Thursday, March 13, 2008

We don't need to borrow trouble, we have enough of our own.

Sometimes I think that it's a good thing we're not doing foster care anymore. Too much trouble. There's only so many times I can watch the system screw up a perfectly good child.

But things Chez Us have not been calm and relaxed since ending our relationship with The County. Nor has bringing home our beloved Squeak been everything we hoped for and more.

Okay, that's not really what I mean. Squeak HAS been everything we hoped for. And more. He's beautiful and loving and sweet and the best little Squeak ever. He's my boy. I love him with every fiber in my being. Definitely deeper than I loved Niblet or any of the other foster kids. (I can't say that I love him *more*, though. It's complicated.)

Squeak, however, is sick.

I mentioned his eczema in the last post and a few of you who have been down this road brought up allergies. Oh yes, eczema is a huge red flag for allergies. Squeak came to us at 6 weeks old. By 8 weeks he had a little spot of something on his cheek. Then his chin. Then they got bigger. Then they started to ooze. We tried anti-fungals, we tried soothing ointments, we tried a shitload of stuff. We eventually realized it was eczema and we tried a shitload more stuff. We went to a dermatologist, a homeopath, a naturopath. We wanted to avoid using steroids, because that just suppresses the reaction and can lead to worse problems, like asthma. If you can find it on the internet or buy it at a drug store, we tried it.

We found out about the eczema/food allergy link and went to a pediatric allergist looking for a prescription for a blood test. Because we are breastfeeding Squeak, we had already put ourselves on an elimination diet, eliminating the top-8 most likely food allergens. We got the blood test and, when it came back, it showed that Squeak is, in fact, allergic to quite a number of things.

milk, soy, wheat, egg, peanuts, most other nuts. We were also told to stay clear of all other beans, as well. Any of these are liable to give him an anaphylactic (life-threatening) reaction. Good times.

We didn't eat meat to begin with and, although fostermama is happy to eat some chicken and fish, I have spent my whole life as a vegetarian and my body just doesn't react to meat very well. I tried, even. No good.

You may notice that this list doesn't leave room for much in the way of protein. Add to this that the test only covered a dozen or so foods. He may very well be allergic to other things not tested for. So our best option was to put ourselves on a Total Elimination Diet. Where we eat one protein (in our case, nutritional yeast), one grain, one vegetable, one fruit, one oil. For a Really Long Time. And see if his reactions (the eczema) go away or calm down.

This is what we did. When faced with a child who looked very much like a burn victim, eating 6 things for the foreseeable future didn't seem like such a bad idea.

We also started topical steroids. Squeak was just TOO uncomfortable from the constant itching and pain. We were exhausted from spending all day keeping him from scratching himself. None of us were sleeping well. We tried a couple of anti-histamines, but they didn't do much of anything. So we were out of reasonable options. Steroids and an elimination diet were IT. (Yes, we could have weaned him to a non-allergenic formula like Ne0cate, but that stuff is expensive and disgusting, so it wasn't a choice we were willing to make.)

The steroids, and two 20-minute baths per day, cleared him up very quickly. Within a month, he had picture-perfect skin. He was no longer miserable. Then we started the long road toward introducing foods and healing his body so he can, hopefully, reduce his allergies and keep his skin clear even without the steroids.

Basically, that's where we've been since the summer. After a month or so on the original diet, we started adding in foods one at a time to test for a reaction. We couldn't add a food when he had a cold (which happened pretty often this winter) and when he had a reaction (we've found allergies to a few other things that weren't tested for) we had to wait a few weeks until that cleared. Now we have about a dozen foods we can eat. We have to buy all our brown rice in 25-lb bags so we know it's not cross-contaminated with wheat. We buy gluten-free (wheat-free) rice pasta. We don't buy anything packaged until we've contacted the company and asked about their processing and packaging and if the food is ever in the same room as one of his allergens. It's a PITA.

This whole process has thrust us into the world of food allergies in a way we never expected. We took a ton of books out of the library and read the internet for hours trying to figure out how to manage his life from here on in. Whereas, when we had Niblet, we spent time researching the effects of prenatal cocaine on a child, that was something that had already happened to her. This is something that is bound to get MORE dangerous as he grows up. It's a whole new level of scary.

So, yeah, we're not likely to get back into foster care anytime soon. We have enough going on.


Amanda said...

Oh Wow. That is a lot to deal with. I am glad that you've seen some improvement, but sorry that it's such an arduous process.

Good luck. Hang in there and know you're doing what's best for him, even if it totally sucks for you :-)

fostermama said...

What FosterMommy forgot to mention is that we also had to give up our first babies - our two cats. Squeak tested allergic to cats and dogs, so the cats are now living with my mother. We miss them!

Innocent Observer said...

This sounds just like my oldest. He had so many allergy issues, and the excema, oh thank god it's over!

My son did end up with an anaphalactic reaction after which they were willing to skin test him (they wouldn't before claiming he was too young). It was a nightmare.

He did outgrow all of his allergies, except the tree nuts and cats. And he did have a run in with HORRIBLE hives that lasted about a week before we figured out that he is allergic to down.

Best of luck. You are in the trenches right now but hopefully it will get better soon.

qUeEn oF tHe cAstLe said...

I am glad you've at least narrowed it down. Squeak is VERY blessed to have you two. Prayers that these are childhood allergies that will outgrow. You guys are amazing!

Julie said...

No fun! I am sorry you have had to go thru this- hopefully he will grow out of it long term. Hang in there!

stork&mondrian said...

My cousin was allergic to everything. Rice, corn, onions, cinnamon, eggs… you name it. She grew out of most of her allergies. It’s very hard to deal with severe food allergies at first, but it after a while it’s just like a reflex. Hang in there.

MommyNay said...

Mackenzie our 2year old also has multiple severe food allergies and excema. Our saving grace has been probiotics. Do you know if they would be an option for squeak? I just posted an article to one of my blogs--here is the link, though Im sure you could find more specific information elsewhere.... FWIW Mackenzie is also allergic to dairy and soy...she CAN tollerate Kefir very well and I add a probiotic capsule to it daily. Im not sure if Squeak is eating anything other than breastmilk, just thought Id toss it out there, though from the sounds of it youve already tried about everything so......