Tag Archives: diarrhoea

E028 – the success story

When we started this new chapter in M’s life 10 weeks ago, we approached it with the attitude of “hope for the best, but prepare for the worst”.  We hoped that the move to an elemental diet, consisting of 1500mls of E028 each day, would bring some much-needed relief to his bowel and body and that, from that recuperation would come a way forward that would improve M’s quality of life.  And whilst we were well prepared that there was a chance it might not work; that it might not bring the recovery M desperately needed and that we might have to look to even more extreme measures to reach our end goal of improved health; that wasn’t a prospect we were prepared to spend too much time on, yet.  It was far more important to be positive about the route we had chosen, which wasn’t an easy choice to make and had its challenges from the start: be they passing the NG-tube at GOSH or figuring out our new routine at home.

Courtesy of nameonline.net

Courtesy of nameonline.net

Despite the roadblocks thrown in our path, we’ve kept plodding on, negotiating our way skilfully around the inevitable melt-downs, tantrums and even those tempers that lead to a tube being pulled out accidentally.  We’ve all learned valuable lessons – don’t storm off in a temper following a sibling argument leaving your pump behind being a key one for M – and we’ve survived as a family and, dare I say it, grown stronger as one too.  We have laughed, cried and got angry together.  We’ve used that laughter to overcome the depths of despair and we’ve focussed on the important things in life.  Mike and I have long been a team, since the disastrous surgery on my left eye for diabetic retinopathy 17 years ago just weeks after Mike had moved to the UK and before we were even married.  We may not always see eye to eye, but we have grown together and take turns in being the strong one when the other is feeling weighed down by the world.  Now we have 2 children who are learning those same lessons and this experience has shown me just how amazingly strong our children are. They’ve coped with all that life has thrown at them and whilst they may have been knocked down occasionally, they’ve learned to pick themselves up, to brush themselves off and to keep going along their paths. The last 10 weeks have seen them grow in their empathy for others and they too have taken turns in being the strong one when faced with adversity.

Courtesy of artiwards.com

Courtesy of artiwards.com

The best news of all is that we now know that every exhausted step has been worth it and I’m thrilled to be able to share that, for M, the E028 has been his success story.  Within days of the switch to a food-free diet, the near constant diarrhoea that has been the bane of the last 9 years of our lives stopped.  Just like that. No magic potions, no magic wands, no tricks and, so far, no looking back.  M has become the fun-loving, caring, well-behaved little boy we all knew was hiding somewhere within himself.  His joie de vivre has returned and his humorous outlook on life is much more evident.   As each day passes, we are slowly and surely making more and more progress and his confidence has grown as evidenced by his abandonment of his daytime reliance on pull-ups for the first time in a year.  It’s not been a perfect cure by any stretch of the imagination and his weight is once again giving us, and the medics, cause for concern, but it’s a massive step, a giant leap in the right direction.  We are lucky that this proved to be the way forward for M and we are truly grateful for that as we know so many other families who have not found it to be the answer to their health problems and are still battling on.

Meanwhile, the next step is the big one for us: food reintroduction.  We need to work on getting food back into M’s diet without upsetting this balance that he has found right now.  There’s a “sort-of” plan from the dietitians about how we go about trialling each food with M, but for the most part it’s going to be driven by us.  Having finally got my lad to the point where “I feel better Mummy, my tummy’s less grumbly and I just feel…well…feel so much better in myself“, I refuse to be hurried and I’m going to protect this new sense of well-being with all my strength and determination.

 

Round Two: the Pellet study and other adventures

Courtesy of 123opendata.com

Courtesy of 123opendata.com

Once the NG-tube was finally in place, M and I then had 5 long days to survive the copious amounts of Klean-prep, senna and picolax that were pumped into his system to clear his troublesome bowel.  Although we appeared to be off to a slow start, these powerful laxatives finally did their job and by late Monday afternoon, the gastro registrar was confident that we were ready to start the pellet study and a x-ray confirmed his opinion.  I had already met with one of the gastro investigation nurses, so knew that the 3 pellets, containing different shaped plastic markers, were ready and waiting on the ward for M and all we needed to work out was how best to get him to swallow them.

Over the last year, we have made huge strides in getting M to swallow tablets whole and no longer need a spoonful of Grandma’s jam to help the medicine go down as he has conquered his struggles and now merrily swallows them with just a mouthful of water to help.  However, there were 2 problems we now had to overcome:  M’s new-found fear of swallowing capsules with the NG-tube in place and the fact that these pellets are of a size that even I would struggle to take easily, let alone a small child.  The nurse suggested we resorted to mixing the markers into a couple of spoonfuls of jam and that was our first attempt.  For reasons that will remain forever unclear, M found even this method difficult to manage and instead resorted to swallowing the pellets one tiny marker at a time.  It may have taken considerably longer than anyone expected, but the pellets were taken and so round 2 of our admission was well underway.

