Tag Archives: incontinence

Another food and an unexpected insight

This moment has been an awfully long time coming, over 4 months and 7 food fails in a row in fact, but finally we have a fourth safe food to add to M’s repertoire: apple.  The last few months have been emotionally tiring as we’ve worked our way down the list of food challenges agreed with our dietitian and M has systematically, and holy-grailsometimes dramatically, failed each and every one.  It has felt as if that elusive fourth food was our personal Holy Grail and there were times when Mike and I both began to wonder when we would ever achieve it.

One of the complicating factors we’ve had to deal with during the food challenges has been the whole host of reactions that we’ve seen along the way.  We were never told, as far as either of us can remember, that it was possible to see so many different allergic responses to the varying foods M was trialling and we were certainly not advised that he could experience some that he’d never had before.  His severe oral reaction to sweet potato was, in many ways, the easiest one to identify, even though horrendous to see happen, as we knew immediately that it had to be an instant fail; but the others have not necessarily been so straight-forward.

complicatedOur main goal is to maintain the improved health and toileting that M has achieved since he first went elemental back in December and even though that has meant ruling out some foods that would have been great to have back in his diet, I remain firm that his well-being, both physical and psychological, is our primary concern.  At our last appointment, we discussed with both M’s consultant and dietitian our approach to the food challenges and agreed that anything that causes a loss of bowel control, of any description, has to be considered an instant fail for the time-being. These foods are not ruled out permanently – well, sweet potato is as far as I’m concerned! – and we will, without a doubt, revisit them at some future point once we have more safe ones back.

Sadly he has reacted to some of his old favourites, but he has coped admirably well with accepting the outcomes.  He still remains reluctant at times to acknowledge exactly how he is feeling and telling us about the aches and pains we know he must be experiencing, but 9 years of parenting M means that I have become highly attuned to his moods and can sense when he’s feeling under the weather.  His willingness to lose a food again at times has indicated to us that he also identifies when it’s making him feel poorly, especially when he has been prepared to fight for those that he believes he can cope with.

Never was that so true as at the start of our apple challenge.  During the first couple of days, his body reacted with hives and itchy skin, just as we saw when we first reintroduced rice and he also struggled a little with his bowel control.  However, unlike with other foods where he has reluctantly agreed that it was likely a negative response to the challenge, this time round M insisted that the fault was his for not listening to his body and responding quickly enough and that he felt he was still in complete control.

10 days on and he has proved to be right, which is a valuable lesson for us all:

We have spent years fighting for our voice to be heard when it has come to M’s health and each step of the way have been shown to be right in our concerns and our thoughts for his ongoing treatment.  It seems that now we need to start listening to what M has to say too and take into consideration his opinions and insights about his body.  Of course, at 9 he is nowhere near old enough or responsible enough to make his own choices or sway our decisions unduly, but, just as I have spent a long time arguing my place as the expert on the subject of M because I’m his Mum, now as Mum I need to encourage him to be his own best advocate and take an active and involved role in his care.  After all, that’s a key part of my parental role.apples7

And whilst I ruminate on this latest insight into M’s development, I’m eagerly gathering ideas and recipes to incorporate apple, in all its glory, into his diet.  So far, we’ve ventured little further than apple juice, apple slices and apple pancakes, but with the help of good friends, including one whose son is just a few steps further down the food challenge road than M, and great resources such as The Recipe Resource, then apple crumble, apple crisps and apple cakes are all on our horizon.


Eating my words

For some time now, we’ve been seeking some emotional support for M as he struggles to come to terms with his condition and the impact of a restricted diet and the associated health issues on his day-to-day living.  As the result of a GOSH recommendation, we sought a referral to our local CAMHS service to see if they could offer any counselling to M.  We also hoped that we would have access to some family support as we all find it difficult at times, G especially, as she deals with her own reactions as well as M’s mood-swings.

Courtesy of connectsociety.org

Courtesy of connectsociety.org

Sadly, our experience of CAMHS has been less than favourable.  The worker we saw had not read M’s notes, didn’t understand why we had gone to GOSH for treatment and had no idea that he had been diagnosed with a chronic bowel condition.  She talked about using sticker charts to encourage him to use the toilet and failed to recognise that, in M’s case, it wasn’t that he wouldn’t use the toilet, but rather that he couldn’t.  At our last meeting, Mike and I sat in disbelief for nearly an hour and a half whilst she repeated her theory that a reward system would be the answer to all our woes; and our jaws hit the ground when our repeated comments about his “diagnosed chronic bowel condition” finally sunk in and she pondered whether maybe she would benefit from taking a look at the letters written by his consultant from GOSH.

ticklistIn the letter that followed, she discharged him from her care and suggested that we instead got a referral to our local NHS Bowel and Bladder clinic for their input.  I was unsurprisingly sceptical, having spent some time at one when G was suffering from her own bowel problems a few years ago, and feared that the ubiquitous zticker chart would form the crux of their treatment plan.  However, I have long since come to the conclusion that the only way to get the help that we need, is to agree to whatever steps the health professional concerned recommends and tick those boxes to prove that we really are taking the situation seriously.

And so this past week saw us attending the local Continence clinic, which runs once a month in our GP’s surgery.  I was brutally honest with the nurse we met with, T, telling her within minutes of sitting down that I was not expecting much to come from our meeting.  I apologised for my negative attitude, but admitted that I felt I needed to be honest, so that she understood the position we were starting from.  At this point, my expectations were low – and about to be blown out of the water!

T was not phased by my comment, but instead admitted that she too was uncertain whether she could help M or not, but having read his notes thoroughly and all the letters from GOSH, she was keen to offer whatever help and support she could.  I knew at this point, that this meeting was going to be a very different one from that I had been anticipating and the following 45 minutes proved this to be very much the case.  We talked at length about M’s history, his diagnosis, the experiences over the last 9 months and the problems we have recently faced.

She expressed no surprise that M has been struggling emotionally to come to terms with his life as it now is and discussed with me about how isolated M must be feeling.  She pointed me back in the direction of the wonderful charity, Eric, which offers support and advice about childhood continence issues.  Not only do they have a telephone helpline manned by knowledgeable and sympathetic volunteers, but there is also an area specifically designed to enable children to discuss their toileting problems with others in the same situation should they want.  We had made extensive use of their website when struggling with G’s problems, though we had never thought to look at the children’s area with either G or M.

Most importantly, she suggested a change to M’s prescribed laxatives, but was insistent that I discussed her proposals with our gastro team at GOSH, who fortunately we were seeing the following day.  My biggest fear was that she would be as reluctant as our local hospital to get involved in M’s care and would not be willing to discuss him with GOSH – nothing could be further from the truth.  T reassured me that she would work alongside GOSH, and us, to make sure that M is getting the very best care and would help us make those little adjustments to his medicines that feel so complicated when I’m discussing them over the phone to London.

We still have an initial assessment with our local paediatric team in place for February, and it would be fantastic to have them on board too, but I no longer feel so dependent on that relationship working out this time round.  We have found instead, an even more local solution to our need for support and I have never been so glad to be left eating my words and being proved wrong.