Our visit with the pediatric Lyme specialist went well--much better than we'd expected.
"Your baby doesn't look at all like a Lyme baby."
Best thing I'd heard in ages, but of course, my immediate response was, "Well, what does a Lyme baby look like?"
Here are a few helpful things I learned during our appointment, including some signs to watch out for after your baby is born (Keep in mind that this is just another opinion among many--each doctor has a different take on the Lyme transmission subject. This particular doctor is considered the best for kids, and I genuinely liked him and what he had to say):
- This LLMD has seen about 400 newborns, half ended up having Lyme, half were fine. Most of the sick babies came from mothers who didn't know they had Lyme during pregnancy and hadn't been treated with antibiotics
-If a mother is on one antibiotic during pregnancy, she has a 50/50 shot of passing on the disease; If she's on two antibiotics throughout, Lyme transmission is pretty much unheard of
-There are other ways to test your baby in addition to cord blood testing. The placenta can be tested, foreskin on a boy, and urine samples
-Positive Lyme test results don't necessarily mean your baby is infected. IGeneX tests look for DNA fragments from the bacteria. That means that at some point during pregnancy, DNA from the bacteria was present in the blood that was shared with the baby. That doesn't mean it was an actual live infection. It could be mom's dead bacteria that was killed by antibiotics, or it may not have even been enough bacteria to make an impact. The test simply shows that something was there. This brings up the question of whether it's worth it to get anything tested at all, since it's impossible to tell what a positive result means.
If I had the opportunity to do it all again, I would still have the boys' cord blood tested, and I'd add in the placenta test (not really interested in urine or foreskin testing). Much of it has to do with the fact that I sleep better at night knowing what we are facing, but now I also know how assertive I have to be with laying the groundwork for treatment based on the initial results. Wyatt's test came back negative, and though I will have him tested once he is a little older, I don't have the sense of urgency that I do with Emmett, who had a positive test. We have actual documentation on file with all doctors, Lyme literate or not, so in case his health declines, or we face other Lyme related problems later, we can trace it back to the beginning. Doctors cover their asses; we're covering ours--I refuse to deal with anyone telling me I'm crazy or paranoid if my kid has strange symptoms five years down the road. I journeyed through that section of hell while trying to get my own diagnosis, and I won't put that on my son.
-If the cord blood or other tests are positive, a Western Blot should be done on the baby to confirm. It's hard to get blood from a newborn (their veins are pretty much nonexistent), and it's even harder to watch your baby in pain. I just kept reminding myself that Emmett wouldn't remember anything from that day, and it was going to help him in the long run
-90% of Lyme babies that come into this doctor's office are what he calls "floppy babies." That have very poor muscle tone and they have no head control. That's the number one sign of Lyme Disease in a baby
-Lyme babies will also have painful joints. How do you tell if a baby has painful joints? When you touch/press the knee, ankle, wrist, etc, the baby will cry out and retract in pain. At the very least he or she will flinch and whimper
Here are a few other symptoms to look out for:
+ Sleep disturbances + GI problems / severe colic + Poor feeding / failure to thrive + Projectile vomiting + Weight loss + High irritability + Sensitivity to light and sound + Not wanting to be held + Frequent infections (Serious infections. Blocked tear ducts and such don't count)
Some of these things come with the territory when you have a baby, for instance, they wake up a lot. Most parents have an irritable baby at some point, who has a meltdown after a long day of being overstimulated. I think the doctor is talking about severe instances that never let up.
When I expressed concern that Emmett has terrible reflux, hates everything, never sleeps, and can cry like someone's torturing him for six hours at a time, he said that reflux and digestive problems are signs of Lyme, but a doctor can't make a diagnosis based on this alone, as many otherwise healthy babies suffer from painful reflux. Same thing goes for irritability. The idea is to rule out some symptoms--if the irritability and crying subside after reflux treatment starts, you know what the problem was. If the baby is still experiencing may of these symptoms after reflux treatment, he or she should be evaluated again. In Emmett's case, the other symptoms improved by 75% within two weeks of reflux treatment. More serious symptoms like poor strength, growth, and muscle tone/head control should send up a red flag right away.
I'm not going to lie--I'm still scared, and I wonder if I passed this on to my little one. I do feel much better knowing that treatment for him would not be long or intense, and that he can go on to live the normal life of a healthy kid. Blood test results won't be in for another week, and I'll let you all know as soon as I hear something.
As we went to leave, Emmett's doctor smiled at me and said, "Don't you give up either, dear. You're much more fixable than you think!" It's too bad this guy only works with children--I'd be happy to let him take a crack at treating me. I still have hope that in a few years all of this will be a distant memory, and I can tell my kids, "We had a rough stretch when you were babies, but we're all fine and well now."
It's been nearly a month since we received the positive cord blood results for Emmett. It's taken that long to get phone calls returned, set up appointments, and start to make sense of all of this, as everyone seems to have an opinion, and most of them differ greatly.
Initially, we took Emmett to his regular pediatrician, seeing as she was given a copy of the IgeneX report and was the first one to respond to my inquiries. She surprised me by not treating me like a lunatic for having the tests done in the first place, however, I could tell by her careful wording that she was not into playing Lyme doctor and wanted to pass us off to a "specialist" as quickly as possible. Ultimately, I was grateful for her kindness and willingness to listen, and for her general concern about our baby. I sensed she had a strong opinion in there about the diagnosing and treating of Lyme in children, but instead of taking a side, she honestly and professionally stated that she was not familiar with IgeneX testing and didn't understand what the tests meant. I have no problems with a doctor who says, "I don't really know what to make of this--I've never heard of cord blood testing, so let's have you take Emmett to see the Infectious Disease doctors as the Children's Hospital. At the very least, they can test his blood, and they'll be gentle about it since it's hard to get blood from a newborn, and they're skilled at it."
