|Veronica, age 6 (Oct. 2011)|
Veronica was born after about five or six hours. She was 6lbs, 7oz and about 18" long. She did really well the first day or two, and just before we headed out of the hospital I noticed that she would vomit everytime she ate, so we called in the doctor and he said it was GERD, and I should consider putting her on medication for it. I considered it. For about ten seconds. I figured she would grow out of it. (She did not.)
Other than the GERD Veronica was the perfect baby. Always happy. Rarely cried. Content to be by herself. It was great... a totally different experience from our first born. She hit all her milestones on time, I think. Sat at six months, walked at 13 months, had a great vocabulary for her age. So I thought we were in the clear.
And then came the terrible twos.
Okay, so every kid has phases (for me I find the ages 3 and 4 to be the worst--so far) and having dealt with so many cousins and siblings, I knew the tug-o-war games two year olds can play, so we just dealt with it. Until two and a half came along and I sensed something was not quite right.
Veronica had always been so loving and sweet and kind and then one day, bam!, that all went out the window.
All of a sudden her new normal consisted of fits of anger (which were more like rages). She would hit herself. Scream about nothing. She was constantly whining and having meltdowns for no apparent reason. I figured she must just a strong-willed kid, so I put her in more timeouts, took away toys, and held her a lot. Nothing was working.
We stayed home almost all the time since I rarely had energy to take three kids (yes, we had another, Amy, when Veronica was about 19 months old) under the age of three anywhere, so I thought I'd enroll Regina and Veronica in ballet and gym classes. My thinking was that the kids needed to get out and maybe this would help calm Veronica down in some way.
Regina did well with ballet. Veronica did not. She would immediately cry and mumble things like "I can't do it. I don't want to. I just can't" and since she is a melancholic, I thought this was just her way, so I tried to teach her (well, as much as you can teach a two year old) fortitude. It was just 45 minutes a week, I figured she could handle that. At the end of the teaching year one of her teachers said "yeah, she gets very aggressive and tries to choke the other kids." To say I was shocked is an understatement. I told the teacher I should have been made aware of this from the beginning, not six months later. Not that it was her fault, really. She was young and tried to deal with Veronica on her own. So kudos to her for putting up with it that long.
Also once a week Veronica would go to gym class. She loved to run and be wild, so I thought this would allow her to be in a controlled situation and still allow her to have fun. She really struggled with it. She would sit on the mat, rock back and forth with her hands on her ears, and cry. As a parent I had two feelings: the first was "I have to make it better for her!" the other was "wait and see, maybe it's just a learning curve."
Now some of you are thinking "what the heck is wrong with you, woman?!" I should have immediately seen she was in distress and needed my intervention, right? Perhaps. I find that parenting is a lot like groping around in the dark and eventually you'll hit the right light switch. It's not that I didn't care. I was constantly worried about her. I just didn't know what to do, and I didn't have any proof that she was anything other than a headstrong little kid.
Anyway, I spoke with her teacher, an older gentleman who worked wonders with children. He really was so patient and loving with all the kids in his class, so I trusted him when he said "She's fine. You need to let her grow. And she has to learn that some things are hard and you have to work at it." Sounded plausible. We continued to go to gym and each week I would be a bundle of nerves while the teacher tried to instill fortitude into Veronica, who at this point was closer to 3 or 3 1/2 year old.
Life at home was really, really difficult. There were days where I would wake up crying thinking "how am I going to survive this day... having to take care of Veronica is like three full-time jobs and I have two other children to care for!" Those were the days I lived on Coke and prayers.
Everything set Veronica off. Her favorite dress was dirty... Regina took her coloring book... the milk was not the right temperature... the music was too loud... the music was too low... the lights were too bright... she wanted to sleep... she didn't want to sleep... the TV was too colorful... the food was too soft... the food was too warm or cold... e.v.e.r.y.t.h.i.n.g was a battle which meant tantrums ensued daily, often hourly. We couldn't go to certain restaurants since they played music. We couldn't go to many new places since change often freaked Veronica out. I once cut my hair about six inches and Veronica just could not handle it. "Why is your hair cut? Why did you do it? Is it coming back?!" This went on for about three days.
One day, after many talks with the gym teacher, I said "I just don't get it." And he said, very quietly, "you know, please don't be offended" (and here I thought he was about to tell me just how much I stink as a mother) "but have you ever... I hesitate to say it... considered that she may be autistic?"
I think I was too shocked to say anything.
By this point we were expecting another little one which meant I was on the verge of death (if felt like) and had to take care of Veronica. It was time to call in help. By the grace of God we found a really amazing nanny. Erika had been homeschooled, was very gentle and sweet, but knew all the tricks that children play, and knew how to eat well, so I knew I could trust her. Little did we know just how big of a part she was to play in our lives.
