Samuel Horak loves food so much he started his own home-based restaurant at age 7.
Fancy’s, as he calls it, has been serving up pretty much anything and everything available in Sam’s Akron kitchen for the past 2 years.
“Sam loves to bake. And he’ll whip me up a grilled cheese for $1 or mix his brother an ice tea for 50 cents,” said his dad, Joe. “It all began when Sam spotted a Lego set he really wanted to buy and I told him he needed to earn some money to buy it.”
Joe, who previously worked at a restaurant, taught his inquisitive boy how to get around in the kitchen, just like Joe’s mother taught him how to cook when he was a boy.
Sam’s family became concerned about a year ago when this budding culinary artist started having trouble keeping his food down. And despite a growth spurt, Sam wasn’t gaining any weight.
“That’s the irony of it all,” said Joe. “Sam loves cooking and eating food so much, yet he was throwing up everything he ate. It started out slowly. Sam would get sick and throw up and we would think, ‘he’s got a stomach bug or he ate something bad.’ But over the last few months, it quickly worsened to the point where Sam was getting sick 5 to 8 times a day.”
Sam’s body was slowly starving itself by not allowing Sam to swallow food, to the point that Sam had to go on an all liquid diet and take special measures to remain in school.
After taking Sam to Akron Children’s gastroenterology department and undergoing testing, Sam was diagnosed with achalasia, a rare condition that makes it difficult for the esophagus to move food into the stomach.
The night before surgery, Sam and Joe went to work in Fancy’s kitchen and cooked up a batch of Sam’s famous brownies for Dr. Garrison and the medical team.
“Sam is one of the most thoughtful kids I’ve had the privilege to take care of,” Dr. Garrison said. “He knew he wasn’t going to be able to eat for a few days and was having an operation because he couldn’t eat without throwing up, and he still made brownies for all of us.”
The surgery was done laparoscopically with 5 small incisions.
“The main goal of the surgery is to open up some of the muscle fibers at the lower part of the esophagus and stomach to relieve the blockage or decrease the pressure,” said Dr. Garrison. “Sam told me the evening of his surgery that he could already feel a difference when he swallowed, so it’s a pretty satisfying procedure to do.”
Sam had fallen to 65 lbs. at one point. Since the surgery, Sam has gained 10 lbs. in less than a month and a half.
In the short term, Sam has his eyes on a new Lego set, but in the long term, he hopes to work at a local restaurant so he can save up enough money to open his own restaurant.
“But for now,” said Joe. “It’s just great to see Sam smiling and making food for the family again, and best of all, enjoying the fruits of his own labor.”