Tag Archives: NEAW2015

Day 4: Development, both physical and emotional

The last 12 months have seen many changes in M. Some were the physical ones we were hoping for – improved health, weight gain and his symptoms disappearing – and some were an unexpected bonus on an emotional level. When I offered to write the article for PINNT, it was important for me to discuss with M whether he was happy for me to talk openly and honestly about our experiences. Both he and G know that I have been writing my blog for the last 3 years and are fully aware that I protect their anonymity throughout my writing. This article was going to be something very different as I would be using our real names and providing photos of M to be included in the magazine. To my surprise, not only did he give me the go-ahead, but he also asked if he could jump on the family writing bandwagon and include his own thoughts about his year with a NG-tube. For me this showed a real development in his attitude about his EGID, one that reflected a maturity I had seen growing since the tube was passed in 2014. From producing his video for National Eosinophilic Awareness week last May to the multiple presentations at his school and now this eagerness to share his opinions, M has started to grow up and slowly come to terms with the reality of his life with a chronic illness. This is what he had to say:

Living on EN – The patient’s perspective (child)

My name is M, I’m 9 years old and this Christmas will have had my NG-tube for a year. My Mum and Dad and my doctor made the decision for me to have a tube because so many foods were having to be taken out of my diet because I have EGID (Eosinophilic Gastro-Intestinal Disease) and multiple food allergies. When I first found out that I was going to have a NG-tube, I felt upset because I didn’t think that the tube was 11009339_10152614451586123_8225188594845865541_ogoing to make me feel better and I was very worried that I would be teased at school about it.

The first 8 weeks were very difficult as I felt angry and had several melt-downs as I got used to my tube. Christmas was tough because I couldn’t eat anything and I missed having turkey, Christmas pudding and mince pies. I was jealous that my friends and family were able to eat as I really enjoyed eating lots of foods. When I had my birthday a couple of months later, my Mum made me a special cake out of polystyrene cakes and decorated it to match my Cluedo-themed party. My friends thought it was brilliant and the best thing is I got to keep the cake!

At school, all of my friends are very supportive, they don’t tease me and now don’t seem to notice it. Some say they have even forgotten what I look like without it! 20150710_111650Last summer, my classmates decided to wear a 2.5kg backpack for the morning so that they could understand exactly what I go through each day. The whole class did it as well as our teacher and the other teaching assistants.

Twelve months on, I feel much better both emotionally and health-wise. During the first few weeks I didn’t feel very sure about how I would cope, but now I feel confident about having it in. I would still prefer not to have it, but I don’t mind it so much. The first few tube changes were hard, but I’ve become an expert and can now have my tube changed in less than 5 minutes – I even take my old tube out myself.

If I had to give some advice to another child about to have a tube, I would say don’t worry because it’s not as bad as you think it will be. You can do practically anything with it and it will help you feel a lot better in the long-run. My tube doesn’t stop me doing anything and in the last year I have continued to play my cello, performed in a dance display and have even been given my first modelling job.

It takes a village

village

Do you know that quote?  There’s a chance you might associate it with American presidential hopeful, Hillary Clinton and her 1996 book of the same title, but in fact it comes from an Igbo and Yoruba (Nigeria) proverb and has a sentiment that is echoed by numerous other African sayings.  It recognises the great value of having community involvement in a child’s upbringing, not just for the child and immediate family, but for the extended family and local community too.  As I have mentioned so many times before, we are incredibly fortunate to have an amazing community surrounding us, who are unbelievably supportive, and none more so than our fantastic village school.

Since day one, when G first headed in through their gates, we knew that this was a place that would offer our children not just a great education, but also a safe and secure place to grow and develop, all within walking distance of our home.  The children have had the opportunity to build strong friendships with others living nearby that will hopefully continue into their teenage years and beyond.  In the 2 years that M has been there, we’ve seen time and time again just how invaluable the school community is, not just to M, but to G and to Mike and me too. The impact of M’s ever-changing health has been particularly profound in the last couple of years and there is no doubt in my mind that the unfailing support of their school has been a steadying force for us all.