I would sleep most of the day and Erika would care for the kids from 8-12pm daily. Then I'd drag myself out of bed and we would confer about the children. Erika always had some great insights, but was never, ever pushy about it. She would always wait for me to ask "what do you think...?" before she'd offer her usual spot-on advice.
Most of our talks seemed to consist of Veronica and how to better deal with her. A few times I was so unwell that I would ask Erika to drive Veronica to her gym class. One day Erika came home from the class and said "The poor baby just can't handle it. She sat and cried and looked so sad... so I went in and got her. She just cried and cried and I said to her "you poor thing, you're just waiting to be rescued, aren't you?" And Veronica nodded "yes".
Broke my heart.
It was decided that something was not right and we would need to get to the bottom of it. A new doctor had moved into town and word on the street was that he really wanted to get to the root cause of medical problems, be all ears, and was very warm and listened well. So we signed up and went in.
He was told him about how rough the last year and a half had been. We talked about the dark circles (so bad she looked like she had been punched) under her eyes. The eczema that was always on her inner arm and behind her knees. Her dry, scale-like skin everywhere else. And her breath! Her breath was the worst I've ever been around. I asked "what is this white stuff caked to her tongue?" He says "Oh, kids get that when they've had a cold." Umm... she doesn't have a cold.
I told him that things were getting worse, not better, and that a couple of people (also the ballet instructor) had mentioned autistic-like behavior.
The doctor immediately rolled his eyes and said "she is not autistic!" I said I didn't think that term quite fit either, but there is definitely something wrong. His response was "no, she's fine, she's just a bratty kid."
Well, maybe, I say, but there's more to it. Maybe a food allergy? Some friends had mentioned food allergies can make kids weird. I thought *that* sounded weird, but I was willing to do anything. I asked him to run a food allergy test. He said " :::sigh::: I suppose we could do that, but you'd have to come back at the end of next month. We only do those test in bulk since it costs money."
Come again? You want me to take my obviously hurting child home for six weeks, bring her (and the other two kids) back in, so you can save some time and a few bucks?
I'M the one paying for it!
The lack of compassion, understanding, concern was astounding to me. This wasn't a two week phase, this was going on for close to two YEARS. And I wasn't in there asking for a pill to remedy her. I just wanted some answers.
I left the doctor feeling very alone and disheartened. How was I suppose to help her when I couldn't even understand her?
Erika had been telling me about things she had been trying with Veronica. Things like speaking softly, keeping things calm and quiet, and basically keeping stimuli down as much as possible. And while these things did help a little, it wasn't enough.
One day I was standing with Erika, talking about the kids, when Veronica was in the middle of a meltdown. I just looked at Erika and said "what is wrong with her?!" I felt like crying myself.
Erika said offered some thoughts and something like "we have a great chiropractor, maybe you would want to go in and see him?" Looking back, I am sure Erika had identified several things Veronica was having trouble with, but didn't want to usurp my role as the mother. She waiting until asked, but then was very good about voicing her thoughts.
A chiropractor, eh? But, wait, aren't they for the weirdo, health-nut people? Oh well, I'll try it anyway, I thought. I made the appointment and Dr. Rob spent TWO HOURS (he didn't even look at his watch!) talking to me and Veronica about the issues we were facing. In fact, he correctly identified several problems Veronica was having before I even gave him her history. I am a skeptic by nature, but I left that office a true believer.
This doctor wasn't the typical arrogant jerk like so many of the doctors I had seen before him. He was kind, yet firm, he listened, *really* listened and asked follow up questions that were actually pertinent to the discussion. In no way did he lord it over me that he was the doctor and I was just the lowly patient's mother. He respected me and my role in my child's life. No he wasn't arrogant, but he was amazingly smart and confident.
He recommended we check her spine (which was wacky), and that we have blood work drawn to check for food allergies and metal levels. and that I should come in often and see if we could get her back in order. Could he have been playing me for a fool? Yup. Would I have known any better? Nope. But my gut said this was the right fit, so we tried it.
The blood work came back that Veronica is allergic to dairy (except butter and yogurt) and almonds. On one hand, we were really happy to have some answers. On the other, it was such a bummer since the kids loved cheese. Veronica wanted to eat cheese all the time (apparently one sign that you are allergic/intolerant to a food is you constantly crave it since your body cannot process it). She loved grilled cheese, macaroni and cheese, pizza... etc. How was I now going to tell her she couldn't have that anymore?
The blood work also showed she had high levels of lead and aluminum. And when these two metals are combined it can be especially harmful. Scary! Even more scary was the fact that we had no idea how she would have ingested these things.
We immediately took her off all dairy. And we did a few things to get rid of the metals. Both of these things had side-effects, which basically intensified all the issues Veronica was already having (more rashes, more panicky situations, more sensitivity to sound) and we battled this for what seemed like forever (a few months?) until we slowly began to see some real progress.
