Joshua at 18 months old
A bright, adorable three and a half-year-old, little Joshua seems allergic to everything on Earth! His happy and engaging personality would deceive a passing observer. His conversation is delightful; he shares easily with his friends and is extremely loving to his doting big brothers.
But, in a small townhouse development in Downsview, Ontario, his mother struggles daily to keep this precious child healthy and strong. Joshua is intolerant of (or allergic to) all fruits, all nuts and seeds, all dairy products, all grasses and grains, almost all vegetables, almost all meats, almost all fish and almost all beans. He is allergic to most chemicals as well, such as petroleum products, phenols, chlorine, perfumes, alcohol and formaldehyde. He is allergic to house dust, molds, mites, grass, trees, flowers, ragweed and other pollen-bearing weeds. He is intolerant of tap water, filtered water and spring water. He does not tolerate any vitamins, supplements, medications or many other homeopathic remedies.
This is Joshua's story:
Joshua James McDiarmid, the third child of his divorced mother, Catherine, was born March 22, 1988. It was a difficult pregnancy for Catherine; most of it spent on bed-rest due to threatened miscarriage and premature labor pains. Due to recurrent cramping, which started at five and a half weeks, Catherine took alcohol-based homeopathic remedies, designed to prevent miscarriage, recommended by her midwife, Bridget. These remedies - Blackhaw, False Unicorn and Miscarrynot - are strongly recommended for repeated miscarriage.
Catherine had already experienced five miscarriages so, although the remedies made her violently ill, she took them until she was fourteen weeks pregnant. The cramping finally stopped, and the danger of miscarriage seemed past.
Abandoned by her ex-husband when she was three months pregnant, Catherine coped well alone - focusing on this much wanted and awaited baby. She was resolute that this baby would not be lost too!
Due to signs of protein and ketones in her test results, and little weight gain, Bridget felt Catherine was not taking in enough protein. Bridget suggested a high-caloric protein drink - a blend of bananas, milk, soy protein powder, a raw egg, honey and extra milk powder - to be taken daily. Despite this, and going on to spend weeks 22-40 of her pregnancy on bed-rest, Catherine only gained 18 pounds.
Expressing concern about her experiences with severe allergies in her previous two children, Catherine feared this child was also potentially allergic. Bridget felt Catherine should be more concerned about getting this baby safely born, and deal with any allergies later. With a history of multiple miscarriages, Catherine was frightened for this baby, and was easily swayed to trust Bridget's judgement.
At both 22 weeks and 26 weeks, Catherine had to be hospitalized with premature labor pains. When admitted in severe pain at 22 weeks, the Emergency Nurse gave Catherine a shot of Morphine in the hip, to lessen the pains. When asked about the risks to the developing baby, the nurse said they had never given morphine to a baby so young. They didn't know the risks involved. Obviously, the hospital did not expect her baby to survive. In fact, the resident who was taking care of Catherine, told her to go home, and stop wasting a hospital bed, since she was only going to lose the baby anyhow!
Catherine had avoided earlier testing by Ultrasound, since recent studies indicated a suspected compromise to the baby's immune system. But grave concerns about her baby's condition led to several diagnostic Ultrasounds (which all proved normal), as well as frequent fetal monitoring by Doptone (a hand-held Ultrasound device which detects fetal heart tones). But Joshua was a feisty little fellow, even at five months gestation - kicking the Doptone, and moving away every time!
The nurse, who cared for Catherine, the night she was admitted at 26 weeks, had a cough and was too ill to come in to work the next day. By the third day, Catherine was also ill, which almost immediately turned into severe bronchitis. A chronic problem for Catherine, she normally avoided all cough remedies and antibiotics, preferring to ride it out. Trusting her body to heal itself. However, there was concern her constant harsh coughing would bring on another bout of premature labor - which might not be able to be stopped this time.