Without the readiness of the Head and other key members of staff to accommodate M and all his needs, we would have struggled to keep his education a priority this year and I doubt I would have been able to continue working.  Their willingness to have M in school as normal and to learn the intricacies of his NG-tube and feeding regime has allowed me to stay in my job, confident in the fact that this is a group of people dedicated to including M in every planned activity and who have taken on that intense in loco parentis responsibility without a second thought. This year in particular has tested their mettle with the demands of not just feeding tubes and complex allergy requirements, but of occupational therapy, dyspraxia and dyslexia added to the mix too.  His teacher, Mrs M, has been amazing and she approaches every new challenge with great positivity and an unparalleled sense of humour. www.amazon.comEven the minor hiccups encountered along the way – non-stop beeping, blocked tubes, leaking pumps and soaking wet clothes to name but a few – haven’t derailed her and that attitude has helped M cope remarkably well with all the changes this year has thrown at him.  I cannot thank her enough for being the rock that M has needed during school hours.

Equally, Miss K, G’s lovely Year 6 teacher has been a real blessing to us as a family and to G in particular.  She has encouraged G every step of the way and helped build her confidence throughout the year.  M’s hospital stay in December was difficult for G as he and I disappeared off to London for 2 weeks and couldn’t be around to help celebrate her 11th birthday or enjoy the end of term build-up to Christmas.  What made a big difference was Miss K, who was fully aware of all that was going on, made herself available to G whenever necessary, understood that emotions were high and made allowances when needed, and stayed in regular e-mail contact with me during our stay and also during the Christmas holidays, so she was as prepared for where things stood with M as the rest of us.  She is moving on from the school at the end of this term and I, for one, will miss her, especially as I was hoping she would be M’s teacher for his Year 6 year.

It’s not just the teaching staff who have done their utmost to give us the support we depend on, but the parents and children too and this past week I was left speechless by the thoughtfulness and compassion of M’s class.  Following his presentation during EGID awareness week, this group of enthusiastic 9 year-olds discussed different ways they could support him and focused their attention on the fact that he has to wear a backpack all morning, which contains his pump and his “food”. This is what happened next:

“We decided, as a class, that we would all wear a backpack for a morning so that we are able to understand a little of what M has to go through each day. Therefore, on Friday 10th July, it would be great if all of 4M could wear their backpack to school and keep it on for the whole morning!  If you can make it weigh about 2 and a half kilograms that will be amazing as that is the weight that M carries around each day.”

20150710_111650On Friday I had the privilege of going into school to see this amazing group plus teacher and teaching assistants with their backpacks on and to express my thanks, not just to the children, but to Mrs M and the school for encouraging and allowing them to show their support in this tangible way. His classmates have adapted well to M’s tube and accept it as an essential part of him.  They’ve asked questions and been interested in the whys and wherefores about it and then just forgotten all about it and carried on with day-to-day life, which is exactly what M has needed.

There have also been shows of support from parents, including one from a Mum I’d never met before and doubt I’d recognise again.  We were travelling back home late from our last GOSH appointment after a long, hot day in London and arrived back at our local train station.  As we reached the stairs of the railway bridge, I became aware of a fellow passenger catching up with us and smiled with her as she chuckled at the inane chatterings of my night-owl.  I paused to let her go past, but she slowed her pace to match mine and started an unexpected conversation:

“I just wanted to tell you that my children are at the same school as your son and came home and told us all about his presentation. They both raved about how amazing it was and how much they had learned from watching it and asking him questions.  I just wanted to tell you how impressed they both were, especially as they now understand a little more of what he’s having to cope with and we all think he’s incredibly brave.”

The conversation carried on until we reached our cars and said a quiet good-night. This for me is the advantage of having not just a child who stands out from the crowd because of his tube,Colorful solidarity design tree but also a community who is brave enough to have the confidence to speak out words of encouragement to a near-stranger because of a shared experience and the desire to add their voice to offer support.

