After 575 days on GAPS, Carter is offically healed. Now he eats everything!

After 575 days on GAPS, Carter is offically healed. Now he eats everything! Well almost everything! He's still eating a real food/non processed diet for the most part and we will stay away from soy in all forms and cauliflower, mainly because Mommy is still scared of those foods. We are sticking with the 80/20 ratio of foods because now he can indulge in a cheat every once and awhile and he's just fine!

Sunday, April 24, 2011

The Little Things

The little things. Today was a great day, perhaps one of the best holidays we’ve had in a long time. It was just so normal. The whole weekend was full of normal family activities. The boys spent the whole weekend playing in the backyard. We planted strawberry plants and tomatoes. Carter sprayed his brothers with the hose.  We colored eggs. The Easter bunny came last night and hid plastic eggs full of money and little dinosaurs. Carter ran around the yard with his brothers and never once did he feel left out.  There was a spaghetti dinner Saturday night with family in a house full of people who were very contentious about crumbs.
There were Easter baskets from Mimi, filled with toys, clothes and stickers. There was candy, but it wasn’t the focus, just a small addition. There was a basket put together full of things that Carter would like and that were safe for him. I cannot tell you how happy my ears were to hear Carter screaming at Caleb because he wanted his toy. Carter must have climbed up on the kitchen chairs a dozen times, despite the numerous times Mommy and Daddy told him no.
When it was time to clean up for the night, Carter ran right over to help. Daddy said, Who wants to help? And Carter yelled, I Do! He mustered up all his determination and height just to throw away a piece of trash. Me too, he said. He wanted to show Caleb that he could do it too.  Carter wants nothing more than to be JUST like his big brothers. If they laughed, he laughed. If they whined, he whined. If they coughed, he coughed If they picked their nose, so did he.
Carter got to be JUST Carter this weekend. He was defiant. He was silly. He was stubborn. He was loud. He was funny. He was Two.

Thursday, April 14, 2011

The Darkness

“The darkness is all he’s ever known”. I was having a conversation last weekend about Carter’s personality and whether his happy go-lucky disposition was something he was born with or a coping mechanism he used to adapt to the card Life dealt him. I said at first, that I thought maybe he was this way because he knew how dark life could be, and he had gained an appreciation that takes decades for most people.  “But the darkness is all he’s ever known”. The response resonated within me a truth that I had tried to ignore. Carter’s life had never been filled with the light that fills a newborn’s eyes. His eyes, instead, showed pain and hurt. He didn’t fall asleep knowing the safety of a night’s sleep. Instead, he knew nights filled with tears and fear. I always wondered why he held no grudge against me for allowing his pain to continue, for not being able to make him better. But now I realize, he didn’t know he was supposed to feel any differently. I never understood how he could empty the contents of his stomach over and over, bottle after bottle and still give me a smile that melted my soul. Now I do.
 His world is different than ours. It is probably this way for anyone suffering from a disease, syndrome, illness or any other chronic condition. The only difference is that Carter was born this way. He doesn’t know normal like we do. He has nothing to compare it to, and in some ways, I wonder if that makes him one of the lucky few. Someday, we will find a way to control his FPIES. And he will walk out of the dark for the first time in his life, and he will really feel the light that the rest of us take for granted.


Several weeks ago I was given the wonderful opportunity to go a 4 day cruise with my best friend. I made arrangements with family and some amazing friends to watch the boys while I was gone. We left on Friday for the 4 hour drive to Long Beach. Shortly after we got on board, I saw the most handsome man. We introduced ourselves and he even bought me a drink. As we started talking, I discovered that not only was he handsome, but he was funny and smart too. We talked about all sorts of things, everything really. There was none of that awkwardness you find in so many conversations. The more we talked, the more deeply I fell for this man. He had the most stunning eyes. I slowly began to forget all about FPIES and formula cost, food safety and calorie counting. By the end of the evening, I’d fallen head over heels for this amazing man.
FPIES has changed many things in my life in ways I could never have imagined. I have lost many things because of it, but I never thought I would have lost touch with my husband. When you go through this day after day, week after week, month after month, you enter into survival mode. Anyone who has ever had a newborn understands this phase of life. But with a newborn, it gradually passes, things get better, life moves on. With FPIES, things don’t get better. Instead, it is constantly one hurdle after another, often with barely enough time to catch your breath.
 Carter is my third child, so my husband and I have weathered the newborn storm and come out of it stronger every time. But chronic illness was a different monster entirely. We stumbled through sleepless nights well beyond the one year mark. Many days Eric would come from work, we would have dinner, spend some family time with the boys, put them to bed and then the game of tag would begin. We would tag IN for a 4 hour session of Carter Watch. When our 4 hours was up, we would tag OUT for some sleep.  We lived this way for months. Our life as husband and wife began to fall behind on our list of priorities. The time for long meaningful talks over a glass of wine after the kids went to bed, was replaced with vomit covered laundry and pure exhaustion. When we got married, I knew I was marrying my best friend, and it was this friendship that united us in our one goal of keeping our baby boy healthy and happy.
On that four day cruise, I left home with my best friend, but I came back with my husband. I rediscovered him and us and all the reasons we fell in love all those years ago.  FPIES has taken away so many things, but it has given it’s share of gifts as well. Because of FPIES, I now have a new found respect and admiration for the strength of love and the solidarity of marriage.  And I know that in the next wave that crashes, I won’t be standing here alone. I will never feel alone in this again.