After a long consultation with Dr. Harris, her family doctor, and expressing her concerns of a baby's reaction to antibiotics while still in the womb - Catherine decided it would be better to take the risk of antibiotics over a very premature birth. Catherine now feels, very strongly, at least in her situation and family genetics, all the above treatments may have contributed to Joshua's present problems.
Home again on bed-rest, Catherine waited out the last weeks of pregnancy. Spent counting almost constant contractions, and curious about the baby's daily episodes of hiccups. (She now knows this can be a sign of an allergic baby.) Finally, after several more episodes of false labor, Catherine finally made it safely to full-term. However, after just three hours of active labor, Bridget found the baby's heart rate slowing, a sign of fetal distress. Further, although Catherine was seven centimeters dilated, the baby had still not moved down into the birth canal, but was still
floating. Bridget was concerned the umbilical cord might be wrapped around the baby's neck - preventing his birth.
Standing in her front hall, hanging onto her mother, Catherine trembled and wept with her efforts not to push now that she was in transition - for fear of strangling the baby. Finally the ambulance arrived, and in all the excitement the baby had finally dropped. Catherine entered the local hospital, and was rushed direct to a delivery table, all the while screaming,
The baby is coming!!
With a quick transfer onto the delivery table, with only time enough to remove her boots, it was plainly obvious the baby would wait no longer. The resident on call broke Catherine's water. It was meconium-stained (baby's first bowel movement), a further sign the baby was in distress. With just three good pushes, Joshua was born - flat and unresponsive, his one minute Apgar was only 1. Immediately, the doctor and nurses surrounded him, starting resuscitation. Joshua pinked right up, breathing well and his five minute Apgar score was six. The highest score given to babies regarding color, respiration and mobility is 10.
Breastfeeding Matters: What We Need to Know About Infant Feeding
Since Joshua was having a bit of trouble maintaining his body temperature, he was placed on a warming tray for a short while. After what seemed like forever, Bridget asked if Catherine could hold her new baby. Catherine and Joshua gazed at each other in wonder! Joshua took to his first nursing like a pro, and nursed for over half an hour.
Since the doctor pronounced him fine, Catherine and Joshua went home after just three hours. Where Joshua proceeded to nurse almost every hour, for his first month or so.
At two days of age, Joshua started coughing. Checked by Dr. Harris, no reason could be found. Joshua's cough became chronic, and remains almost constant until he was six months old. It was often heavy, harsh and chesty-sounding, his tiny chest rumbling.
Joshua's bowel movements went straight from meconium (baby's first bowel movements) to foul-smelling, pea-green, frothy diarrhea. By four months, Catherine began noticing blood in his bowel movements as well. Again, Dr. Harris could find no reason.
Joshua was a projectile vomiter from birth. At least once a day, he could be counted on to spit up a full feeding - showering Catherine's entire floor. Again Dr. Harris checked him - no reason found.
At two weeks of age, Joshua developed colic, crying in pain - inconsolable for two to four hours every evening. As often as the weather permitted, Catherine took Joshua out walking, in-arms, during his
colic-time. As long as he was out in the fresh-air, Joshua was fine - happy, bright and so aware. But the minute Catherine would step over her doorstep, Joshua would curl up in agony and start screeching. As long as Catherine walked and waited outside until Joshua's
colic-time ended, they could go back in. Joshua would go off to sleep for up to an hour.
Joshua was a fussy
high-need baby, often needing to be in-arms all day long. Catherine found using her Cuddle baby carrier a great help. She found Joshua slept much better in the front carrier, nestled to her chest, than lying in the cradle she had made. He never slept longer that an hour, often less than twenty minutes, except when in the carrier.
Catherine tried everything to help make Joshua more content. Gripe water and fennel tea made him vomit. She sat Joshua in his car seat on the kitchen counter, under a homemade mobile. Then Catherine would rush through cooking meals and attempts to wash dishes. Often Joshua would not be content for more than five minutes, so much was left undone. Paper plates and diaper service saved the day!
