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Monday, September 26, 2011

On the Fringe

In case your wondering where we've been... 

Brayden was sick.  He was so sick for so long.  He didn’t have a terminal illness but his constant coughing, his incessant runny nose, the inability for my 11 month old to fall asleep for any length of time without gagging and chocking was killing us.  We don’t have a picture of him before the age of two where his little mouth isn’t draped open as he struggled to breathe.
At Children's Hospital, with a Sinus Infection
We went to the doctor every week from the time he was nine months old until he was well over a year.  He had multiple cases of strep throat, never ending ear infections, RSV, H1N1, pneumonia, reflux, bronchitis and more ear infections.  We were sent to the gastroenterologist, the pediatric pulmonologist and the ear, nose and throat (ENT) specialists.  He was prescribed 12 different antibiotics before his first birthday and was subjected to two different torture chamber style chest x-rays in the same amount of time.

The first time we saw the ENT, he took one look into his happy, cherub cheeked ears and asked how long our little fellow had been this way.  I counted back the months as he asked me if my beautiful little fellow was always this happy.  I proudly answered yes and sheepishly told him “That is why no one believes me when he is sick”.

Happy little boy, struggeling to breathe
At that Friday morning appointment just before Christmas, just before his first birthday, Brayden was scheduled for emergency Eustachian tubes to salvage his hearing.  He was also scheduled for three very painful intramuscular injections of antibiotics to try to clear up the persistent infection before the surgery.  We scrambled through a pre-operative exam and held his chubby, little body to the table as he received his shots;  one on Friday, one on Saturday and one on Sunday.  The emergency surgery was at eight a.m. on Monday.

After his procedure the Harvard educated doctor came out to meet with me and tell me how it went.  They had to remove quite a bit of gunk, but with the drops he gently placed in my hands that would help with healing, instructions for keeping water out of his ears and wishes for a merry Christmas, he predicted far fewer ear infections for the future. 
Cheerios can get stuck pretty easily when your nose never stops running!
A lot of things were new when Brayden first started to get sick.  We had just moved to our new house with a new climate; he was in a daycare center with 250 other kids and he had been on solid foods for about four or five months.  We started making changes to see what would help.  I cleaned like I had an obsessive compulsive disorder and cried because I couldn’t keep our wooden floors clean enough.  We interviewed smaller daycares and started making changes to his diet, eliminating certain items while adding things that we had heard might help.  In spite of all of that, his ear infections continued and his doctors were no longer helpful.  The general practice doctor continued to write scripts and was unbothered by the sharp drop from 50th percentile to 30th percentile on the growth charts.  The pharmacist greeted us by name as passed by to pick up toothpaste and cotton swabs.  The pulmonologist couldn’t pin point the coughing but told us if we thought dietary changes were helpful to please continue them.  I drew the line when the gastroenterologist recommended more tests.

No one could tell us why our little one, the first love of our combined lives, was so sick all of the time.

Learning to cover his cough
He slowly disintegrated into a toddler who was hyper emotional and susceptible to very low moods.  We would find out later that his attention span was also quite a bit shorter than an average toddler taking away the baby who could sit with his parents and a pile of books leaving behind a toddler without any interest.  We continued to struggle with his health after the birth of our second son, Jack.  Jack’s first ear infection provided our second big break at improving Brayden’s health.  I refused to struggle through the antibiotic process again.  After so many antibiotics, Brayden was in the process of being tested for C-Difficile, a dangerous and life threatening condition that is caused by the overuse of antibiotics, usually seen in geriatric populations in long term care facilities.  The doctors had dismissed his diarrhea as a symptom of toddlerhood and too much juice.  Our third general practice doctor finally understood my concern that this was not normal and after taking his case history and antibiotic use into consideration, she had him tested for several other antibiotic resistance related troubles as well.