The week should have been an easy one, as it was supposed to require nothing more of us than completing the pellet study, but unfortunately it was at this point that I had to brace myself and find the strength to weather an unexpected and turbulent storm.  Despite both Mike and I having repeatedly made clear that we have almost no support from our local hospital and their paediatric gastro team, this information appeared to have got lost along the way and I found myself embroiled in a battle to keep M in hospital once the pellet study had started.  GOSH felt sure that we would receive all the care and advice we would need from our local and nothing I said would convince them otherwise. battle I spent more hours than I care to remember fighting M’s corner and insisting that the consultants didn’t discharge him before the study was complete and the NG feeding started.  The pressure was huge, both on me – as I talked, discussed and cried my way through numerous meetings with nurses, doctors, dietitians, psychologists, PALs workers and indeed anyone else who would listen – and on Mike – as he sought to juggle the challenges of working, looking after G at home and supporting M and me whilst we were several hours away and only contactable by phone.

It quickly became evident that GOSH simply could not conceive that we could be as lacking local support as I was asserting we were and I have no doubt that they were beginning to view me as something of an overwrought, overtired, over-emotional and somewhat neurotic mother, who was unbelievably arguing to keep her child in hospital, when most other parents were trying desperately to get their children discharged before Christmas.  By the end of the week, it had all come to a head and I was at my wits’ end, but was finally vindicated late Friday afternoon, when our local dietetics team refused in no uncertain terms to take on M on a shared care basis with the GOSH dietitians – an entirely new experience for GOSH, though sadly an all too familiar one for us.

lighttunnelDespite all the heartache and distress this unnecessary battling caused, there was some really positive light at the end of the transit study tunnel.  The final x-ray on Friday indicated that M’s bowel is working more or less as it should.  It may be a little slower than ideal, but the markers had moved through M’s system and the consultant was delighted with this result, which means that the bowel is currently doing its job.  We really couldn’t ask for anything more.  So, the conclusion drawn is that it is the complex and multiple food allergies that have been causing M’s diarrhoea and other symptoms because of his underlying condition, EGID and the final step is to identify these as accurately as possible.

The First Hurdle

Our GOSH admission had three key stages, the first of which was to dis-impact M’s bowel and prepare him for a repeat pellet study.  We knew that when the original transit study was done at our local hospital 18 months ago, he was chronically impacted and there was some debate over whether the results, that suggested his transit was relatively normal, were accurate or not. My honest opinion was that he was not struggling with a slow transit colon, but the gastro team at GOSH wanted to be certain and were more than happy to admit him for this test due to the issues we’ve experienced with our unsympathetic local hospital over the last 12 months. My instinct was that nearly 9 years of unrelenting diarrhoea meant that there had to be another root cause for his problems that was still waiting to be discovered and it would just take some persistent looking to find it.

Courtesy of ebsta.com

Courtesy of ebsta.com

Unfortunately, the first hurdle – after the resolution of the whole missing bed saga – proved to be far tougher than any of us had anticipated.  After his amazing courage in facing all the health and medical challenges of the past year, and despite knowing that he needed to have a NG-tube, M showed just how stubborn he can be and steadfastly refused to co-operate with the nurses who were trying to pass the tube.  Wednesday evening saw 5 different nurses, 4 attempts, a flurry of unsuccessful negotiations and 1 small boy, who pulled the last 2 attempts out himself because, according to him, the nurses weren’t listening when he asked them to stop and then told them to go.  Having kept the other occupants of the 4-bed bay awake until past midnight with his cries and screams, we all finally admitted defeat and decided to leave it to the next day’s nursing team to remedy the situation.

Thursday morning arrived far too quickly, with a disturbed night’s sleep for M and an uncomfortable one for me.  We talked about the tube and the need to have it in place as soon as possible so that we could start on the first round of treatment, the dreaded Klean prep – a highly effective laxative that would start the process of clearing his system.  M knew and accepted all the reasons for the tube, but at the heart of the matter was the fact I had a small, scared 8 year old, who had endured a great deal since his scopes last October and was evidently close to saturation point.

Courtesy of The Royal Ballet/ROH Johan Persson

Courtesy of The Royal Ballet/ROH Johan Persson

Even the lure of tickets to go to see “Alice in Wonderland” performed by the Royal Ballet at the Royal Opera House, Covent Garden that very afternoon looked unlikely to be sufficient draw, but my boy’s love for all things theatrical combined with my own enthusiasm for going to see anything at the Royal Opera House eventually overcame his worst fears and won the day.  He agreed to let one of the doctors pass the tube and with 4 of us holding his head, arms and legs, another distracting him whilst it happened and the doctor doing the deed itself, we finally got the tube in place.  With that hurdle tackled, M and I rushed to get ourselves ready and a bag packed for our trip to the theatre.  We went by taxi with another little girl from the ward and a nurse and arrived just in time to take our complimentary seats in a box before the ballet began.  The performance was an amazing visual feast and proved to be a more than adequate distraction from all the tears and trauma of the morning.  M loved the outlandish costumes of the Mad Hatter and we had a lot of fun trying to work out which of Alice’s family and friends were depicted by each of the fantastic characters we met throughout the rest of the ballet.