I cringed when I heard the words "Infectious Disease," and immediately began imagining an appointment filled with ridicule and anger. Not only do ID doctors in our area not believe in congenital transmission, most of them are hostile toward the idea of Chronic Lyme to begin with. However, my husband and I decided that since we were eventually going to see the guru of all pediatric LLMDS, we would also give the ID docs a fair shot and let them test the way they were going to test. We would then make an educated decision based on what we heard from both sides of the fence. That way, in the end, we couldn't say that we didn't explore all options.
It was extremely difficult to get an appointment with the pediatric LLMD. He was not accepting new patients and was booked through December for current patients, but a number of factors played a role in helping us get in this week. First, this doctor is familiar with my LLMD, and I had my LLMD's office call on my behalf to see if we could get in. Second, I was persistent without crossing the line of being annoying (I hope anyway) and was as kind as I could possibly be when I called each week to see if anything had opened up. Third, we were dealing with a newborn, and they take that very seriously. Fourth, we had a positive blood test going into it, so they knew the problem would have to be addressed. FInally, I did a desperate thing: I called them up, cried a lot, and pleaded with the receptionist to help me. Not sure what did it, but we eventually got an appointment. Huge sigh of relief.
Before I get into the appointment part, I should add that we went back to the pediatrician a day before our LLMD visit to talk about getting Emmett on some medication for his terrible reflux. For the record, we have the most miserable baby on the planet. No joke, this kid can cry for five hours straight without a single break, and it kills us to hear him in such misery. Reflux is a sign of Lyme in an infant, and I was scared. Mostly, I wanted to at least get his symptoms in check so the poor thing could sleep and feel some relief. When I told the pediatrician that we were going to see a Lyme specialist the following day, I was disappointed at her reaction, but also relieved that she finally let her real feelings out.
She very passionately stated that she advised against it. "Those doctors are a sham. the only doctors qualified to diagnose and treat Lyme are ID doctors. Anyone else is taking you for a ride. It's your baby, obviously you can do what you want, but I would never to take my own child to one of those doctors. It's a bad idea."
I wanted to tell her that those sham doctors saved my life and got me out of a wheelchair within 3 months after her "qualified" doctors caused me to miss out of all of my twenties, but I knew it wouldn't get me anywhere. Plus, she's just a pediatrician. Her job is to check my kids ears when they hurt, look at rashes, make sure they're growing right, and give vaccines when they're due. I don't expect her to know the ins and outs of Lyme (though all doctors should--but that's a different story). So I looked at her blankly, a little shocked, and curtly said, "OK."
And that was that. We got a referral for a GI specialist (needed to prescribe Prevacid for a baby), and we left. I spent the rest of the day a little offended and pissed off, but realized later that even though what she said was rude, the tone of her voice told me that she was candidly speaking as a mother and not a doctor. She was trained a certain way, and probably had visions of an evil quack doctor pumping my sweet little newborn full of IV antibiotics until he either reached adulthood or started genetically mutating. Her strong reaction actually showed me that she cares about my kids. I know it doesn't come across that way in writing, but take my word for it, she was just trying to look out. Regardless, I was still pretty miffed.
The next day we saw the sham doctor. He did not try to steal my wallet or hang healing crystals from my baby's neck. He didn't even try to get a hair sample for a voodoo doll or jab him with five IV lines at once. In fact, he did the opposite. He told us that our baby did not look like a Lyme baby (more on that and reading test results in the next post), that he would send his blood out for testing, but he appears to be a Lyme free child whose only problem is a whopping case of reflux. No treatment necessary, but if the tests happened to come back positive, he would be given an oral course of antibiotics, but nothing drastic or damaging.
"But my baby cries all the time. He has terrible reflux. His skin is red and itchy. He's had infections!" The more I tried to make a case for Lyme, the more he sounded like a rational person and not a Lyme-obsessed doctor.
"Your baby is in pain because his throat is burning. You need to see that GI specialist. His joints don't hurt, he has some eczema, and sometimes belly buttons get infected. These are all normal baby things that are unrelated to Lyme. The reflux is a symptom in some Lyme babies, but it's also very common in otherwise healthy babies. We can't diagnose Lyme based on that. "
Another sigh of relief.
To add a strange and funny twist, this afternoon we got a call from the children's hospital, reminding us of our upcoming appointment with doctor Henry Feder. Wait a minute. That name sounded familiar. I plugged his name into Google and remembered--he's that steaming pile of excrement that has made it his personal mission in life to discredit LLMDS and tell the world that Chronic Lyme doesn't exist. Why in God's name would we spend our very last bit money to have an arrogant man lecture us about how it's not possible to give a baby Lyme (regardless of how many documented cases there are)? No thanks. That appointment will be canceled first thing Monday morning. Our hearts belong to Dr. Sham.
I am a mother and writer with Chronic Lyme, on the road to acceptance and recovery. I was bitten in 1996, diagnosed 2008. I am living proof that it is possible to live meaningfully and have happy, healthy children while battling this terrible disease.