Thursday, June 11, 2015

Fifth Grade Graduation Day

Here we are.  Fifth grade graduation.   The school gym is hot and sticky.  It is noisy with kids eager to get summer vacation started.  The smell of sweaty kids is in the air.  There is laughing and talking and all the echoes that a gymnasium brings.  Parents have gathered with their cameras and video cameras to watch their 5th grader move on to middle school.  I smile at my husband who has been my rock, then I slowly scan the room taking it all in.  The proud parents smiling.  The wistful parents with misty eyes.  The busy parents chatting with each other.  And I am amazed that we even got here.

For me, this day brings a multitude of emotions.  My 5th grader is not your typical 5th grader.  She has challenges.  She was born with a major brain bleed that affects her motor skills.  She has autism.  She has autoimmune and other medical diagnoses.  I flashback to when she started kindergarten here, seven years ago.  Marley was five and she and I were both frightened.  She had to be in a self-contained classroom because she couldn’t tolerate any sensory stimuli.  She had a few words but she did not talk in complete sentences.   Many days, I had to carry her into the school, kicking and screaming where I would place her into the care of “autism specialists” and they would escort her into a tent in a quiet corner of the room where she spent most of the day shivering and receiving therapies in the tent.  I would walk back to my car and cry for hours, not knowing if I could stand the pain much longer.  It was a heartbreaking time. 

The following year, she was left behind to try kindergarten again.  This year, they would try to bring her to the mainstream kindergarten classroom for a few minutes each day.  Maybe just for circle time so she could see what typical peers do.   She needed someone by her side every minute to keep her focused and engaged.  And even then, it didn’t last long.  Then, back to the self-contained classroom she went. 

In first grade, a boy in her self-contained class sent the special needs teacher to the hospital with a concussion.  When I brought her to school the next day, they had moved my daughter’s desk across the room…. To keep her safe, they said.    The boy had his own “body guard” assigned.  And my heart sank.  Something had to be done.  She could not stay in this environment.  We were still using hyperbaric oxygen therapy and getting progress but there had to be more.  I did more research.  Her diet was extremely healthy and free from anything inflammatory.  Then we found eosinpahilic esophagitis and removed eggs from her diet (in addition to the gluten and dairy and soy she was already free of) and removed the cat from the house and she got better still.

In second grade, I decided that I would take a leap of faith and enroll her in the Brain Balance Program.  It was my last ditch effort to get her mainstreamed.  By May, her team recommended full mainstreaming in 3rd grade.  I remember the school speech therapist saying... "Kelly ... this is a BIG deal. Once they are in self-contained classrooms, it is hard to get out."  I had to hold back my tears of joy.

Third grade in the mainstream classroom was quite an adjustment.  Her constant scripting (reciting lines to herself over & over again) was disruptive and her rigidity led to some meltdowns.  On her bad days, her screams of frustration were heard throughout the hallways.   However, her teachers called meetings often to discuss what we should do.  They involved me in her education.  They devised ways to keep her focused and her anxiety levels down with schedules and modifications.  And the kids….they embraced Marley.  They watched out for her.  If there were younger kids whispering about her in the halls, the kids in her class stepped forward and said something to those kids.  They would not tolerate it. 

Over the summer, we used ALA (alpha lipoic acid) and saw a whole new self-aware Marley emerge.  It took her healing to a new level and teachers noticed right away.
Fourth grade got better still, due in large part to a brand new, fresh out of school, teacher.  She was even-keeled, never got upset, and worked very hard to accommodate Marley and her needs while helping her reach her potential.  One day, she gave Marley a watch.  Marley had been anxious in music class and no one could figure out why.  Turns out, there was no clock in the music room, so Marley did not know when it was time to leave.  The watch changed things for Marley dramatically.  Her anxiety came way down.  Her scripting stopped.  We were off and rolling.  Her reading was on-grade level.  Math word problems were difficult but Math computation was her strong suit.  We got her a laptop so she did not have to hand-write everything and her creative writing took off too.

In fifth grade, Marley’s fourth grade teacher was moved up to fifth grade and Marley got to have her again.  We discovered via lumbar puncture that Marley has Cerebral Folate deficiency, and started her on Leucovorin for the folate and LevoCarnitine to support her mitochondria and it was like her brain suddenly had the energy it needed to THINK. 
It has also helped her anxiety a ton.  Her teacher raised money and bought exercise balls for the kids to sit on instead of chairs.  The kids loved them.  Marley loved hers too.  Marley got into a routine.  She was serious about her homework.  She did it right when she got home and often independently.  She was a transformed child. 

