Read Part I and II in thise series:
We moved to rural Iowa when Katie was just over a month old. Eric and I were raised in Iowa and had always intended to move back to raise our kids. One of Eric's friends from California landed a job with a nursing home chain and called Eric to offer him a job running a facility in a small town. We thought this was the ideal place, a five minute commute for Eric and lots of healthy sunshine and fresh air for Chris and Katie.
When we met the local pediatrician, we were very happy. The town was so small that she was the only pediatrician and she didn't need to carry a beeper. We need only to call her house or call the grocery store and have her paged. The only thing that struck us as odd was the way she completely blew off Katie's acid reflux. In fact, she told us, "There is no such thing as reflux. Your baby just throws up a lot. That's what babies do. Stop worrying about it."
At this point, Katie's acid reflux was starting to cause her pain. But we didn't completely put two and two together. We thought she had colic and the pediatrician reinforced this. Remember, this is the pre-internet days when parents couldn't do their own research.
Life went from difficult to miserable to intolerable very quickly. Katie became nearly inconsolable. She puked on everything and we resorted to putting blankets over the carpet in the house we rented. Katie never slept more than an hour at a time and had to be held upright all day and all night. She and Eric slept in the rocking chair every night. Eric would take his shirt off and put Katie's tummy up against his chest and I would tuck a blanket in around them. We called this Daddy-Hot-Water-Bottle. It was the only way to get a few precious hours of sleep.
Iowa is so cold that going outside regularly was impossible. We met one neighbor with kids and I signed up my son for swim lessons at the YMCA. This was our entire social life. Other than trips to the grocery store and the bi-weekly trip to the pediatrician, we seldom left the house. I finally signed Chris up for a daycare we couldn't afford because I was too exhausted to even talk to him and he was incredibly lonely, not to mention getting into things.
We took Katie to the doctor constantly. Each time the doctor blamed the constant crying on colic or a virus. Katie's throat was always bright red, but nobody blamed the vomiting. She didn't gain much weight at all. I was nursing and did everything I could think of to avoid foods that might cause vomiting. The pediatrician thought I was wasting my time.
Oddly enough, I wasn't as worried about Katie as I should have been. I accepted the pediatrician's diagnosis that dropping off the weight chart was not a big deal because I'm a very tiny person (5" tall and 90 lbs before getting pregnant). When Katie cut back her feedings I was told that all babies do this. When she continued to cry constantly day and night past the age where colic stops, I was told that she must be teething early and was given instructions to give her high doses of Tylenol around the clock.
I pretty much believed the doctor. I was so utterly and totally exhausted that only a small corner of my brain sounded the alarm that something was wrong with Katie.
Luckily, Eric hated the job and we didn't fit into the small town where there was no diversity and everybody's ambition in life was to go work at the local factory with their parents. We also knew it was a good excuse to find another doctor for our miserable little five-month-old. We decided that we needed to go back to Washington, D.C.
The minute we got back, I called a former co-worker whose child had multiple medical problems and disabilities. I asked for the name of her pediatrician and immediately made an appointment for two weeks later.
A couple days later, Katie went on a complete hunger strike. She refused to take a drop of breast milk, formula or cereal. She would shut her mouth and turn her whole body away.
Beth Anderson will tell us what finally happened to Katie, and how her experience led to the establishment of reflux.org and Anderson's writing of The Reflux Book.
Published On: February 22, 2008