From helping take G to school early in the morning to having my tubie home for tea; and from working hard with M to improve his handwriting to encouraging G to reach her potential and aim for the stars, our school, its outstanding teachers and the families who go there have helped us out along the way. This academic year has been a tough one, but we’ve survived all the bumps in the road with the loving support of the truly exceptional community that we live in.

NEAW 2015 – The Round-up

Last week was a busy week.  We just about managed to pause for breath along the way and achieved far more than we thought was possible.  Having taken a couple of days off from my blog – well I thought you’d probably had more than enough of me last week – I wanted to revisit NEAW 2015 to give a round-up of all our activities:

11030831_828235363934315_6504625663623229869_oE for Educate – I appeared on local radio, there was an article in our local newspaper about NEAW and even a follow-up article this week to talk about what we did. I blogged daily and posted regular updates about our life with EGID, achieving 600 views of my blog during the week as well as numerous shares on both FB and Twitter.

D for Donate – With the help and generosity of friends, family and fellow music lovers, we raised a fantastic £260 for FABED.  Thank you so much, I know that money is going to a great cause and will make a difference to EGID families who need their support just as much as we do.

U for Unite – WE DID IT!  Mike and I survived a week “eating like M” and discovered just how difficult a challenge it is.  I was filled, yet again, with absolute awe and admiration for M’s ability to eat meal after meal after meal consisting of nothing more than chicken, rice and cucumber.  I’m also incredibly proud to be able to share with you that G also did her bit on the Friday and ate “mostly like M“, with just a little bit extra of goats cheese and fruit to keep her smiling during lunchtime at school.  It’s the first year she’s asked to join in our challenge and I’m so impressed that she managed to stick it out without a wobble.

1529734_826685834089268_6472897324569407860_oC for Change – I hope we managed to change people’s attitude to and understanding of EGID during the week.  It was great to see the hashtag #morethanfoodallergies trending across FB and Twitter because that’s the key point I wanted to communicate last week: that whilst M struggles with food, his allergies are only a very small part of a much bigger picture.

A for Awareness – We raised awareness in everything we did.  Pink ribbons adorned our clothes, pump backpacks and hair, FABED awareness bands could be spotted around our wrists and M shared his video with the world.  It has had nearly 400 hits on YouTube, which made M’s week and something that started as a small project to encourage him to communicate his feelings about his illness morphed into a fantastic tool that allowed him to actively take part in raising awareness this week.

11265424_10152776813631123_3399504883350731420_nT for Thanks – I said my thanks and expected nothing more, but received some lovely compliments back from those of you reading and sharing my blog.  I’m just a Mum trying to do the best I can for my children and not always getting it right, but it was very nice to be told that I am “…the supermummiest mummy of the lot…” especially by someone who’s not even a family member and therefore under no obligation to believe that to actually be the case!

E for Engage – It may have been the hardest blog post to write for me, but M and G proved that they could engage with their school-mates in the most impressive of ways.  M presented his video at school throughout the week and had a fantastic response.  At the end of the week, I received this lovely and completely unexpected e-mail from G’s teacher to tell me about her class’s response to what M had to say:

M came to visit us with his presentation earlier on in the week and I was amazed, not only by the presentation, but also by his maturity and bravery.  He was just amazing and a real inspiration to us all.  G was also fantastic – helping answer some of the children’s questions and supporting M in the process.  They are both absolutely amazing – a big well done to them and your whole family.

And that just about sums up NEAW 2015 for us, so it must be time to put our feet up for another year…well, a Mum can dream, can’t she?!feetup

NEAW 2015 – The final day

letter_eThis has been the hardest day’s blog to write.  Inspiration has been lacking and I just couldn’t think of what to write about on the subject of “Engage“.  In an attempt to stir my creative juices, I looked again at the many daily updates, photos, videos and statistics I’ve been seeing, reading and “liking” all week, posted by many fellow EGID families on their FB pages, all in an attempt to raise awareness of the illness.  It was as I was browsing that I started to notice that many of them began, almost apologetically, with words to the effect that they were sorry to be bombarding their FB friends with these regular informational posts on the subject, but that it would be for this one week only.

