Having taken a week’s hiatus from the story of our journey to a diagnosis to blog about our week on M’s diet, I wanted to just go back a few months and finish the story of getting to where we are today.
In September 2012, we had now reached what appeared to be a status quo for M, which though still not ideal, was vastly improved from the position we’d been in less that 18 months earlier. He was taking 5 lots of different medicines during the day to cope with his symptoms – 2 anti-histamines, 1 calcium supplement, 1 probiotic and the protein shake – and was still dairy, egg, wheat and soya free in his diet.
We survived day trips, weekends away and even a two week holiday to Canada to visit Mike’s family and had come through them all relatively unscathed. M was growing taller by the day, though his weight continued to be a concern. We only suffered with a couple of bouts of croup and the household coughs and colds didn’t appear to have any ill-effect on him. There was the occasional, inadvertent slip-up with his food and we all suffered the consequences of those, but we quickly identified what had caused the problem and realised that, for the time being at very least, M would need to continue on his strict diet.
Christmas 2012 came and went as did G’s birthday and both occasions were celebrated with M-friendly food. 2012 had been a tough year for us all for very many reasons and it was good to finally see it leave and be able to look forward to a brighter 2013.
The beginning of January 2013 saw us returning to GOSH for an appointment with M’s consultant. This time round we were able to make it a family trip as the children had yet to return to school and so all 4 of us spent 2 days in the Capital. Mike and I were determined to get some answers this time round. We felt that whilst we had made huge progress with M, we still weren’t in a place that was ideal for any concerned. We didn’t know what we could expect, but we were desperate for a diagnosis and a clear plan in place for the foreseeable future.
The appointment started in usual fashion with a quick overview from our standpoint of how things were going since we had last been there. I had spoken to Dr Hill in the run up to Christmas and she was concerned by the continued frequency of M’s soiling accidents. I was able to report that little had changed since my conversation with her and so she suggested that we took the step of taking gluten out of M’s diet too. At this point, Mike lost it a little and expressed just how frustrated we all were with the lack of knowledge we had about what was wrong with M. We both felt that they were continuing to limit his safe foods without having a good reason for doing so.
She looked at us amazed and asked what exactly he meant. To cut a long story short, it turns out that there had, in fact, been a diagnosis in place since the previous April, but not one of the gastro team we had seen during the past 9 months had thought to advise us of it. I’m sure that many of you would imagine us to be fuming at this apparent incompetence, but, to be perfectly honest, both Mike and I were just extremely grateful that we now had a name to put to M’s condition.
The diagnosis was EGID – Eosinophilic Gastro-Intestinal Disease – a relatively rare and fairly recently identified family of gastric diseases, which fall into the bigger category of Inflammatory Bowel Disease. There is no need for me to bore you with the finer details (you can read a much better explanation here anyway), but it is an auto-immune condition that sees the eosinophils, which are a part of the white blood cells, attacking the body itself instead of the allergen.
For those among you with the better memories, this is indeed the exact condition I had tentatively self-diagnosed during 2012 (see here) and so, for me, this diagnosis was something I already knew a lot about and knew we could manage. I had sourced some fabulous support groups and had already joined them in the belief that this was the road we were destined to be travelling. We now felt empowered and able to take this diagnosis and run with it. The Dietetics team agreed to write a letter to M’s school explaining his condition and the impact it could have on him, which we hoped would enable some support and understanding that had previously been lacking.
We could also now educate both M and G about his condition. You could palpably sense the relief that M had simply by being able to put a name to his condition and he has a reasonable understanding of what’s going on in his body. It doesn’t make it any easier when you trying to explain to the 7 year old why he can’t eat a particular item, but he has grasped the reasons for the reactions his body is experiencing and is learning to accept the current limitations.
We also learned that we were in the best possible place to receive care for a child with EGID. GOSH is a leading light in the research world for understanding more about this family of diseases and is considered to most certainly be on par with the US in terms of their research. This was never going to be something M could outgrow, despite the reassurances of our local hospitals, but we could and would learn to live with it and to make the best of a difficult situation.