A fire engine nebulizer. Sold... to the kid in the fire engine shirt!
_ Kaspar had an asthma attack this week. Which means Kaspar, officially, has asthma. This wasn’t entirely unexpected, since asthma commonly accompanies food allergies and eczema as a little trifecta of doom, but we were hoping to evade it, since our hands are feeling pretty full managing the first two of those challenging conditions. Anyway, no dice; we’re now three for three.

Aaron had asthma as a kid (another clue we’d see it in Kaspar sooner or later), and was distraught over Kaspar’s attack, mostly because he remembers what it felt like to be unable to breathe, and to drive off to the ER in the middle of the night on a regular basis throughout his own childhood. We considered going to the ER with Kaspar; his breath became somewhat short and labored as a cold front swept in one evening early in the week. We had a bag packed and all, but gave him a Benadryl and called his pediatrician after-hours to get her take before setting out. Kaspar’d been suffering from seasonal allergies (along with all of Austin, except for me) for a couple of weeks, which had flared his skin up and killed our already paltry allotments of sleep. He’d had itchy eyes and a runny nose, and it seemed like the breathing was possibly an extension of these disturbances. (As a side, Austin’s year-round high-allergen counts are kind of a deal-breaker in terms of this town being cool. Re-locators beware). His pediatrician said to go ahead and hold off on the ER unless it seemed like Kaspar really couldn’t catch his breath, and the Benadryl (plus some time in a steamy bathroom, shower running) did indeed tide us over until morning. Aaron stayed awake all night listening to Kaspar, regardless. By morning, little man was kind of panting, though still happy and wanting to play; but was clear we were headed in to the doc with something real to deal with. So we went.

Click "read more" below for the rest of the post.

_ Compared to what we’ve dealt with already, this was a relatively simple situation with a slow progression and a reliable treatment plan. (Very different story from the food allergies and eczema, which mystify doctors and families the world over). Kaspar had a (fire engine-shaped! Genius!) nebulizer treatment during our visit. We were sent home with a nebulizer of our own, and instructions to treat him three times a day through the end of the week, and then return. It worked. We kept him home for a couple of days and watched a lot of Wonder Pets/got behind on our work, but all in all it was a pretty low-key situation. I don’t know much about asthma, though I’m jumping on the learning curve, and while I’m determined to find a holistic, systemic treatment that will address whatever imbalance is causing his afflictions-- asthma among them-- in the first place, I’m relieved that there’s such an easy treatment for Kaspar if his lungs give him trouble. I’m not a big fan of medication, but in the case of asthma attacks, it really is necessary to back up the bus, and so I’m embracing the albuterol, hook, line and sinker. That being said, we do now have a remedy from our naturopath that’s intended to address acute, alarming episodes of breathlessness or wheezing, and I will try this first is Kaspar has any future attacks. As we discussed with our pediatrician, Dr. Fyda, we don’t really know yet how much of the asthma we’ll see, so here’s hoping for not very much.

As much as I felt like the asthma was easy-- and encouraged by Dr. Fyda’s noting that kids who are diagnosed under three usually, ultimately, outgrow it-- Aaron and I were both out of sorts following the diagnosis. We bickered over nothing, and I found myself feeling generally deflated, with rumblings of anger beneath. We’ve been creeping up on the one-year anniversary of Kaspar’s anaphylactic episode. The months surrounding it were terrible-- itchy, scary, baffling. We’ve come so far since then-- and this is what I must focus on, always-- but part of me quixotically believed we’d be finished with itching, and feeding Kaspar eggs, by his second birthday. We’re not there yet. I also told myself, once we we finally got his skin calmed down a year ago (and it was less, actually, when all of this went down. He had anaphylaxis at fourteen months, and we ran our first allergy tests only weeks before) by way of Chinese herbs, that we’d take a break from doctors and late-night Google searches for a while. We were enjoying our lives together, really having fun being parents, and it felt like we’d been freed from something dark and crushing. I told myself that I’d give it a year-- wherein we did some NAET treatments (quite possibly an outrageous waste of time and money, but whatever, I’m open to anything), we continued with the herbs, and we fed Kaspar sweet potatoes and chicken-- and then I'd pick the ball up again. Re-test, recommence the journey. I never actually stopped observing, investigating, and searching for answers around Kaspar’s health, but these activities haven’t been desperate in the way that they were back then. We’ve had a wonderful year. Kaspar’s eczema waxes and wanes, and he occasionally has random food reactions, but he is, for all intents and purposes, a robust and happy little star.