superheroThat’s when it struck me.  This week, 7 days from May 17th to 23rd, I and tens of other EGID families here in the UK and across the world have been fighting hard to raise awareness of this illness that impacts our lives; and we’ve been apologising for it.  We’ve been grateful that we have been able to engage with our audience this week and we’ve almost promised to give it a rest until NEAW 2016 rolls around.  BUT the reality of EGID for us is that we don’t get that break.  We don’t get the chance to focus on it for one week only and then go back to the daily grind of school runs, workloads and running the home.  This is it.  It’s not even just a year-long commitment, but a life-long one and there’s no escape.  I can’t shut down my computer and ignore the posts. I can’t groan inwardly, grit my teeth and ride the week out, thankful that the 24th will soon be here and then breathe a huge sigh of relief that that’s it done for another year.  I don’t have that privilege.

The reason the EGID community has been trying so hard to engage with you this week is the people in our lives who struggle with this rare condition on a daily basis: our superheroes.  Their strength and courage in facing adversity is awesome and their brave smiles bring inspiration at the most difficult of times.

My reasons for engagement are summed up beautifully here by my 2 amazing children:

myfeelins familyfeelings

and with that, there really is nothing more to say.

Our thanks go to…

The week is winding down and I am definitely looking forward to the start of half-term and the chance to have a sleep-in over the weekend.  One’s thing for certain, being active in raising awareness whilst eating a restricted diet really takes it out of you!thank-you-languages

With T for Thanks being our topic for today, what else could I do, but issue a few heart-felt thank-yous to those who’ve made a difference to us in the 12 months since the last NEAW. It’s tricky to know where to start, but, in no particular order, I’d like to thank:

Our families – well it was a given really, wasn’t it?  But whichever side of the ocean they may live, our families have been there in whatever way they can 澳大利亚孩子-1202242and supported us in the tricky decision to move M to a NG-tube and the elemental diet.   We don’t know exactly what the next 12 months hold in store for us, but we can be certain that our families will be there every step of the way.

Our friends – another obvious lot, but again we couldn’t have survived the past year without them all.  Their help has been invaluable: from text messages to lengthy phone conversations; early morning G-sitting to late night conversations with a cup of tea; and much-needed hugs to unexpected hospital mail, every single gesture has meant more than they can ever imagine and helped keep us strong.

GOSH – our consultant, her great gastro team and, in particular, the fantastic nurses who work with such dedication on Rainforest ward. Their care for M back in December was just amazing and without them looking after us both and giving wise words and training, we’d have struggled even more with the reality of the NG-tube and the feeding pump.  We also owe massive thanks to M’s fabulous dietitian, Colorful solidarity design treewho is always at the end of the phone or the email and has given me lots of helpful recommendations as well as reassuring me that I’m doing things right when it comes to the whole food re-introduction thing.

M’s School – I am very aware of just how lucky we have been with the staff at M and G’s school. They have been so understanding of how life was changing for both children during this school year and have made every effort to look after them and help them feel happy and safe when at school.  5 of the teaching staff bravely took on the role to learn how to manage his feeding pump, which meant that I could return to my job, confident that they were competent in what they needed to do.  This week they were also quick to agree to M’s request to share his presentation to the rest of the school and every teacher made time to make sure their class could see it and ask any questions they had.  This school has done a wonderful job of nurturing both my children and I will be sad when G moves on to “big school” in September.

G – the best big sister that M could ever have had.  She’s loved her little brother through some of his darkest moods and, even if there’s a bit too much squabbling at times for my liking, she’s managed to continue to work on building a strong relationship with him that I hope will only get stronger in time.  She’s survived the challenge of SATs, maybe not without the odd tantrum along the way, and continues to strive to do her best at school and at home.  P1000121And my heart nearly burst with pride the other week when she announced at Stagecoach that M is her hero, because of how bravely he lives and copes with EGID.

