This is the story of our daughter Anna and her eczema and the journey we have started with Dr Aron.
Anna was born in Scotland in November 2008. She made quite a dramatic entrance to the world as she was born in a hospital toilet with not a midwife in sight and she snapped the umbilical cord on her way out as she hit the floor and I had to pull the emergency cord in the toilet to get help. But that’s a different story! This story is about her journey with eczema.
Our problems started when Anna was 3 months old and she developed eczema. This wasn’t the mild eczema that some of my friend’s children’s had where they would fret because they had one 1p–sized piece of eczema that wouldn’t shift. Rather it was I’m-too-scared-to-leave-the-house–for-the-comments-I’ll-get and why-is-my-baby-always-oozing eczema. Needless to say, we didn’t take many photos in those days but here a couple (taken to capture how bad it was):
I had been exclusively breastfeeding but, at 4 months old, we gave Anna her first taste of formulae milk. Just 1oz but here was the almost instant reaction (plus lots of vomit, which we didn’t take pictures of):
Needless to say, we didn’t give her dairy again. And hospital tests showed that, as well as dairy, she was allergic to egg, sesame and most nuts. She had been being exposed to these foods through my breast milk. Once we moved her onto hypoallergenic milk her eczema got a lot better (or, should I say, less horrific) and we were no longer on antibiotics what seemed like every second week.
Nevertheless, Anna’s eczema remained an issue and we received care from the hospital dermatology team until she was about 18 months old when we seemed to get forgotten about. This wasn’t such a big deal though, as her eczema was much less of an issue by then. We were still moisturising frequently but rarely needing steroid creams.
In July 2011, Anna’s 9 month old baby brother Charlie was diagnosed with type 1 diabetes, in a rather traumatic experience with an ambulance dash to hospital and the threat of a coma or worse, and our world was turned upside down. Anna, then aged almost 3, showed her competitive streak and regularly reminded me that “I’ve got three things wrong with me – eczema, food allergies and asthma” as opposed to Charlie’s one thing (but, trust me, type 1 diabetes is a huge thing to deal with). Oh yes, I forgot to mention Anna’s asthma, which was diagnosed at age 2 and involved a few overnight hospital stays.
A few months into Charlie’s diagnosis, I turned to type 1 diabetes support groups on facebook. I use them less now but, at the time, they were my lifeline. I learned so much and also received the emotional support I needed and I’m still an active member of many groups.
A year or so later, when Anna was about age 4, her eczema took at turn for the worse and it has been getting gradually worse ever since. We got referred back to hospital dermatology but they told me it was like “teaching me to suck eggs” and to keep on using the steroids (and, in fact, even more steroids) and to moisturise lots. This wasn’t particularly helpful but was no more than I expected from the NHS.
It finally dawned on me that it might be a good idea to join an eczema support group, which I did. In type 1 diabetes, there are often debates (bordering on fights) over whether or not to night test (i.e. check your child’s blood glucose level overnight – one of the risks of not doing so being that there is a tiny chance that they might die overnight). In eczema support groups, the equivalent debate is over whether or not to use topical steroid creams such as hydrocortisone or stronger (we are definitely in the stronger category). We have always been in the pro-steroid camp and I was never tempted to follow the anti-steroid mums. However, I did pay attention to the small number of mums who talked, in almost reverent tones, about a Dr Richard Aron from South Africa with whom they had achieved amazing results for their children.
I joined the facebook group ‘Dr Aron Eczema Treatment Discussion Group’ (https://www.facebook.com/#!/groups/492451777525485/) and avidly followed the successes and joy of other families for a few months (literally everyone on the group has had amazing results). Then, in June 2014, I decided that we wanted a piece of that success. We are currently on day 5 and I’m not exaggerating when I say it is like a miracle has taken place. But I will provide more details in my next post ….