Even so, as the seasonal stuff hit and I made an appointment with another (new, and hopefully less douchey than the last guy) western allergist, my heart felt a little heavy. There again was empty verbage on doctor’s websites: Freedom from allergies! (We-know-of-no-treatments-for-food-allergies-beyond-avoidance). Same old, same old. Some intensely scratch-filled nights that, while not as bad as what we went through a year ago, felt unsettling... too familiar. The well-intended suggestions from friends and family, and the sensation of spinning in one direction, and then the next, as I’d follow up and research (because it was in fact one such suggestion that brought us to TCM) and hit walls or hit NAET-like promises and hit optimism and pessimism and the impulse to try to choose the right card. 

I sent emails to several Ayurvedic practitioners; Ayurvedic medicine is young in the US and we haven’t gotten around to it yet. But, a woman I interviewed for an unrelated story mentioned that she suffered from eczema, unexpectedly, as an adult. Western treatments made it worse, TCM didn’t go deep enough, and an Ayurvedic detox did the trick. I filed that away and finally sent some feelers out last week. I also contacted a specialized chiropractor who treats allergies through some energy wave system or somesuch, in Arizona. I’d corresponded with his mother, another practitioner, who lives in Hawaii, a year ago... you see how this is? Anyway: silence. I didn’t get any responses at first.

I believe this is a cause and effect universe. And when it comes to solving problems, or realizing dreams, sometimes the only way to go about it is to know where you want to be, and make causes in that direction, not knowing exactly what path will end up forming from point A to point B... but trusting one will.

This takes some patience. I’m working on that.

Then the asthma attack happened, and our focus honed in on that. Kaspar’s itching, and sleep, actually improved throughout the week, too, so we were gifted our brains back over the course of several days. For me that just means rationality, the ability to chill myself out and cultivate that patience I so value. To remember that, mostly, it’s not an emergency. What I’m setting out to do in resuming our search, our journey to Kaspar’s complete wellness, and freedom from this stuff, is to assemble a team. Western medicine and TCM (or Ayurveda, or shamanic medicine or whatever) do not see eye to eye. They just don’t. They understand the body, and disease, completely differently. Yet we have had to mix and match when it’s come to Kaspar, and the people who treat Kaspar care about him... and thus are open to the other things that we’re trying. Dr. Fyda, for instance, knows we give Kaspar Chinese herbs. She saw the before and after. So she’s down with it. And our TCM practitioner listens carefully to our knowledge we’ve derived from allergy blood tests. Problems have occurred when doctors haven’t really cared about the person they’re treating, as with the allergist we saw last year. My goal is to build a small team of diverse practitioners for Kaspar who, as a common thread, care about the big picture. With a picture as complex as his, this is necessary. And my bottom line is that we will not turn our lives upside down. We will take this a step at a time.

The next step is to see the allergist and run allergy tests. We’ll compare them to last year’s batch. We’ll see what he has to say. We won’t apply steroid creams or sign on to long-term antihistamines.

We’ll continue with TCM. And we’ll perhaps get an Ayurvedic perspective in the mix, maybe cure all of our problems in Arizona. Who knows. One step at a time, and we’re busy with life, so... as with everything toddler-style... this process is slow.

Meanwhile, I did hear back from both the chiropractor, and an Ayurvedic practitioner. I’m trading emails with the former-- his basic approach to the body as a whole system is right on target, but I have no idea if we’ll end up working with him; it’s too soon to tell-- and the latter, though lacking pediatric experience, has jumped aboard our Kaspar-bear bus and is reaching out to her colleagues to find someone who’s not. She wrote, “I really honor the quest you are on and the commitment you feel to find relief for Kaspar. I believe there is something out here that will help him... let's keep working to find it.”

