I guess it is my turn to share my story and the cause so close to my heart. I want to thank Amy for leading the charge and Christy for sharing her amazing story and cause. I wish I could say that the words are freely flowing right now, but this is really difficult for me. I think any time you have to open up about something personal and raw, it just makes your heart swell a bit. My heart is overflowing this morning but I am grateful for this opportunity to share our story.
Our story begins 7 years ago with the birth of our first son. He entered this world with his eyes wide open and I will never forget that moment. In return he has opened our eyes to so much more in this world than I could have ever imagined. I am so grateful for his sweet soul, strong personality and for his courageous heart.
Gavin appeared normal as he had 10 fingers, 10 toes and did everything a newborn baby should do. Thom and I were first-time parents and just enjoying the overwhelming experiences that come along with a new baby. Once released from the hospital we headed home, where my mom was there to greet us. It was a warm April day, and I remember sitting outside and marveling over our new baby boy. It was a perfect moment!
I was one of those stubborn new moms that had to do everything myself. I would–of course–breastfeed my baby (NO bottle feeding or pacifiers allowed!), I would change every diaper, and I would power through those tired moments like a champ. Well, on Day 4 everything hit me and I needed to crash. Thank goodness my mom was there, as she forced me to lie down and get some rest. (Moms know best even when you don’t want to listen!) It was the first day I had been able to sleep, that amazing hard sleep that your body just falls into. Unfortunately it was short-lived as within an hour, we received a phone call from an amazing doctor at the University of Virginia (UVA) Medical Center.
That doctor who called is the Program Director for the Division of Pediatric Genetics at UVA Medical Center, and he is also considered Gavin’s Guardian Angel. He was unable to contact anyone under our current health care so he had to call me at home. Waking up to this phone call was scary, surreal and confusing. He told me that my son tested positive for Galactosemia and we needed to take him to the hospital immediately. He urged us not to do any research on the internet as it could be overwhelming but informed me that I needed to stop breastfeeding my son. As you can imagine my world slowly began to crumble. What is Galactosemia? I had never heard of it before and why would he urge me to stop breastfeeding my baby–the best thing you can give your child?
As we began packing everything up, I told my mom to go on my computer and look it up as I needed to know what we were in for. Our sweet baby boy had tested positive for a very rare metabolic disorder where his body could not break down milk sugar. For the past four days I had been poisoning my newborn son with my breast milk. His body was slowly shutting down.
When we arrived to the hospital, they immediately put him under the bili-light; his liver was swollen and he was jaundiced. His labs were off the chart and he had turned orange by this point. He was lethargic, wasn’t eating, and slept most of the day. Things were very stressful and we prayed that everything would be okay. The hospital was amazing and as the days passed, our son began to respond to a soy-based diet. He was out of the woods and Gavin was released to come home.
Seeing your child sick and helpless in the hospital is overwhelming and life-changing. You see how fragile life can be and how one decision can change your life as well as your child’s life. I had no idea that Thom and I could be carriers for this rare disorder. No one else in our family had ever had this happen and the chances of meeting another person with this disorder is low. Galactosemia affects only 1 in 60,000 babies born every year.
Galactosemia is rare, it is under-researched and there are complications that are just so difficult to explain and understand. How can milk sugar affect reproduction and vision? Unfortunately, it does affect many different organs and causes one’s body to function differently than someone without galactosemia.
Our story is a happy one as our son is doing great. He eats a restricted diet (dairy-free), his liver is functioning normally, and his galactose levels are finally down to a reasonable range (it only took 6 years since having breast milk to get his levels down to an acceptable range!). There are unfortunately many complications with Galactosemia that can happen over time, including: enlarged liver, kidney failure, cataracts, brain damage, and speech and learning delays. Gavin has been free and clear of the major complications for some time now, and we pray he continues down that path. He does struggle in school, but we are truly blessed to have amazing resources, a strong support system and terrific teachers. Gavin is thriving! He is learning, growing and looks and acts like a normal 7 year old boy as you can see below:).
Gavin has a very sweet and sensitive personality with a pure and loving heart. He works very hard and really gives life his all. He has opened my eyes on a daily basis to God’s grace and he is such a blessing to me and our family. Our cause is the Galactosemia Foundation and their mission is:
- To educate, support and provide advocacy for those affected by Galactosemia.
- To network with professionals to inspire the treatment and advanced research of Galactosemia.
Thank you for visiting us on this very special day. Sharing our causes has been an emotional dream come true!
Sharing this story at Imparting Grace