Placing Joshua under another mobile hung from the dining room light fixture, Catherine sat next to him and tried to get back to work at her home-based business - a mail-order catalogue of baby products, Born to Love.
But between his hour-long and frequent nursing, fussiness and short-lived naps, Catherine quickly became exhausted. She began having health problems of her own. Chronic episodes of
bladder infections began when Joshua was six weeks old. An infrequent problem in the past, Catherine experienced ten episodes by the time Joshua was ten months old. Previously, Catherine had simply treated herself with increased fluids and cranberry juice.
Food for Thought: A Parent's Guide to Food Intolerance
This time it wasn't working, and dealing with a high-need baby on top of it seemed too much to bear. Dr. Harris found all the test results negative for signs of infection, and Catherine found the antibiotics prescribed of little help. Sulfa drugs helped slightly more, but the anti-spasmodic finally prescribed worked the best. Interestingly enough, as Catherine had to clean up her diet for Joshua's sake, these episodes stopped along with the severe diarrhea she'd experienced since his birth.
Joshua had the familiar red, shiny cheeks seen on her older boys as babies. Quickly, this turned to rough, raw, weeping patches of eczema. There was eczema behind Joshua's ears, inside his elbows, behind his knees and across his tiny chest. His little belly was always hard, full of gas.
Joshua's eyes were constantly weepy, crusting over. Some days Catherine had to wash his little eyes, before he could even open them. His nose ran continually, his ears produced copious amounts of wax. Joshua had the worst case of cradle cap, and his bottom was so red and raw. He was a mess!
Yet, otherwise Joshua was thriving on breast-milk alone, gaining four pounds in his first month. Catherine did not offer him any supplements, bottles of expressed milk, water or a pacifier. But by two months of age, Joshua was so uncomfortable - he seemed to be weaning himself! He was having so much trouble with the allergens he was getting through Catherine's breast-milk. Joshua struggled at her breast, getting himself into all kinds of awkward positions - trying to be comfortable while he nursed. He began refusing to nurse at all in public, and Catherine was at her wit's end with him.
Having had two previous allergic children, Catherine was aware of the importance of exclusive breast-feeding in prevention of allergies, and was determined to keep nursing. Both older children had severe milk and soy allergies, and Catherine was sure that Joshua would not tolerate any commercial formula. However, Joshua was not co-operating!
Catherine began the difficult task of identifying and eliminating allergic foods from her diet - in an attempt to figure out what foods Joshua was having difficulties with. Staying home as much as possible, lying down to nurse, and only nursing on one breast per feeding - seemed to make it easier for Joshua. When Catherine had to go out, she tried to limit outings to less than two hours - the longest Joshua seem to cope.
As each suspect food was eliminated from Catherine's diet - one or more of Joshua's symptoms would disappear. It took months to identify even his most obvious allergens. All grains made him irritable, whiny and difficult to manage. Most fruits gave Joshua a raw, weepy diaper rash. Citrus fruits and eggs caused his eczema to flare up. Sugar and chocolate made him hyper and left him screeching. Pork made his nose run.
But milk products were the worst culprits. It took until Joshua was six months old before Catherine finally give up her milk products, which she had begun drinking again while pregnant with Joshua. Once milk products were completely out of Catherine's diet, Joshua's chronic couch stopped, along with his wheezing, struggles with nursing, poor sleeping, irritability, projectile vomiting and bloody diarrhea.
Since Joshua's only exposure to these allergens was through Catherine's beast milk, if ever she had doubts about the validity of her elimination test results - all Catherine had to do was eat an offending food. Joshua's symptoms would return full force! Why just the tiniest amount of whey powder (a milk product found in most margarine) would bring back Joshua's bloody diarrhea and chronic cough.