As I am reliving all of these memories, I realize that Marley is HERE… this big, noisy, echoing gym.  She is not sitting with me. She is not wearing noise-blocking headphones.  She is not stimming.  She is not flapping.  She is not scripting.  She is not in her own world.  She is not being escorted by an aide everywhere she goes.  She is sitting with her peers and then waiting patiently in line.  She is looking for us to wave at us.  She is smiling and fully connected.  She is aware of this moment and all the excitement this time brings for her.  And this makes my heart fill with pride and gratitude, for it is then that I grasp that sometimes you have to feel the pain and the struggle and do the incredibly hard work to really, truly feel the joy.  

Marley has waited patiently in line, and finally, her name is announced into the microphone.  When it is, an enormous cheer erupts from the audience. I gasp at the hoots and hollers for her and the enormity of support from her fellow students, other parents and teachers in this gym.  I start to shake gently as my tears start to flow.  It is evident that people love her and have been cheering for her right along with us.  Her success makes everyone in the building proud of her.  Marley takes her certificate and poses for a picture with her teachers and then very casually walks off stage just as she is supposed to do.   She stands and sings a song with her class to the parents.  She participates in a dance with the other kids and calmly watches videos of moments past.  Things that would have been impossible just a few short years ago.

I close my tearing eyes and just let these feelings rush over me like a tidal wave.  I slow my breathing and just feel the pure joy of the moment…… because I have no doubt there will be more challenges in the future but right now…..I just want to breathe in the happy.  

Saturday, April 11, 2015

The Wonders of Homeopathy

Since it has been about a year since we started on our journey with homeopathy, I figured it is good to sit back & reflect on just how far we have come in a year. 

A year ago, at age 3 1/2, my youngest was severely allergic to seemingly everything.  Foods, heat, emotions….even his own tears.  He was anaphylactic to dairy, eggs, peanuts, tree nuts and rashed terribly with gluten.  There were a host of new foods showing up on his allergy testing each year.  In all honesty, I was deathly afraid of what each day would bring.  We could not make it to breakfast without Zyrtec.  Any high histamine food (oranges, tomatoes, avocados, strawberries) would send him into coughing fits and he was covered in eczema.  Oh yes…and did I mention the eye itching?  Oh my goodness the eye itching!  The boy needed a cool washcloth over his eyes at all times of the day.  I was afraid he would hurt his eyes with amount of itching he did.  And forget it if he started to cry…..he was allergic to his own tears!  If he got upset (and what toddler doesn’t), he would get hives all around his eyes that itched like mad.  And if he ran outside in the heat, he broke out into an itchy rash.  He had cholinergic urticaria for which the allergists advised me to increase his daily antihistamine.   We had to leave several outings to come home & get him in a cool bath.  He was miserable.  Our family was at it wits end.  

Enter homeopathy. 

I needed something that was not allergenic and very gentle.  He was already on a great diet since he is allergic to most allergens anyway and we are a very low sugar, no chemicals kind of family.  Since allergies are a sign of the immune system gone awry, I needed something to help regulate it and bring his body into balance again.   I found a local homeopath that specializes in allergies via a dear friend and I considered it was worth a try. 

As I pulled up to his little quaint office and walked inside with my son, I found myself thinking “Please don’t be a witchdoctor!  Please don’t be a witchdoctor!”  I had no idea what to expect.  This homeopath was very gentle and sweet and I felt immediately at ease but the intake appointment was like nothing I had experienced before.  The questions were unexpected.  He asked about my son's ailments and the timeline in detail.  But he also asked about my son’s feelings, his demeanor, what he liked and disliked. Did he do better at the ocean or worse?  Did he tend to be cold or hot?  Did he like being held or not?  This was a whole new experience for me. 

I walked out of there very skeptical that there was anything this man could actually do for my son.  However, the hopeful side of me remained willing to try.  After two grueling hours of detailed questions, the homeopath gave me a remedy to try with Xander.  He said give only one dose.  A total of two tiny drops.  No follow-up doses until Xander's body did what it needed to do with the remedy.  Until his body had taken healing as far as it could with this remedy.  The homeopath warned me that sometimes you might see a very mild exacerbation of symptoms before you see healing.  This should be very short-lived and anything over a day should warrant a different remedy.

