full life," says her mother, Nicole Tyler, who lives successful Clinton, Massachusetts.

Alexis usually drinks 3 sippy cups of the Neocate look a day. But with her stash of cans dwindling—her ma says she has conscionable 2 left--Nicole has been much cautious astir giving it to her.

"If I could archer she's successful a mood, similar 'I don't privation to instrumentality this close now' I conscionable wouldn't marque one," Nicole says. "I've been trying to ration it a small bit."

Alexis was holding her ain connected the maturation charts, but successful the past fewer weeks, she's mislaid 3 pounds, which is 10 percent of her assemblage weight.

Alexis is moving with therapists to effort to grow the scope of foods she'll eat. But truthful far, she volition conscionable play with different foods with utensils. She won't devour them.

"Probably fractional the time she'll conscionable beryllium with maine and conscionable privation to laic down. She doesn't truly privation to play," says Nicole.

"She's bare each the time," Nicole says. She doesn't person arsenic overmuch vigor arsenic she utilized to.

Alexis Tyler and family.

Alexis's doctors astatine UMass Memorial Medical Center person grown truthful acrophobic that they could admit her arsenic soon arsenic time to commencement the process of surgically implanting a conduit into her tummy truthful her household tin provender her.

"When we're bypassing taste, it allows america to prime different enactment that's disposable and akin to what she needs," Nicole said.

Nicole says she is heartbroken that they person to instrumentality specified a drastic measurement to assistance their daughter. She says they were trying to get by until the look was backmost successful stock.

"But astatine this point, there's nary day that it's going to travel backmost into stock. So I was near with nary prime but to see country due to the fact that I person nary different mode to provender her."

Outrage and distress

There's nary mode to cognize precisely however galore children person tally retired of look options. No 1 is keeping track.

"I'm definite determination are small stories similar this going connected each implicit the country," said Dr. Jenifer Lightdale, the pediatric gastroenterologist who is treating Alexis.

In summation to children who request to beryllium admitted to beryllium fed, Lightdale says they are seeing hopeless families travel to the exigency country erstwhile they tally retired of look and can't find immoderate more.

"I deliberation astir of america person been benignant of outraged, I would say, and distressed," she says. "It's similar a regular acquisition close now."

"In presumption of numbers, it's hard to accidental but we certainly, you know, fundamentally having a mates astatine slightest each time oregon 2 showing up," she says.

2 children hospitalized successful  Memphis due to the fact that their specialty look   is retired  of stock

Kathy Merrill, a caregiver that works with Lightdale, says that adjacent erstwhile their families are capable power to a antithetic formula, that power sometimes has consequences for kids with precise circumstantial dietary needs.

She says successful astir 25 percent of cases they've had to adhd medications to assistance with caller symptoms caused by the change, specified arsenic acerb reflux oregon constipation.

Some children haven't been capable to find thing other that works for them.

'What times are we surviving in?'

Clover Wheatley was tiny erstwhile she was born, conscionable 5 pounds. But now, astir 3 months later, she's had specified a hard clip feeding that she lone weighs 7 pounds, erstwhile she should measurement person to 10.

She has aesculapian problems that person prevented her from breastfeeding. She was besides calved with allergies to dairy and soy.

Even erstwhile her ma eliminated those foods from her diet, Clover wasn't doing good connected her pumped breastmilk, "she conscionable wasn't tolerating it," Savannah said.

Clover Wheatley.

The pediatric gastroenterologist who treated Clover astatine Shawn Jenkins Children's Hospital suggested Neocate, an easy digestible amino acid-based look that is besides hypoallergenic. It doesn't incorporate dairy oregon soy.

"They wouldn't nonstop america location with immoderate from the infirmary due to the fact that of the shortage," Savannah said, and aft a mates of days, erstwhile her household couldn't find any, Clovers doctors tried to power her to a antithetic formula, called Nutramigen, but the babe couldn't tolerate it.

So Savannah has been spending hours each time scrolling done each Facebook radical for families seeking Neocate and the household has friends crossed the state looking for them. They've driven to drugstores 45 minutes distant from their home, adjacent aft they've called first, conscionable to beryllium definite the store is truly out.

"No stores merchantability it. It's similar intolerable to find radical who bash merchantability it. They don't person it successful stock," Savannah says.

For a while, they were capable to bargain it straight from Nutricia, the manufacturer, but the institution has tally retired of stock, though a connection connected their website says it volition beryllium successful banal soon.

Nutricia did not instantly respond to CNN's telephone enquiry to find retired much astir their proviso issues.

The household has conscionable a fewer cans left. Clover was precocious admitted to the infirmary for the 3rd clip with a viral corruption and a diagnosis of nonaccomplishment to thrive, due to the fact that she conscionable isn't eating enough. After each the look switches, her ma says she's conscionable refusing to eat.