After just a few weeks of a cleaned up diet, Joshua was settling down to nurse better, and sleeping two to three hours at a time. His skin was so clear and soft, Dr. Harris remarked several times on its beauty. Joshua was much more content, playing happily with his toys. Belly crawling over to where Catherine stored his little board books, Joshua would sit quietly turning the pages - looking as if he was actually reading! He now laughed often, smiled at everyone he saw, and grew so excited at the sound of passing trucks.
During Catherine's pregnancy, she had experienced two anaphylactic reactions (swelling of lips, tongue and throat) to apples - this had never happened to her before. She began to feel there was a connection with this reaction, and the baby she was carrying. Well, at six months Joshua got hold of another baby's bottle of apple juice. They were at an Infant PlayGroup, and Catherine was helping to pick up toys as the hour ended. Suddenly she heard Joshua scream, and turned to find him lying in the middle of the floor, clutching this bottle of apple juice. Screeching in pain!! Catherine scooped him up, trying to comfort him in vain. Realizing he may have gotten some of the juice, and thinking of milk being used for some poisonings - Catherine put Joshua to her breast. Finding well-known comfort at hand, Joshua finally stopped screaming and nursed, whimpering in pain the whole time.
When Joshua stopped his feeding, Catherine noticed his lips and the surrounding area were puffy. But he had fallen asleep, and seemed at peace for now. Catherine watched Joshua's face closely, but the puffiness never got any worse, and after 45 minutes it was gone. Since Catherine had no difficulties eating apples herself, once Joshua was born - could it have been some sort of protection??
At five months Joshua started grabbing at food, and generally expressing a desire to EAT! After discussing it with Dr. Harris, Catherine decided to start Joshua on less potentially allergic foods, on a four-day rotation basis. She settled on bananas, sweet potatoes, carrots and avocados. Every food was homemade, with nothing else added and finely processed in her food processor. Catherine started with just a taste on the end of a baby spoon, and introduced one food at a time, waiting four days before trying another food.
Joshua was very eager to eat, but had so much difficulty with these foods. He choked and gagged, often turning blue. He became incredibly irritable, not sleeping more than a few minutes, nursing constantly. His rashes and wheezing were back, along with his diarrhea. After a two-week trial, Dr. Harris recommended taking Joshua back off solid food and trying again at a later date.
Dealing with Food Allergies in Babies and Children
Joshua continued in good health, remaining at the 90th percentile, while exclusively breast-fed - his mother's diet austere yet clean. After a second attempt to introduce solid foods at nine months failed, Dr. Harris referred Catherine to a conventional allergist. Dr. Zimmerman came very highly recommended, being the Chief of Pediatric Allergies at the local Hospital for Sick Children.
Catherine gave Dr. Zimmerman Joshua's history of eczema, coughing, wheezing, bloody diarrhea, colic, runny nose and weepy, crusted eyes, rashes and his episode of anaphylactic reaction to apple juice. The family history revealed Catherine suffered from allergies to trees, flowers, grass and ragweed, chronic bronchitis and hives. Joshua's two older brothers, Jason and Michael, had experienced severe allergies from birth, with Jason now a severe asthmatic. Catherine's younger brother had been so allergic as a baby, he only tolerated soy formula, carrots and sweet potatoes. Joshua's aunt also had a long list of allergies.
Dr. Zimmerman looked Joshua over, and found little allergic symptoms. No rashes, hives and his chest was clear. Catherine explained how she had cleaned up her diet, and Joshua's good health was the result.
Waiting for the results of the scratch test done on Joshua's back, Catherine felt the nightmare was finally over. At last she would know what to feed this child, without causing him more uncomfortable symptoms. But after a quick glance at the angry welts on Joshua's back right there in the waiting room, Dr. Zimmerman pronounced him completely allergy-free!?!
Continued in Part 2
[ Joshua's Story - The Child Who Could Not Eat! - Part 1] [ Part 2 ] [ Part 3 ] [ Part 4 ] [ Oh Gosh! They Are Debating About Me!! ]
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Born to Love articles are written by Catherine McDiarmid-Watt
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Last updated - February 8, 2017