My own Family’s Personal Health Journey
It is a difficult story to tell, but one that has led me and my family, to where we are today…
Our first son, Jul, was born twelve years ago. As his mother, he taught me so many things, but mostly, he taught me how to love. I was eager to do everything I could to nurture him, and although I was able to take care of his basic needs and adore him, I was about to find out that it would take more than this.
Signs of Trouble
Jul was born a little early, making it difficult for me to feed him, and although in many ways he was a happy and contented baby, he started to show signs and symptoms of illness. He developed severe eczema, allergies and regular outbursts of hives, then at nine months old Jul was hospitalized with viral meningitis. I am happy to say that he recovered quickly, but over the next three years we continued to see a mixture of illnesses that we as his parents nor the doctors understood. Our son, although bright and energetic, was not thriving as he should be, and as he celebrated his fourth birthday, our lives were turned upside down.
A simple throat infection turned out to be something much more sinister and after several routine checks to the doctor, and one blood test later, we were given the terrifying news that Jul would have to be immediately transferred by ambulance and admitted to a Child’s Oncology Unit for suspected Leukemia.
A Parents Worst Nightmare
Over the course of the next week, we would sit, wait and watch our sweet son in sorrow. After a trial blood transfusion that indicated no improvement, a bone marrow extraction had to be taken. We waited for the Doctors to give us a definite diagnosis, as you can imagine my husband and I were terrified. At the time, I was also twenty-eight weeks pregnant with our second child.
At last, we were told Jul did not have Leukemia but a rather rare virus Immune Thrombocytopenia (ITP), which he would indeed, in time, with treatment, recover from. My husband and I (although still visibly shaken) were elated. We could take our son home.
Three months later and two weeks after the arrival of our son, Sahm, with no prior symptoms or warning, Jul was admitted to hospital again. After waking with a sore throat diagnosed later that day as an abscess, it was threatening to cut off his airway. Jul became really sick, really fast. He was in a lot of pain, suffering from headaches and irritability, and I know from his actions and as his Mother, that he was scared. For the next eight days, in that hospital room, we lay with him, read to him, fed him, all the while a battle raged on, inside of him. Like before, he began to recover, and like before, we took him home, sigh …
Taking Matters into Our Own Hands
Even though I did not fully realize it at the time the education that I was receiving and pursuing was lending me the confidence I needed to manage what we were going through. This self-assurance allowed me to be proactive with his treatment and a forceful advocate for him.
As parents, we knew there had to be more to Jul’s diagnosis. We were fortunate enough to be able to find a Pediatrician that we put our trust in and from there, an Immunologist and other specialists. We were told Jul had an antibody deficiency, making it difficult when he gets sick for his body to heal, but it wouldn't be until years later that we received a full diagnosis.
Second Son, Sahm
Was born completely opposite to his older brother, he was healthy from the start, heavy and he took easily to feeding, he was also strong willed and very loud :-) He rarely even had a cold, then at nearly four years old Sahm took an innocent fall at nursery, his knee swelled up instantly, accompanied by pain and a raging fever. One look at him and a paediatric orthopaedic surgeon was called. Sahm had septic arthritis and had to be operated on within hours. Sahm spent a gruelling three weeks in hospital where he suffered a great deal. The medicines which he had not encountered before where tough on his young body, the constant poking and prodding took its toll. Zayd our third child had been born by this time, and taking care of three sons with Sahm so unwell was difficult, but with the support of others we made it through. Sahm although better spent the next two years, I feel, building up this immune system again. Then at 7, just this past Spring Sahm had a tiny bite like mark on his leg, but once again it became hot, red and sore very fast. This time Sahm was diagnosed with cellulitis.
As a family, we were recommended to see and be monitored by an immunologist and geneticist. Results have confirmed a rare genetic condition (passed on through a mother to sons) X-Linked Agammaglobulimenia (XLA). XLA affects the body's ability to fight both simple and serious infections. The boys will now be closely monitored for a lifetime. Jul has been infection free for some years now so in many ways it appears his body has learned to deal with the deficiency. Sahm and Zayd due to their blood markers receive monthly plasma infusions Through diet, close monitoring and support from his specialists, my boys are like any other active boy of their age, they want to have fun and be unencumbered by illness.
As a dedicated mother to three son’s, now 10, almost 8 and 5, I feel very much responsible for their nutritional needs and well-being. Even as a health professional I know the mammoth task of this, and the daily devotion it takes a parent to feed and care for your family well.
It is very much my hope and goal that every mother finds a path to health success, thus enabling their young child and family to do the same. There has never been a more crucial time to stand up, take notice, and take back the power and control, and demand a better situation from the food industry, medical and education systems.
From my Family to Yours
Over the years, my sons have grown comfortable with the foods and lifestyle that has been offered to them but that doesn’t mean they are not challenged by the social lure of less than desirable foods and drinks when they are out and about with friends and/or at parties etc. As a family we come together to respect the autonomy that our boys need as they grow, allowing them to make their own choices within reasonable boundaries, getting them involved in making family food menus, food preparations and cooking, and as a mother by educating them in subtle ways so that the choices they make are ultimately their own.
Jul is fast becoming a youth health role model in his own right, advocating (where its still appropriate and cool ;-) the importance of healthy foods and how it supports growth, concentration, mental mood and even the correlation to socialize more confidently. He is particularly interested in how nourishing the body can boost exercise and stamina (he is currently heavily involved in athletics, football and tumbling).
Like every child we have gone through times of picky eating, his own unique set of illnesses and his love/hate relationship with foods. And yet as Sahm grows and understands all the ways in which we are helping him to thrive, he has become an eager part of our family's efforts.
Zayd, although the youngest of our Henrys, packs quite a punch in all aspects of his little life. He is fast, robust and pretty much loves everything healthy. I understand having raised my three sons thus far that creating healthy habits from a very early age is probably by far the most logical way to start.
As a whole family, I think we represent a typical family who just like yours, are challenged by the wellness choices we are faced with every day. Look at your own unique family, think about the things you can change rather than those you can’t and start from there, for each of you your starting point and journey will be different. Find like-minded people in friends and family to support you, and from Henrys Health a host of platforms to encourage and inspire you.
Our new YouTube channel launched this Summer (2019) is particularly exciting because it offers both the parent and child something to view (time and time again) that is light hearted, relatable and educational all at the same time. The boys play a huge part in a fun and funny way to show others (within their age groups) just how essential health and its practices are.