Savannah says she doesn't cognize if they'd beryllium successful the infirmary close present if they could find capable look for their daughter.

"A batch of the recommendations that we've been giving to families [to get done the shortage] enactment for most, but not all," says Dr. Elizabeth Mack, main of pediatric captious attraction astatine Shawn Jenkins. "Children that person important malabsorption issues requiring extensively hydrolyzed oregon amino acid-based formulas... there's nary store marque for that," Mack says.

Two days ago, Clover had a gastrostomy tube, oregon G-tube, surgically placed straight into her tummy truthful her parents could provender her much easily.

"We were benignant of pushed by doctors to bash a G-tube to fundamentally assistance her get the nutrition that she can't instrumentality by mouth, oregon conscionable to springiness her much nutrition successful general," Savannah says.

Now they person a medicine for formula, which is simply a relief, but the institution that volition proviso it to them can't warrant they'll beryllium capable to get Neocate. They've lone promised to proviso 1 of 3 imaginable options.

Clover Wheatley.

"Neocate is the lone look that she's consistently taken," Savannah says. "Our biggest happening close present is truly not knowing what to bash if we spell location and don't person the Neocate."

She says they don't cognize if she'll beryllium capable to tolerate different formulas. The G-tube volition help, but they're disquieted that if they can't consistently get the aforesaid benignant of formula, Clover won't larn to vessel provender well, which volition conscionable prolong her feeding difficulties.

"What times are we surviving successful close now?" she says. "It feels precise bizarre to beryllium honest."

A continuing crisis

A doc astatine Le Bonheur Children's Hospital successful Memphis, Tennessee, says helium admitted 2 young patients -- a toddler and a preschooler -- due to the fact that the specialty look they request is retired of banal and they haven't been capable to tolerate immoderate replacements.

The toddler, who had been successful the infirmary for astir a week, was discharged Tuesday. The preschooler, who was admitted successful April, remains successful the hospital, according to a infirmary spokesperson.

"It's been a situation since February of shifting and trying to sift done and fig thing other to work," Dr. Mark Corkins, a pediatric gastroenterologist astatine the infirmary who is treating the patients, told CNN successful a telephone interview.

Corkins specializes successful treating problems with digestion and absorption. He says helium has betwixt 15 and 20 patients that his squad is moving intimately with to find solutions to the look shortage.

Both of the children hospitalized successful Memphis person abbreviated bowel syndrome and can't sorb full-size proteins. The information is rare, affecting astir 25 retired of each 100,000 newborns.

Biden invokes Defense Production Act to code  babe   look   shortage, among different   actions

They trust connected a look made of amino acids, the gathering blocks of proteins. These broken-down proteins don't person to beryllium digested; they tin conscionable beryllium absorbed by the gut.

Formula shaper Abbott produced astir 80% of the specialty look they need, a marque called EleCare. When its Sturgis, Michigan, accumulation works unopen down successful February, patients connected that look were switched to those made by smaller suppliers, and present those stocks person tally retired too, Corkins said.

He said they tried to usage different kinds of formulas, made with chopped-up proteins, but it didn't work. The kids couldn't tolerate them and became dehydrated.

"In the hospital, we springiness them IV fluids, and the different happening we springiness them is IV nutrition. That's not ideal," helium said. The doctors privation to provender these children by rima truthful they tin usage their gut. The much they usage their gut, the much it develops.

Corkins says some children are different steadfast capable to beryllium astatine home. They were hospitalized truthful they could beryllium fed.

Calling for agelong word solutions

"While each U.S. hospitals usage babe look and accessories, particularly those with birthing and pediatric units, children's hospitals are much apt to usage specialty formulas that conscionable the unsocial nutritional needs of the sickest infants and children. Many of these families indispensable spell to the infirmary arsenic a past edifice for their kid to beryllium fed intravenously," the Children's Hospital Association said successful a written statement.

The occupation has go truthful superior that connected Wednesday, President Joe Biden invoked the Defense Production Act to compel companies that marque ingredients for babe look to prioritize transportation of those supplies to look manufacturers. The medication besides plans to usage authorities contracted cargo planes to alert look successful from different countries.

The Children's Hospital Association said they were encouraged by these steps and were cautiously optimistic that these efforts volition easiness the situation and guarantee the harmless feeding of the nation's children.

"We besides request agelong word solutions to debar aboriginal crises. We proceed to enactment with the FDA and manufacturers to place and employment strategies to debar aboriginal shortages and to guarantee that the astir susceptible patients person the captious nutritional supplements indispensable to their treatment," the connection said.

CNN's Elizabeth Cohen contributed to this story.