When Brayden was first troubled by ear infections we had heard others had great success with chiropractors.  I had met a pediatric certified chiropractor that was covered by our insurance, and I kept her card.  When Jack’s fever started and he began rubbing his ears, I didn’t even bother with the doctor.  I went straight to the chiropractor’s office.  She adjusted baby Jack while he wiggled and massaged his lymph fluid away while we talked.  She supported my efforts to improve their health and decrease the ear infections by cutting dairy out of their diet.
Cutting dairy out of our diet (I was breastfeeding baby Jack) was the only thing that had done what the Eustachian tubes were supposed to do: stop the ear infections for Brayden.  It also cut Jack’s reflux and gas issues; he was no longer as stiff as a board all day and night.  We remained puzzled by cradle cap, eczema and “toddler diarrhea”, but were exceedingly relieved to be able to sleep at night without waking up to coughing and choking.  It had been a long road and we were becoming worn out.

While Brayden was busy struggling to grow and breathe, my sister started to see a naturopath.  He lifted the fog that enveloped her every day.  He helped her to stop her near constant migraine pain and avoid a costly gall bladder removal.  She recommended repeatedly that we take Brayden to go see him.  We weren’t opposed to natural remedies; we had such wonderful success with our sweet chiropractor.  But we struggled with the upfront costs that weren’t covered by insurance.  Those up front costs that were in addition to the medical costs that actually were covered by insurance but that we were already struggling heavily to pay.  We knew we had to do something different.  Gratefully, Brayden’s C-Difficile tests came back negative, but he was still struggling.  So I made an appointment and sold our horse trailer to raise the cash for his appointment and some of his conventional medical bills. 

The majority of our appointment with the naturopath was spent in education.  He took about 10 minutes to diagnose Brayden and didn’t even need to listen to his long medical history.  Brayden’s diagnosis was simple but frightening…and changeable.  He had a toxic level of yeast in his short little body.  He was only absorbing about half of his vitamins and minerals.  He explained why my short, well fed toddler was growing so very slowly.  He explained that eliminating the dairy had helped with the symptoms, but never completely eliminated the problems leaving behind the tummy and skin troubles.  He explained that grains go undigested and unabsorbed by those under the age of five.  He sent us home with supplements for both of our children and dietary changes that would help them become healthy children with growth and breathing unhindered.

We followed his “prescription” to the T.  Drops were taken three times a day and no grains or sweets for Brayden, Jack or the mommy who was making his milk, until our follow up appointment two months later.  Miraculously, things began to change.   Baby Jack’s gas pains subsided, his reflux faded away and so did his eczema, cradle cap and the stiffness that held him like a board every day.  The best news of all was that Brayden’s diarrhea stopped (even though he still drank juice!).  Brayden’s snoring stopped.  During the day, he could breathe without wheezing and could even pass air through his nose.  He didn’t cough through his sleep or gag on his tonsils anymore.

I don’t wake up at night anymore because the house is quite, because no one is snoring or chocking and I am afraid that means not breathing.  I wake up because Brayden is growing and his little legs and feet hurt.  I get to watch him sniff at flowers, and spices, and dirty diapers and mommy’s hair and daddy’s shaving cream  and try to figure out what smells and why.  We are back to sitting with books, reading and telling silly stories and jokes with baby Jack.  His low moods are few and far between and don’t last for hours, but for much more normal toddler lengths of time.  In addition to running around and acting silly he will color or paint on his own again.  He works on puzzles with concentration and success. 
Brayden and Baby Jack, "reading" a book together
He is well on his way to a healthy life, saved from an eternity of sickness, of discomfort and mysterious pain and freed to a life that is comfortable and long, God willing.  When we look back at those pictures, I wince at how sick he was.  His cheeks always flushed, his mouth always agape, struggling for air or blood dripping from his ears-all of that is such a stark contrast to the beautiful calm face we are graced with today.  The same beautiful, happy eyes, ringed with his daddy’s dark lashes, the same cherubian cheeks, always in a smile.  Now his closed lips curve into that smile too.  It was a very hard fought, very expensive lesson in parenthood, nutrition, life and grace.  And we will never be afraid to be “on the fringe” again.

1 comment:

Kayla said...

So excited you're back and that your boys are doing so much better. Praise the Lord! :)