Mike – I couldn’t finish without recognising the person who stands alongside me on this, the most challenging of journeys we’ve been on together, and is my strength when I’m feeling weak.  We’ve reached a harmony that enables us to take turns in being the strong one during appointments and I can’t think of anyone I’d rather be facing these decisions with.  He also understands my need to have some time to escape from the day-to-day grind of EGID and puts up with me disappearing off twice a week to choir rehearsals.

And thanks to all of you, who’ve kept reading my blog, put up with somemany…repeated requests on my part and have done an amazing job at sharing my posts on.  Your silent show of support is what helps keep me going, even when times are tough.

Day 5 and finally it’s A for Awareness!

A for Awareness has meant:

This…                                                                    and this…

                                                          …lots of this…

and this…  

This is the amazing video that M made, with help from his big sister, to share his story about life with EGID.  By the time this blog post is published, he will have presented it to every class in his school – that’s 8 classes, approximately 220 children and around 15 members of staff who will now understand his journey a little better.

So come on, you all know the drill by now:  share, share and share some more and help us get M’s message out there.

United we stand

Yes, you guessed it, today is:

U for Unite-page0001

and signifies perhaps the hardest challenge we’ve taken on for EGID awareness week, ever. This week Mike and I are standing in solidarity with M and with all those other brave souls out there who have to battle with EGID every day and have no chance to opt out when things get tough. For the past 2 years, I’ve documented how we’ve followed M’s diet for the week, restricting our diets as he has to restrict his and even drinking the occasional glass of Neocate Active to get a glimpse into that aspect of his life.

IMG_0940When we first started planning our activities for this year’s awareness week, I briefly considered eating like M again, but dismissed it, thinking that the limitations of 3 ingredients and a litre of E028 on a daily basis might just prove to be too much for both Mike and me.  However, fast forward a few weeks to my preparations for my newspaper interview and I revisited the idea of “eating like M” and wondered if actually this might be something we could achieve.  I chatted it over with Mike, debated whether we could do it and, both being keen to give it a go, decided this would be our diet for the week.  Each day will be filled with 3 meals of rice, chicken and cucumber prepared in a variety of ways and Mike will even be drinking the litre of E028.  I have undertaken this with careful consideration of my own T1D and will be keeping an even tighter eye on my blood sugar management to make sure that I stay fit and healthy during the week.  I have also opted out of the E028, but will be partaking in a pint of Neocate Active everyday to show willing.

We’re not on our own either as there are other parents, family members and friends who will be spending some or all of this week eating like their loved ones. Trust me, it’s not an easy decision to make, but is a great way to raise awareness and get conversations started, which is reason enough to stick to it for a week. I am filled with admiration for just how well M has coped with such a bland diet for so long and have been struck with the harsh reality of how much pain he must have been in for years to be able to cope with these limitations just because it’s helping him feel better. Three_Musketeers_SwordsSo tomorrow when you’re tucking into your bowl of honey nut corn flakes or a bacon roll for breakfast, or sitting with your feet up dunking a chocolate biscuit into your cup of tea, or perhaps even enjoying a plate of fish and chips for tea, spare a thought for M and the others like him who are eating a restricted diet right now or may not be able to eat anything at all.  This week it really is a case of “All for one and one for all“.

Today’s blog post is brought to you by the letter…

D

imagesEver had that feeling that you’re appearing in an episode of Sesame Street?  Sadly my children have absolutely no idea what I’m talking about, observe my poor attempts at impressions of the Count (1…ah ah ah…2…ah ah ah…etc) or Cookie Monster (me want cookie!) with complete and utter disdain, and yet it reduces me to giggles each and every time.  I am, without a doubt, drifting into the realms of “embarrassing Mum” behaviour just in time for G to advance into her teenage crisis years.

But I digress; today’s letter, D, stands for Donate.

This week is primarily about raising awareness of EGID, rather than rattling our buckets asking for money, but the harsh reality for children and adults living with EGID is that there is little promise of finding improved treatments until further research into it is carried out.  At the moment in the UK, there are no research projects listed specifically for EGID and less than 1% of all medical research funding is allocated for gastro research.  Kate, over at The Recipe Resource, talks about the need for increased funding for specialised research, especially for medical research in children, in her recent blog post, “Why we need a culture shift on medical research in children – for Eosinophilic Awareness Week” and it’s definitely worth a read.