I went home and gave Xander 2 drops of his first ever remedy.  He got mild hives within 20 minutes of taking the remedy so I dosed Benadryl and waited.  By the next morning, he still needed Zyrtec as he started to rash up and get itchy before breakfast…as usual.  BUT….by third day, he did not rash before breakfast.  Or….anytime at all during the day.  And that was the end of our love affair with Zyrtec.  Just like that…..we no longer required daily Zyrtec with a splash of Benadryl added in here & there when needed.

I walked back into the homeopath’s office and said, “Okay.  You have my attention.  Tell me more about this homeopathy stuff.”

This is not to say his allergies are all gone……he still has severe food allergies, but we are continuing to work on it.  He no longer hives when he cries.  He can once again eat strawberries and oranges and chocolate….and other high histamine foods.  His color is much better.  He is no longer horribly pale. 

As symptoms pop up, we address them. 
My once chronically constipated little boy that alternated between loose stools and tiny ball poops and proclaimed by the ped GI doc to be "full of stool" according to his KUB is now regular due to ONE remedy.  After we solved that problem, he was finally potty-trained within a month. 

He was getting nightmares and could not sleep through the night without screaming out for someone to come into his room and he was terrified for us to leave.  After a few weeks of my sleeping with him… in his room… in his tiny twin bed and pure exhaustion, another call to the homeopath gave us a remedy to help him sleep through the night.  THAT was most welcome. 

Then he started getting chronic, daily bloody noses.  After many home remedies failed, the pediatrician said we needed to see the ENT.  The ENT said steroid nasal spray indefinitely.  One call to the homeopath and he said "we can stop bloody noses". I was skeptical but indeed…..after we tried a few different remedies, we hit on one that worked.  To be fair, the bloody noses have come back twice, but each time, the homeopath has given me a new remedy and it has worked.  Unbelievable. No steroids needed.

Around the holidays, he got sick with a cold and it was quickly followed by ear pain and a fever.  I know how antibiotics can ruin gut flora and I have seen many kids’ immune systems get crushed by using them, so I try to avoid them as much as humanly possible.  But when your child is crying in pain, you get scared.  It was 6pm on a Friday night.  I called the homeopath.  He gave me a remedy to try.  I had to run out to the store and buy it.  I did not treat his fever as that is the body’s way of burning off the infection.  We gave him the remedy and put him to bed.  I checked on him at 10pm, and he was sleeping soundly and the fever was gone.  He awoke with no pain at all and his nose started running…. relieving all that pressure.

The same thing happened while we were on vacation.  My son woke in the middle of the night with ear pain.  This time, he had different symptoms.  No fever and acted differently, so he got a different remedy the next morning when I talked to the homeopath.  Thankfully, I had my homeopathic kit.  The first recommended remedy did not work.  He tugged on his ear all day.  The second remedy was perfect and the ear infection was gone and drainage started.

Last summer, he had a bad rash on his lower legs.  Thankfully, the homeopath gave me a remedy and within a week, it was much better.  
Here is the rash before treatment:

 And this picture is one week after a remedy to treat it:

These are just a few examples of what homeopathy has done for us.

Homeopathy is the theory of “like treats like”.  It is based on the idea that substances that produce symptoms of sickness in healthy people will have a healing effect when you give them in very dilute quantities to sick people who exhibit those same symptoms.  Those very dilute quantities of substances are called remedies.  Remedies are meant to spark the body’s own healing processes and bring the body back to homeostasis.

Remedies are very specific to the individual and that is why using a homeopath to pick the correct remedies for you is very helpful and the only way to go if you are dealing with a chronic condition like allergies or asthma.

We have found homeopathy can be a lot of hit or miss.  You can miss a few times trying to find the right remedy...but when you find it, it is like you have won the lottery.  It is amazing to see.

You are not supposed to touch the remedies.  Just dump it into your mouth and suck or dilute it in water and give a few drops of water. They are sugar pellets sprayed with the remedy, so touching it may rub off the effect.

This healing journey has taken us many places and I am so grateful it led us to homeopathy.  I don’t want to imagine where we would be without it.