Despite an appetite to rival a grown man’s, M’s weight stuck determinedly to the 9th percentile and considering his complete inability to be successfully potty-trained, this wasn’t really surprising. When I say he could eat as much as an adult, I’m not exaggerating – on one occasion he managed to consume more in a day than a good friend of the family, who had an extremely healthy appetite.
M was diagnosed early on by our GP as having “toddler tummy” and we were told that he would just grow out of it. This was a diagnosis that was going to dog our steps for the next 3 years. At this point, G developed some gastro problems of her own following a bout of food poisoning and another of gastroenteritis, and we established ourselves, as the medical tests proved inconclusive, that she was struggling with intolerances to wheat, dairy and oats. The thought had crossed our minds that perhaps M had similar intolerances, but our attempts to remove these from his diet showed no improvement, unlike for G.
It was armed with all of this knowledge, that I went back to the GP and insisted on a referral to a specialist, having kept an extensive food diary for a couple of months. This recorded not just what and how much M was eating on any given day, but also his sleep patterns (which continued to be poor) and his toileting habits. We also put together a list of our main points of concern. Preparation is key and we wanted to make sure we had a case to put to the specialist.
Our first appointment was disappointing. The specialist listened carefully, nodded sympathetically and instantly agreed with the GP’s diagnosis and left me feeling, once again, a paranoid Mum. He also referred M to the same specialist that G was seeing, in the belief that maybe our children were suffering from the same problem. My gut instinct disagreed and I made my feelings on the matter clear. Although on the face of it, their symptoms seemed similar, there were key differences that I knew had to be taken into consideration.
I have learned that a parent’s gut instinct is possibly the most important thing that any medical practitioner can listen to or, at very least, consider to be as important as the physical symptoms described. I knew deep down that there were something very wrong with my boy, but on the face of it, few agreed. His lack of toilet training was an annoyance we should learn to manage; his healthy appetite nothing of note; his poor weight gain irrelevant as he was growing along his predicted percentile; and his poor sleep patterns the same as every other new parent had to deal with. At each and every appointment we attended with M in tow, he was active, energetic, chatty and showed no sign of the tremendous tantrums he could throw at the drop of a hat at home.
Depending on our gut instincts about M and our determination to find out what was wrong, we kept on battling and refused to accept that it was toddler tummy and that he would eventually get better without any intervention.
Unfortunately, over the next two and a half years, we would need to rely heavily on that perseverance and an inner depth of strength that exceeded what either of us knew we had. We moved from one consultant to another, one hospital to another and even one GP’s surgery to another as we moved house and chased a diagnosis. Finally, in May 2011, we were given the referral that would finally set us on the road to an answer.