The Black Market

The formula black market. Yep, that’s right. It’s not something that’s talked about much, but it exists for many of us. Our state has a program for low to no income families that will provide formula at no cost. California has not made it mandatory for insurance companies to provide coverage for prescription formula, so of course, they don’t. I should correct that; our insurance company will cover Carter’s formula, but only if he’s tube fed.  So what options does that leave us? We are a single income family with 3 children, one of whom needs $800 a month in formula to survive.  We can’t buy this formula at the store. It has to come from a pharmacy or directly from the company. We also can’t afford to spend nearly 1000 every month for formula. So what have we done? We’ve bought it from the cheapest seller, which is usually off of E-bay. Where do they get it? I don’t know and I never asked.  We got one shipment from a seller on E-bay and all the cans were marked with a “Thank you for shopping at Kroger’s” sticker. I am sure that at $27 a can, this person did not just have 24 extra cans lying around.
I was also told that there are people who qualify for the formula assistance, request these special formulas and then re-sell them. Money straight in their pockets!! I never would have equated formula with illegal drugs, until I drove 3 hours to buy 10 cases of formula out of a woman’s garage. I paid $150 for 10 cases, which is less than the price of one case. And that’s not even the worst of it. The formula was expired. It was only a month expired, but I still fed it to my son. I fed my son expired formula because someone somewhere thinks my son needs to refuse to eat, drop drastically in weight and reach the point where inserting a tube into my child’s nose or directly into his stomach is the only way to keep him alive, before they agree to pay for his life-sustaining formula.
I do not understand the logic of it, or the fight that we are in now to try to get our supplemental insurance to reimburse us for the cost of Carter’s formula. And then I remind myself of how lucky we are to have insurance. We have found ways to keep our little boy thriving. We have pushed through. But this is not a short term battle. Carter will need this formula for years, and we will continue to trade in the formula black market.

Tuesday, April 12, 2011

New Jersey . . . 9 Doctors later.

New Jersey was certainly a whirlwind. We flew out on Wednesday and came home on Friday. My biggest worry was how Carter would do on the airplane. We had a 45 minute flight and then a 6 hour flight. That’s a long time for anyone to sit in a plane, especially an almost 2 year old. I’m not bragging or anything . . . But he was amazing!! He LOVED being in the airplane. He didn’t throw a single tantrum about being confined to our laps and giggled through take off. He slept wonderfully and truly enjoyed the experience. When we woke up Saturday morning, Carter looked at me and said, “Mommy, Airplane?” I told him that, no, we were not going on an airplane today. He hung his little head and said, “Ohhhh”. I think we may have established a life long love for airplanes. I am so proud of him.
The doctor we saw was fully of experience and education, although she was short on time. They are now scheduling all FPIES appointments in the morning, but ours was made before this change and it was at 1pm. We didn’t get to spend much time talking to her, but she was able to put much of his story together from past cases. It was nice that the things we told her were things she had seen before. She is the first doctor in the 9 that we have seen, who has taken his lack of food digestion seriously. She gave us a sample of Creon, which is a digestive enzyme used in Cystic fibrosis patients. She suspects that Carter is lacking adequate enzymes made by the pancreas to help digest his foods. She also agreed that he is probably getting all of his nutrients from the formula and not from food. We were also told to start a probiotic, which we will begin today. Hopefully this will help balance out his gut and then we may be able to start passing foods again!
I asked about the respiratory reactions that we see in Carter and, although she has seen this in other patients, there is nothing that we can do for it other than treat the symptoms as they present. I have to remind myself that Carter is part of a very small, very rare group of children who are just bringing all of these issues to light in the medical community. They will not have answers yet, but they are acknowledging our struggles and one day, this will help so many other children.  One day there will be an answer for his reactions.
Dr. J and I have already been in touch via e-mail and she was wonderful and thorough in her response. I am glad that we made the trek to get another expert on our side. But not the waiting begins. It will take a month to get the test results back, and hopefully these results will shine some light on the maze and help us find the best path the take to heal Carter.