Courtesy of The Royal Ballet/ROH

Courtesy of The Royal Ballet/ROH

Naturally, as I’ve come to expect when dealing with anything to do with M, nothing was as straight-forward as we might have hoped as we headed into that all important first full day of admission.  The stress of the tube placement led to him being violently sick within 10 minutes and he spent the rest of the day retching and bringing up bile, meaning the Klean prep couldn’t be started until much later in the day.  He reacted to the Duoderm, a dressing usually used to protect the fragile skin of the face by forming a barrier between the cheek and the tube and tape, which meant there was no alternative but to tape the NG-tube directly to his face.  The final straw came in the middle of the night, when after I’d finally got my tired chap to sleep, the quantity of the Klean prep being pumped in at the speed it was upset his system and he woke to be sick for the second time in less than 24 hours.

By the time Friday morning came around, we were both feeling emotionally fragile and physically exhausted and M refused point-blank to move from his bed.  We sat quietly on ward, with M plugged into the television via his headphones and I immersed myself in the escapism of a good book.  It had been a bumpy start, but finally we were on our way.

 

“Out of difficulties grow miracles” – Jean de La Breyere

stormyThese last few months have been, well, interesting; and yes, that’s one of those euphemisms you use when you really don’t know how else to explain what’s been going on.  In many ways life was reduced to a whole new level of hell in our household; one that I’ve hesitated to discuss because of the nature of our experience.  Sometimes I need to delay publishing my posts to give us all time to process what we were dealing with before revealing it to the outside world, to allow the storm to pass and to let those memories start to fade.  Now, I’m – we’re – finally ready.

The reason for it all has been M’s ongoing issues with his bowel.  When the pellet study was done a year ago at our local hospital, the x-rays indicated that he had developed what is termed “mega-rectum” and “mega-colon“, caused in all likelihood by ongoing and previously undiagnosed impaction.  The priority at the time was to clear out his system and keep it clear, but unfortunately, for reasons still unknown, M has limped from one bout of constipation to another over the last 15 months.  The constant flow of problems has taken its toll on the whole family, but most noticeably on M, who is finding it tough to be positive when he feels that nothing is making a difference.

Our first meeting with our local consultant led to a long discussion about what, if anything, we could do to try and ease this problem and how we could help M’s bowel to recover.  He suggested a course of treatment that sounded extreme, but which he felt would encourage this troublesome body part to start to repair and would therefore hopefully alleviate some of the issues.  He proposed starting M on yet another laxative, called Bisacodyl, which would be administered by a daily suppository each evening.  This would cause an immediate response, thus reducing the likelihood of ongoing impaction and hopefully M’s bowel muscles would eventually recover some of their elasticity.  This treatment was not to be a long-term one and we would start doing it daily for just 4-5 weeks before being assessed in clinic again.

willowtreeOf all the medicines that M has endured over the last 3 years, this is, by far and away, the worst one we’ve had to put him through.  Day 1 was tricky as he was incredibly nervous and had no idea what to expect.  The subsequent week was hell and the nightly battles as I gave my boy this medicine accompanied by his incessant crying and pleading took an almighty toll on the family.  Job being done, a nightly cuddle was needed to reassure and comfort us all.  Due to unexpected problems during that first week, M experienced a heavy bleed and we were advised to take a week’s rest before restarting and finishing the course of treatment.  Unsurprisingly that was even more difficult to do, in fact almost impossible, but we persevered and carried on until our next appointment.

Mike and M had their hopes pinned on the medicine stopping then, I was slightly more sceptical and sadly I was proved right.  There had not been sufficient progress in that 5 week period for our new consultant to be satisfied and he wanted us to keep going until the start of the school holidays.  At that point, he asked us to double the dosage, administering the medicine both morning and evening until we flew to Florida.  I think that everybody’s heart sank at that point, although M cheerfully focused on his idea of a silver lining – he got to stop taking the Senakot, which was his least favourite medicine and that it would all stop as soon as we got to Florida.  How we got through those 8 weeks, I really don’t know and I hate knowing that we might be told to restart the medicine again in the future.  Worst of all, we won’t know whether this treatment has been of any help for a while yet, which is discouraging, but we will continue to keep our fingers crossed and hope that out of that difficult time, we really will start to see small miracles grow.

hope