Someday I’ll tell Kaspar about all of the people who’ve helped him, about how deeply people care for him, and want him to be comfortable, safe, well. I will tell him about the many prayers to the many gods that our friends extended on his behalf, about the doctors and the distant lands and centuries of knowledge various practitioners-- and his parents-- have searched with him in mind. I’ll tell him how difficult it was to watch my child itch, to one degree or another, for his entire life to date, at (almost) two, but that the goodness in life-- in people-- rushed to his aid, and formed a potent, soothing psychological balm while we addressed his problem. I am determined as hell and I believe he’ll ‘grow out of’ his eczema. I hope we can get him past his food allergies somehow, too. I'm working on being sure that we will. In the meantime, I’m searching, and I’m grateful. I know it could be so much worse. And I’m glad he’s sleeping soundly now, breathing deeply, quietly, slowly, an even rhythm. As for the asthma, we’re prepared, and we’ll deal with it without fanfare. But I don’t expect it will stick around for very long.

With the wonderfully kid-friendly Dr. Fyda.
01/28/2012 05:28

I applaud you. I cannot imagine how physically (and more importantly) emotionally draining it must be to wake up everyday and not know what 'thing' could harm Kaspar. I will continue to pray and hope your beautiful boy will find some relief one day soon.

I developed asthma at 8 yrs old and have the same memories as Aaron. It was quite scary then, I can't imagine what it felt like for a 2 yr old. I didn't realize there was a connection between food allergies and asthma but it completely makes sense. After my asthma diagnosis, 8 yrs later (and after multiple doctor visits and skin creams) I was diagnosed with Celiac Disease. It was newly being detected when they tested me. They told me it was a disease found in 60 yr old men, that it was hereditary (no one in my family had it) and that I was 1 out of 1,000 people with the disease...that was 17 yrs ago. Now I'm 1 out of 100. It's crazy how times have changed and the advancements they've made in medicine. I have no doubt Kaspar will find solace soon.

I have a 2 1/2 yr old son who's first year of life was running from doctor to doctor trying to find him relief from eczema. We were told to "wait it out" that "after 9 months it will just disappear." I was in shock...how can they tell us to stay calm and ride it out when our 5 month old is itching, kicking and screaming from discomfort and there's nothing we could do about it. We decided to go the route of steroid cream, which are no joke by the way. After he turned a year old his skin did clear up but that was one crazy first year. Then he started getting sick; consistent colds, the croup, pneumonia twice in one year...everything respiratory (same as I did as a kid). I'm waiting for the day when the asthma arrives. As of now he has no food allergies, but it's not out of the question knowing family history, but it's fascinating to know that food allergies, asthma and genetics are all relative.

I wish you luck on this journey. It's only a matter of time before you find answers. Thank you for sharing your story day after day. I'm sure Aaron and yourself are not the only parents going through this, you are helping many who are in the same boat.

01/30/2012 13:53

You three -- my dearest three -- asthma is now another bad actor in your lives. Work through it, find professionals and friends and be methodical as you have been doing with other allergies. I know you will do the right thing, and don't despair. You will prevail!

01/31/2012 06:52

Thanks Dad! I appreciate you cheering us on! Kaspar is lucky to have a grandpa with such a positive spirit! <3

01/31/2012 06:51

Thank you for your comment, Stephanie, and for sharing your experience. It's amazing to read how much the understanding around celiac has changed just in the last several years. Kaspar is also celiac, and I sometimes wonder how nuts we need to get about removing all gluten-containing products (food and otherwise) from our home, but for now we keep them entirely away from him and I am committed to addressing the root cause of his allergies rather than trying to figure out just one of them at a time.

I hope your little boy does NOT develop asthma! So sorry to hear he's been sick so much with respiratory stuff, of course. Keep me posted, and I'll do the same as we piece the puzzle together (or take it apart?) on this end.

Thanks for your encouragement. Means a lot! Much love and strength back to you and your family.

02/17/2012 16:28

Just catching up on your site (crazy busy haven't had time to read much around here!).
We have the trifecta of asthma, allergies, eczema here as well. Asthma was diagnosed last year, but we've kept it at bay with high does of daily Zyrtec.
We are also looking at Aruveda, mostly because my yoga teacher is a practioner.
One word of warning if you go the chiropractic route - kids very frequently get worse before they get better as their bodies adjust. Chiropractic cured me of my own asthma, but getting there is really freaking HARD.

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