Lead Poisoning

Last year my seemingly healthy 17 month old baby was diagnosed with lead poisoning.

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No dramatics here.  None of that over blown, minor issue is the end of the world, wipe up my crocodile tears sort of nonsense.  Baby Z’s lead levels were not a little elevated.

They were 10X the acceptable level.

We are talking brain and organ damaging level.

This has changed just about everything in our lives: where we lived, what we ate, and how we see the world.

Before I share our experience there are some very important things I want you to know about protecting our children:

  • If you live/rent an older home test the inside and outside paint. The test is 10 dollars at the hardware store.
  • If your house is less than 5 years old test the water coming out of the faucet. The solder for pipes can be lead based.
  • All dirt (in populated areas) has lead in it. Thanks to leaded gas exhaust (unleaded gas was not used until the 1980’s so if your area was populated before then please use precautions when playing outside).

Here’s how we found out that our lives were about to change:

Due to relocating (we’ve been more nomadic than most) we missed baby Z’s 12 and 15 month checkups. Even though we were a little late to the party we scheduled her doctors appoint as soon as we realized our over sight.

Everything went well. Baby Z behaved well, letting the doctor check her ears, listen to her heart and lungs without a fuss or fight.

Height and weight: above average, mental development: above average. Heck yeah! Momma win! {y’all remember my BF journey right? The moment I get cocky life knocks me flat on my ass.}

As we are leaving the doctor stops us to ask if baby Z has had her lead level checked, apparently it should have been done at her 12 month check up. She had not; we had them tested before we left the office. The doctor was able to test her right there with a hand held machine.

Important note: there is no safe level for lead, 3.5 micro-grams per deciliter is the acceptable level.

45 MPD requires immediate medical treatment.

Baby Z’s level was 35 MPD from the handheld machine in the doctor’s office.  We were sent immediately to the hospital for a second, more thorough test.  We learned during this process about the treatment process that Baby Z would need to endure if her levels were too high.  We were terrified.

It took five days to get those results back.

When the results came in my heart stopped. Remember that 45 MPD requires immediate medical treatment.

The results read: 43 MPD.

Baby Z’s blood was 3 points away from a dangerous medical treatment that would pull the lead out of her blood.

The day our lives changed

My husband and I searched and read everything on lead poisoning we could find while waiting to have Baby Z’s blood drawn for the more intense and conclusive tests.

We came to the conclusion it was the house we were living in.

We had been living there for 5 months, it was home. We have nomadic tendencies and I have not felt “at home” in years, it was nice.

Baby Z and I have not been back to the home since the day we left for the standard doctor appointment, got the results, and came to the conclusion the house was to blame.

That day, the day we left our home for the last time, we arrived at the hospital and in the hospital waiting room, Baby Z had her blood drawn.

 

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Hubby drove us straight to my in-law’s house where we would stay until we had somewhere to return to that would not poison my baby. Their home is an hour away from our home. That means it’s an hour away from my husband who had to stay for work.

I was scared and stranded.

I was left alone with a million questions from myself and my in-laws that I did not have the answer to:

How did this happen?

Why did this happen?

Why did you not clean more often?

Maybe you should have washed her hands more often?

Why do you let her play outside in the dirt?

Will she be ok?

This time was a very hard period my husband, my baby and me. It took two weeks for my husband to find a new place for us and get moved in.

Give me just one moment to gush: My husband amazes me and I grow to respect him more every day. He is my rock. He moved an entire house in two days by himself! Simply so that we could be back home with him.

He did it and we started again in a new home determined and ready to heal our baby and make up for the lost time together.

The things that had to change

What we ate:

When I became pregnant I changed my eating habits. I tried to eat more organic food and a properly balanced diet, but I did not make it major priority. Sometimes I succeeded and sometimes I failed. Life went on.

That all changed when I found out Baby Z was sick.  Diet is the best and fastest way to help flush the lead from her little body.

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We were worn out from all of the uprooting and the back and forth to the doctor. I was determined to continue breastfeeding because it was the best thing to continue to help heal my baby. What is right is not always what is easy.

Thank goodness for friends: My friend Holly started making us snack bars tailored to our needs to help alleviate some of the stress of eating correctly while on the move. She made me a variety of flavors so that I would keep eating them and made sure that they were safe for Baby Z in case she decided to treat herself to one of Momma’s snacks.

I will forever be grateful for that help, she saved my sanity.

Reading ingredient labels was getting exhausting ( the things that are put in kid snacks is scary.)  Baby Z’s liver was being taxed by the heavy metal in her blood, the liver is the filtration system of the body and helping to cleanse that organ system became a major part of our life.

Now we (meaning Z and I – hubby doesnt have to worry about the baby eating what he eats while away from us) don’t eat any artificial dyes or sweeteners.

Over time I have relaxed a bit. I can’t control what her grandparents feed her and freaking out about it isn’t good for anyone.

How I now see the world:

When we first received the diagnosis I saw everything as life threatening to Baby Z.

I threw away all plastic toys (yep trace amount of lead), any and everything made in China (so many things from there are recalled due to safety concerns), started storing our food in glass containers, read every package like a threat letter being sent to my baby.  I had to get extreme to feel like I was doing enough.

How we play:

The saddest thing that changed was the ability to let baby Z play outside.

Z and I basically lived outside before all of this. We had a vegetable garden in the spring/summer and a container garden in the fall/early winter. We painted outside, learned to felt and practice our skills at felting outside.  We made mud pies and other random fun kid things that we just cant do now.

It crushed my free spirited soul to find out these things, the things that brought us so much happiness are the very things that caused her to become so sick.

You see: the outside paint was lead, the paint chips on the ground were lead, and our town is old so, the soil was full of lead. Everything around us was poison.

The healing has begun:

Four months and 5 blood draws later Baby Z’s levels have dropped to 12 MPD .

The doctor is surprised how quickly the levels are falling.

The changes to our diet and lifestyle are what has sped along her healing.

We still have a very long road ahead of us; we will not know if there has been any lasting damage done to her brain until she is 6. Speech is the most common area damaged by lead and we just aren’t there yet.  Time will tell and hopefully heal both her body and our spirits.

Something amazing happened along the way:

I felt so alone in all of this.

I had no Momma tribe.  I had very few friends and no one that understood what was happening to my baby and how it was breaking our hearts.

Along the way B.A.M! happened.  It was born out of support and love for my family.

I started building my own Momma tribe.  B.A.M! is so important to me because it was the beginning of that.  We don’t see ourselves as simply a product that can help, but as a community that can help.

I want you to join my tribe, our Bad Ass Momma community.  Mommas of all styles and walks of life can share their stories, their knowledge, their questions and find support.

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