Sunday, October 19, 2008

The Serenity Prayer, Healing, and Hope

Lord, Grant me the wisdom to accept the things I cannot change, the courage to change the things I can, and the wisdom to know the difference.

I cannot change the past. There is absolutely nothing I can do about the fact that Michael was hurt by the vaccines we allowed. I thought I had done all the research, and that I was making the best decision for my child. I still have a lot of guilt that I should have known better. But, that is the past, and I cannot change it. Feeling guilty just diminishes the energy I have for the things I can change.

There are so many things I CAN change: I can help Michael heal; I can help other parents; I can help other children.

There are three things to consider when trying to help your child: Is he getting everything he needs? Do we need to remove things that are hurting him? What damage needs to be repaired?

The getting everything question can be a little complicated. Our children have notoriously fickle appetites, so we can't rely on them to get their nutrition from the food they eat. We have been working with an excellent nutritionist, Kelly Dorfman, for several years now, and she has made a world of difference. Michael gets a ton of supplements every day, literally from A to zinc. Life got a lot easier when he started swallowing capsules. But, even as a toddler, he has always been good about taking his supplements. Somehow, he has always known that the supplements make him feel better.

Removing things that harm is even more difficult. After blood tests, we found out that Michael is IgE allergic to peanut, wheat, and egg. He cannot tolerate eating anything with dairy or soy. So, five foods had to be removed from his diet. We had to go over every food and every supplement, and make sure they didn't contain anything he couldn't have. We missed a few the first go round, but I think we're OK now. It was a major lifestyle change to cook almost everything from scratch, to forget about eating out, and to read every label carefully. But, the results have been well worth it. Now, if Michael gets something he shouldn't, it's fairly obvious, and we can fix the problem.

And, we've gotten a bonus. Now that Michael is no longer eating any of the five foods he can't have, he is much more willing to try new foods. This last week alone he has eaten chocolate DariFree, apples, and steak. He has tried these foods before, but never eaten enough of them for me to consider it an addition to his 'list' of acceptable foods. I'd always heard that children eat more when on the right diet, but never truly believed it. I'm a believer now!

Removing harmful things also means making sure that he's not being exposed to everyday chemicals that can further weaken his system. I was never a 'green' person until I realized the effect the environment has on Michael. We have replaced all our Teflon cookware with stainless steel; I clean with as few chemicals a possible; we limit pesticides to the minimal necessary outside the house (we live at the edge of a huge forest, so some are necessary to keep the critters outside). Every small step is something else to help keep Michael's immune system from further harm.

When it comes to repairing the damage, I'd really suggest working with a DAN! doctor. The biggest gains we've seen this summer came from four prescriptions: methyl B12 nasal spray, lithium cream to help with aggression, flagyl to kill bad gut bacteria, and diflucan to kill candida in the gut. With these four changes (sequentially implemented), we have a whole new child. He's happier, better able to express himself, and much less anxious about life. I can't wait to go back to Dr. Megson to see where we go next!

Helping other parents can be challenging. Every parent I meet wants their child to be as healthy and happy as possible. But, we all hear conflicting information. If the pediatrician you trust and respect tells you there is nothing you can do to heal your child, it's comfortable to believe them. If you see a celebrity on TV claiming their child no longer has autism, you want the same thing for your child. My best advice to other parents is to do the research and talk with other parents.

Many parents see where Michael is today and say "Oh, he's starting out so much better than my child." What they don't realize is where Michael started. When he was first diagnosed, Kennedy Krieger told us he wasn't high functioning and gave us little hope for his future. He had lost almost all the words he had learned, and had almost no understanding of anything that was said to him. He was content to sit by himself and stim all day long. Now, he still has a long way to go, but he has solid functional language, enjoys the company of people he loves, and is doing well academically.

Steve and I talked way at the beginning of our biomed journey and set one rule: we will do everything we can to help heal Michael, but only using methods that are safe. The books I list in my favorite books section detail steps you can take to begin the process. The websites and DAN! conference are another wonderful resource. But, before you begin, set your own rules, and find professionals to help you.

Finally, helping other children. Nothing is sadder than hearing about a parent who desperately wants to heal their child, believes in biomedical interventions, but can't afford to implement them. Please see my post yesterday about Lend 4 Health. When you read the stories of the children there, you can't help but want to make a loan. It's a small thing you can do to affect another child.

Now, about the wisdom to know the difference. I'm still working on that one. I'm an idealist who wants to help my own child and every child I meet. I know some parents are receptive to the concept of biomed, others aren't. When I find someone who isn't receptive, I can't judge them just as I hope they don't judge me. I just hope that as they see Michael's amazing progress, they will reconsider.

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