During those few months it was a great trial. On many occasions Veronica and I would have to leave friends homes, family outings, turn off movies, not be involved in anything... anything that required Veronica to be in a group of more than two or three people never ended well. I took her out of gym (much to the chagrin of the teacher) and decided not to have her return for ballet. I still cried several times a week: the constant struggles, the relearning foods, devouring books and online articles (all while pregnant) and trying to do what was best for Veronica was really very difficult. After nearly two years of constant strife, I was ready for a break! But we made it through with our nanny, Dr. Rob, and supportive family members. Whatever the battle we had to fight, at least we had answers and a goal in mind.
Slowly, but surely, Veronica was getting much better. She really blossomed into a wonderfully sweet child. It seemed like a miracle to Tom and me.
Though she was 90% better, I knew there was still something else going on. And, again, I didn't know what. Erika came to the rescue! She had mentioned that her husband had some mold issues, and perhaps Veronica might too. Mold? I've never heard of mold causing health problems, at least, nothing serious. Erika provided us with some food for thought on mold and its effects*. I began reading like crazy and was astounded at what I found. Why does nobody talk about black mold?
My chiropractor (who was now seeing everyone on the family except me--don't touch me when I'm pregnant and dying, yo!) mentioned black mold and that we must have it in the house. I said we absolutely did not have black mold... we were the first owners of the brand-new house and I kept the place clean, thank you very much. Yet, Dr. Rob insisted that it was there somewhere. Uh-huh, okay.
A few months later Tom ended up in the ER with what we thought was a brain bleed (a story for another time), turns out it wasn't, but he was not himself and Veronica was not getting better. Okay, fine, I'll call the mold people! So I did. They found three different types of mold in my house. Two of them were not so bad, but then they said "you have black mold someplace!" What?!? The house is four years old, how could we possibly have black mold?!
Sure enough. It was all throughout the air condition system and was being blown out nearly constantly since we lived in the hot and humid South.. we had the AC on almost all year long. ACK! Turns out the AC people did not insult it correctly so the mold was eating the insulation and spreading. Eww. We had it removed immediately. Since I was pregnant, and the kids were so sensitive to it, and Tom was recovering at his mother's house, I decided to go to a hotel for three days until the mold was cleared out. So I'm at the hotel with three kids, pregnant, and ... a migraine hits. Fuuuuuuun times.
Once the mold was removed it seemed everyone was doing much better. Thank God!
I know Dr. Rob and Erika must have wanted to say "see????" but they didn't, because they're nice like that. Much nicer than I would be.
One last piece of the puzzle... we moved from Alabama to Kansas and put the kids in a great private school. Veronica began to revert back to her emotional meltdowns during school. Please, God, no, I can't handle this anymore! We struggled for about a few months and couldn't figure it out. I even tested the school for mold, but nothing came up. I finally took Veronica into a dentist, just for the heck of it, and it turns out she had a gum infection and several teeth which needed to be pulled and/or crowned. The dentist said the infection must have been there for quite a while and didn't we notice it was an issue? No, she had never complained about her teeth, I said. He told me to give her an antibiotic and bring her back to his office in two weeks for a full dental work up.
I did not give her the antibiotic, but did have her rinse her mouth with salt water three times a day for weeks. It took two full weeks for her gum to stop oozing gunk! She never developed a fever or any other symptoms, thank God. I did fill the antibiotic prescription just in case. An infection from the gum can quickly go to the brain, so I wanted to be ready if she started showing other signs of distress. Thankfully, we didn't have to use it!
After she recovered from her $4,000 worth of dental work, she was a completely new child. Now I can say she is 100% healthy. My gut is at peace once again. And now that we've GP, I am sure she will stay healthy for a long time to come.
By the way, the white coating on her tongue was from a major candida infection... not just something kids get from a cold. Dr. Rob identified this problem in her, and was able to get us started on high does of high-level probiotics. We also cut out unnecessary sugars and adding in a lot of fresh food. It took a few months, but we finally licked it, so to speak. And her awful breath went away! Halleluiah! She is still prone to yeast infections, so I always had/have to be vigilant with her... now that we've GP it has really helped her out a lot, and it has helped me keep my sanity.
Most days anyway.
Other benefits of her GP is her moods are much more consistent, she's more manageable, and sleeps much sounder.
To this day I can hardly believe that food, metals, and mold can have such a devastating effect on people. It's insane that these things can cause you to mimic autistic That is really scary. And, in a way, really awesome. It makes you realize that food is extremely important to life. So when people ask me why buying non-GMO food or clean, organic foods is such a big deal, I always wish I could give them a week with the "Old Veronica".
They would understand immediately.
Many, many thanks to Erika, her husband, and Dr. Rob for their constant support, suggestions, and patience with not only Veronica, but with me as well. I truly don't know what would have happened to my marriage, to my family, and to my mental state had we not been guided by these very special people.
*This is not the best article on Black Mold, but it's the first one I found when I Googled it, and it will give you some idea.