He struggled with many different issues, including eczema, severe colic, difficulty settling and failure to thrive. I visited many doctors, both in South Africa during his first year and in Australia, but found no answers.
The first provisional diagnosis given to us was Pyloric Stenosis, a narrowing of the outlet of the stomach after an episode of projectile vomiting. Thanks to the advice of his god-mother, my closest friend who is a doctor, my GP agreed to order a barium swallow x-ray examination. This was done much to the annoyance of the radiologist who insisted that this condition only existed in small babies under 6 weeks of age and said that if my son had this condition, he would not have survived to be 10 months old.
At that time he was severely under weight (only just making the 5th percentile on the growth chart), covered in eczema and unable to sleep more than 2 hours at a time due to painful colic. I was still breast feeding him and made several attempts to modify my own diet to exclude certain food groups, but without much improvement in his symptoms. At around 10 months, I discovered that he had a severe peanut allergy after giving him a small piece of my peanut butter sandwich and watched him turn bright red from his forehead down into his body and legs within seconds of having the piece of bread in his mouth. I managed to remove it and administered an oral antihistamine syrup immediately and took him to my GP. I had been consuming peanut butter sandwiches daily to keep up my energy levels, as I was so tired and sleep deprived. I had no idea this was causing his problems through my breast milk, in addition to the dairy products I was eating.
Our family had made a decision to leave South Africa and move to Australia in June of 1998. It was an extremely busy and stressful time, selling our home and cars and finding new homes for our pets. Our son was hospitalized in the November due to excessive weight loss, vomiting and eczema, but the decision to operate on him was postponed due to his fragile state of health. He was put on a medication called Prepulsid which was later taken off the market due to its side effects, but it seemed to help the colic to a small extent.
On arriving in Sydney in January 1999, my priority was to find a good doctor to follow up on the previous investigations and blood tests which had been done. I got a referral from a local GP to see a paediatrician at the medical centre on Fox Valley Rd, but he was so fully booked that I had to wait 6 months for the appointment. I put so much faith in him being able to help us find a solution (or at least a diagnosis) for my son’s issues, but was devastated when all he did was weigh and measure him, tell me that he was not significantly underweight and send us out of the consultation room within 10 – 15 minutes!! He hardly even listened to our story, scanning the test results seemed to be sufficient for his investigative purposes.
My sleep deprivation at the time added to my sense of disbelief and loss.
Another doctor referred me to a paediatric gastroenterologist at Sydney Children’s Hospital where my son (almost 2 at this stage), was booked in for a biopsy of the bowel to rule out gluten intolerance. After huge expense (as we were not yet Australian residents) and the associated trauma of this procedure, the result was negative. I was told that he had “poor appetite” and should be put onto a medication!! I was stunned at the lack of support or advice given by these specialists. It took me a while to regain my enthusiasm and commitment to finding a solution to his problems. I started investigating natural medicine, Chinese Herbal Medicine and naturopathy, but some of the treatments made him worse and I eventually had to discontinue that line of investigation as well, returning to focus on getting him to eat nutritionally rich, home cooked food, high in protein and vitamins to build him up.
I was amazed how quickly a diet low in salicylates, free of additives, colours and flavours and also free of all dairy products allowed him to settle and sleep better. It was like a miracle!
The whole family went on the FAILSAFE diet from then on, with surprising results in my own behaviour. After being on the diet strictly for 2 months, I chose a weekend and stocked up on all the food (especially fruit) we had been avoiding : tinned peaches, plums and apricots, cranberry juice, raisins, watermelon and other food high in salicylates, like avocados. I was so excited to be allowed to eat these foods again and was looking forward to the ‘challenge’. The idea is to load with the particular group of foods which had been avoided and to notice any changes in behaviour, sleep patterns or skin rashes.
By the second day of the challenge, I could not function properly! It is difficult to describe how I felt at that time : my thought processes were totally jumbled (I now call it brain fog), I could hardly finish a sentence correctly, my co-ordination was erratic, my temper was short, my language was foul, I had zero patience with anyone around me and felt hyper-irritable and stressed. My beautiful daughter who was 10 years old at the time, had to take care of her little brother to keep him from provoking me. It took almost a week to return to “normal’ thinking patterns. I could not believe that these natural and so-called “healthy” foods had affected me in this way. I returned to the FAILSAFE diet from then on, avoiding tomatoes, my favourite sweet chilli sauce and grapes (including wine) as well as many other high salicylate foods, to my great dismay. We eventually got used to eating meat, fish & chicken, leeks, green beans, chokoes and pears, banana and pawpaw, occasionally having yellow apples and mangoes. I became skilled at cooking pizzas and lasagna without tomato and learned to make healthy meals with the limited ingredients the diet allowed. I spent most my life shopping, planning the next meal or peeling vegetables, but our son was sleeping through the night, he was putting on weight, started attending pre-school and slowly improved in health and the family returned to some form of normality.
During this time of strict avoidance, we were invited to dinner by lovely neighbours and after explaining the basics of our diet, they agreed to grill some salmon steaks and serve it with potatoes and a green salad. It felt so exciting to be ‘going out’ again! Walking home at the end of the evening that Saturday, I felt a bit tired, but did not think much of it. I had not noticed that lemon juice had been squeezed over the salmon prior to serving. The affect this had on me, after being totally salicylate free, was huge. Basically I slept for almost 5 days continuously, only sitting up to eat when food was brought to me by my family, but having no awareness of what was going on around me.
That was in 2000 and still to this day, I have not heard of any such severe reaction to an overload of salicylates as small as a bit of lemon juice! Even one grape would put me to sleep for several hours within 20 minutes of eating it.
At the end of 2003 when Francis was 5 years old, his dad had a conversation with a work colleague in Perth who had been sick with chronic fatigue type symptoms. He told him how, after not getting any help from the doctors, he found a natural therapist who confirmed he had a sensitivity to the ink from the printer in his office. She treated him for this sensitivity allowing him to return to work a few weeks later free of all the fatigue and brain fog he had experienced before. He was unaware that our son had such severe allergies and intolerances.
We did a search on the net, found a practitioner who used this modality and started our weekly trips to Mosman to see Kate Willesee, a chiropractor who used this energy balancing technique devised by Dr Devi Nambudripad to help people like us, severely compromised by the sensitivities we lived with each day. This was a life changing experience for us. Slowly, one by one both Francis’ & my sensitivities started to disappear. We started eating foods again which had been totally avoided for over 4 years and had no reaction at all.
Francis was treated for dairy and peanut and was able to eat these foods again without any side effects, as well as egg & chicken protein, vitamin C and salicylates, food additives/chemicals/flavours/colours, pesticides and chlorine . Since that time, the only issue I have needed to take him to a doctor for was to treat a plantar wart on his foot. He is a healthy, strong and happy boy who enjoys life, plays soccer and sleeps well. He has a good appetite and maintains a balanced weight.
This remarkable recovery was the start of my passion for sharing this technique with others. I love my work and feel so privileged to be part of the lives of so many beautiful people supporting them on their healing journey.