Don’t get me wrong.  I’m not expecting the money we donate to change the face of medical research just yet, that sort of change will have to happen at a much higher level than my meagre pounds can help me access.  However, where these donations can make a difference is to charities such as FABED, who really are small fish in the big pond of the charity world.  20150515_151847I’ve talked many times about how much support is given to individuals and families by FABED and the image opposite, which I also posted on yesterday’s blog post, shows just some of the many ways they support their members. We’ve benefitted from most of them.  Our amazing trip to Legoland 2 years ago was organised by FABED and gave Mike and I the opportunity to talk to other parents living with EGID: some who were further down the line in their journey and full of years of hard-earned expertise to share; and some even newer to it than us, who were overflowing with endless questions.  More importantly, it enabled M and G to meet other EGID children and their siblings. They could compare war wounds and stories; and both came away feeling less isolated in their struggles.

The on-line community is a veritable hive of activity and no question is too stupid or concern too small when it comes to these amazing people.  They have extensive knowledge and experience that they are more than willing to share, and when they don’t know the answers, will send a virtual hug to let you know you’re not on your own.  The support doesn’t stop there and this week members have also been sharing photos, images and videos with each other to help raise awareness for EGID.  The emotional and practical support offered has been a lifeline for us more than once and the emails, text messages and phone-calls received from FABED members when we’ve been going through tough times are worth far more than their weight in gold.  This is one such video, which proved to be all the inspiration M needed to finish his own:

So, what can you do today?

With the help of the fantastic choirs I sing with in our community’s Singing Project, we raised an amazing £180 at Saturday’s concert and if you’re able, any small donation you can give to FABED will make a massive difference and will be gratefully received.  I have set up a JustGiving page for this week and all money will be going to this cause.  You can access it by clicking on the image below:

Fabed needs you

And if you’re not able to help financially, that’s ok too.  Please just keep spreading the word and remember that every single person you tell about EGID is one more person who can help support people like M.

NEAW 2015 – E is for Educate

NEAW

It’s difficult to believe that National Eosinophil Awareness Week (NEAW) is once again with us and we have been, believe it or not, even busier this year than last in spreading our message about life with EGID.  I’m hoping to again post a blog a day to raise awareness and this year have decided to follow the theme of NEAW, which uses the word E-D-U-C-A-T-E to do it:

Today’s letter is E for Educate.

This year we have been focussing our energies on educating those around us and around M about EGID.

How? Well. in the last week I’ve been interviewed on our local BBC radio station, featured on the front page of our local newspaper and last night we had a display and raffle at a local choral concert. During the week ahead, M will be sharing his story at school via a PowerPoint presentation that he and G worked together to produce and later in the week, I’ll be sharing that video with you all.

stats

Why? Because awareness is key.  The more people who know about EGID and trust me, the number of medical professionals who have even a passing knowledge of this chronic illness is staggeringly low, let alone the general public, the greater awareness of it there will be, which in turn means better support for children and adults like M and families like ours.  Not only is there little understanding, but there is also an astonishing lack of funding for research into gastrointestinal disorders in the UK.  Without medical research, then it is highly unlikely that approaches to treatments will improve and nor, by default, will the quality of life for these individuals.

20150515_151932

What can you do? Re-read my explanation of EGID and then spread the word by talking to someone about EGID and explaining what it is.  You can share these blog posts this week and ask friends and family to share them on too. Keep an eye on my FB page and Twitter feed to see who else is sharing information for NEAW 2015.  Find out more about those charities supporting families living with EGID:  FABED in the UK, Apfed in the USA and AusEE in Australia. Change your FB or Twitter profile picture to one of those promoted by FABED or Apfed even for just one day.  Be more aware and know that by knowing something about EGID, you are helping support M and others like him.

20150515_151847