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Eczema

When J was born I nearly fainted.  She wasn’t breathing.  The doctors had told us that she hadn’t been growing for a couple weeks and there was reason for concern.  They wanted to induce labor.  My wife called me crying while I was at work.  We scheduled the induction for the following Thursday.  J was born around 2:30AM that next Friday.  She wasn’t breathing.

The doctors and nurses went into emergency mode and “jump started” her.  I was on the couch with my head between my knees.  S was lying, exhausted on the bed and J soon began crying.  It was the most beautiful sound I’d ever heard.

After about six months she began developing eczema.  Just little spots here and there at first, but slowly it began to take over until by the age of two it covered about ninety percent of her body.  It was devastating.  Her skin itched and burned.  She would scratch until she bled.  We couldn’t keep a two-year-old from scratching, we couldn’t figure out the problem, doctors were no help.

During that time we saw every type of doctor imaginable: dermatologists, allergists, gastroenterologists, chiropractors, etc.  We heard so many different “treatments” that we didn’t know what to make of any of it because nothing worked.  We were told to put olive oil on it, give her a bath every day, use special soap and shampoo (which made her hair fall out).  Meanwhile she was miserable.  She couldn’t escape the itching and burning.

S, being medically minded (at one time she wanted to be a doctor), began doing her own research.  I didn’t know what to do except hope that she would grow out of it.  Eventually, S discovered that J had allergies to some very common foods and that by eliminating them we could control the eczema.

We immediately began eliminating foods, finding alternatives and working them into her diet.  S began cooking all the food we ate.   At first it was brutal.  There were probably six months that I didn’t eat dinner, just because I couldn’t stomach it.  She got better at cooking and finding recipes that either had food we could have or ingredients she could substitute.  We now mostly eat single-ingredient foods, many of them from a local farmer’s market.  S is getting her Master’s in Nutrition and will soon be helping others fix their diets to solve the symptoms of that larger problem with our fast-paced, impatient society.

We found pretzels made with an alternative flour called spelt.  They were probably the best pretzels I’ve ever had.  Delicious.  J soon flipped allergic sensitive to them.  Officially these are called food sensitivities because there is not an immediate reaction to most of them.

To find out about the her allergies we took J several places.  One was an allergist (of course.)  She was about two years old when we took her.  I went in with her and S stayed out with newborn A.  I was instructed to put her on my lap and hold her arms and the nurse proceeded to prick her arm a total of 39 times, but not all at once.  That would have been too easy.  Instead she did round one and we waited, I calmed J down by reading her books and playing with her and by the time I got her calmed down and the crying stopped, it was time for round two.

The nurse looked at the pricks from round one, then moved on to round two.  J knew what was coming so she tensed and squirmed.  The nurse was pricking her other arm this time so that both would hurt.  I  held her as still as I could until the nurse had finished.  Then I read her books, held her, calmed her down until ten minutes had passed and there had been enough time for her to have a reaction to the different pricks.  Then on to round three.

By this time she didn’t want anything to do with the nurse, the stool where we were sitting or even me.  She wanted to go back through the double doors into the lobby where her mommy was and no one dared bring a needle.  From that visit we learned that she is sensitive to various molds, grass, trees and some other things that are virtually unavoidable.  Some of them were mild, some more severe.  Finally, we got to go back to the lobby and mommy got to be the hero.  Daddy had to be the jerk.  Luckily she won’t remember that incident and, in fact, doesn’t remember it now.

That visit only focused on airborne allergens, seasonal allergens, etc.  We needed to find out about common food allergies.  For that we went to Cincinnati Children’s Hospital, which is one of the best children’s hospitals in the country.  We met an allergist there who talked down to us the entire time, called me a liar and we filed a formal complaint with the hospital.  We did find out that she is allergic to peanuts but we don’t know how severe it is.

For these tests, though, I had to lay her down on her stomach with her shirt off so that her back was exposed.  The nurse marked with a pen ten different spots where J would be stuck with a needle to put a common allergen just under her skin and see if there was a reaction.  Again, I had to hold her down while they stuck her, ten times in a row.

These were two of the most miserable experiences of having kids.  Luckily, J will never remember them.

Eventually, we found that we could take her to a chiropractor who specialized in Applied Kinesiology.   There happens to be one right here in our village.  Using applied kinesiology, or muscle testing, we could get a good idea of J’s food sensitivities and eliminate those foods quickly to stem the problem.

We soon found a long list of foods that she could not have including corn (high fructose corn syrup, dextrose, corn oil, etc.), apples, citrus, blueberries, strawberries, and the list went on and on.  We have since shortened that list so that she can have all fruit but we follow a rotation diet so that she doesn’t get overloaded on any one thing, like she did with the spelt pretzels.  She still can’t have spelt, by the way.

So the rotation we follow is a four-day rotation which means that she can’t repeat any foods within four day.  So if we have buffalo burgers on Wednesday night, she’ll have the leftovers for lunch the next day (within 24 hours) and then not again until at least Monday of the next week.  We also write everything down that she eats so that we can trace back to see what has caused her outbreak if there is one.

Today, she is four and a half and nearly eczema free.  She still scratches sometimes, still has skin flares sometimes but we now know what to check, where to look and can much more quickly fix the problem.  She has little recollection of the burning skin that we once spent a small fortune on (for us, anyway); special clothes that she would wear at night because of their healing properties, doctors, creams, lotions, etc.  It sounds ridiculous now but we would have tried anything at the time and feel like we’ve tried everything.

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