We had a near miss with antibiotics this week.
Two bottles of super-strength antibiotics stared me down from the refrigerator for 24 hours, threatening a head-on collision after which I’d have to deal with the consequences.
They also promised to make my son feel better and get our family life back to normal, fast.
What’s a parent to do?
It’s been a frustrating year of illness.
Two years ago when I started writing at Kitchen Stewardship, I remember singing the praises of making chicken stock, which I’d always made but incorporated more regularly that winter. “We hardly get sick!” I sang.
Just remember, don’t ever put much credence in one lousy family who has a lucky winter and doesn’t get sick.
If you asked me this year how eating real food has kept us healthy, I’d say it’s a joke. Our whole family was sick from October 1 through mid-January, with cold after cold, infections, and other stuff, including pinkeye, walking pneumonia, and double ear infections, all on the same day, for poor 5-year-old Paul.
My 2-year-old daughter Leah had a week of throwing up – an entire week! – about a month ago. Her baby dolls have been sick and “frowing up” every day since then. When Paul came down with something two weeks ago and threw up, she watched it happen, and with utter glee (I kid you not) on her face, cried, “Paul’s frowing up! Paul’s frowing up too!” I think she was glad to have someone to empathize with.
I forgot to give him the activated charcoal from my Naturokit, which Leah couldn’t keep down but seemed to help my husband when he caught a whiff of her bug on the opposite end.
After two days of misery, he ended up having strep throat, and we went with antibiotics without question for two reasons: (1) he was miserable, couldn’t eat or drink a thing, and the garlic I’d been making him “shoot” with honey and putting in his socks wasn’t working, and (2) we were leaving for Kentucky the following morning.
Ten days later, we dutifully finished the “pink stuff,” which Paul loved and Leah wanted, gave him probiotics at every meal the next day, and he woke up on a Monday with a fever. In the absence of any other symptoms, we assumed it was just a fever, which had been “going around” at his school, and when it broke Wednesday morning I was so glad.
He was happy and bouncing around (literally, on an exercise ball) that morning, but by 2 p.m. his ear hurt. By 3:00 he was crying in pain, and by 4:00 I gave him Tylenol so he could get relief and sleep.
Did I mention Leah came down with the fever at 11:00 that morning, which knocked her down and out for the afternoon? Paul had a fever again by Wednesday night, and the poor kid had to pop more garlic. He’s a tough kid, but there’s nothing fun or easy about raw garlic going down your throat!
Both kids’ fevers and Paul’s ear pain really ebbed and flowed, and I kept thinking maybe they were getting better. And then they’d get worse.
By Friday morning, Leah’s fever had more or less broken, maybe a 99F temp maximum, and her spirits were really good, so I was not worried about her. Paul, on the other hand, had a very rough night Thursday with a high fever making sleep difficult. At 102.3F under the arm and two days of ear pain, it was time to take him in. I kind of expected a diagnosis of “strep has returned and he has a nasty ear infection,” or even worse, so “just an ear infection” was actually music to my ears!
Apparently once you’ve just finished antibiotics recently, even if the infection is in a new place, you get the next step up in the world of antibiotics.
And if you have to go for a third round, it’s likely you get prophylactic antibiotics for six months to a year! My mistake; the prophylaxis would only be after multiple bouts with strep throat, not just any infection piled up. (Phew!)
For a mom who knows anything about balancing gut flora, healthy bacteria, and the risks of antibiotics, which include gluten sensitivity and autoimmune disease, that news was absolutely terrifying to me.
This new antibiotic also has a really high incidence of diarrhea as a side effect, just what we needed for plane travel and vacation on Tuesday.
We pulled gluten from Paul’s diet about four weeks ago, but we haven’t been able to learn anything yet because he’s been sick and on antibiotics so much. I have a hunch that both he and his dad may have a gluten sensitivity, and here we are having him glug more antibiotics. I also heard just recently that antibiotics can be linked to autoimmune diseases, including Crohn’s Disease, from which my husband suffers. I have a terrible feeling Paul has the propensity for Crohn’s, and I hate the thought of giving that disease an easier path to rear its ugly head.
It was a parental situation I wouldn’t wish on anyone.
To Medicate or not to Medicate
I filled the prescription on the way home from the doctor’s, knowing I needed to have it available so our options were open. I also stopped at a health foods store and bought oil or oregano for the first time and some garlic oil.
Paul was able to get a good nap that afternoon and wasn’t miserable, so I felt comfortable waiting until my husband came home from work. We both Googled oil of oregano and antibiotic risks, discussed, prayed, and worried.
It was touch and go every hour for about 24 hours on whether we’d use the antibiotics or not.
I was giving Paul 1-2 drops of oregano oil and 7-10 drops of garlic oil 3x/day. I had no idea if it would work or how we could tell.
There’s nothing easy about making medical decisions for your child.
You so strongly desire:
- your child to stop feeling pain
- to do the best thing for the child
- to help the child avoid future negative side effects
- and honestly, to be free from the weight of having a decision to make
The medical community says take the drugs. The natural momma in you says to explore natural alternatives. The foodie in you, currently testing for a gluten sensitivity partly by watching changes in BMs, says, “No way, man, I can’t do anything else to mess up this boy’s poop! We aren’t learning anything!” And the mother in you just says, “I want the pain to stop. I want my son back, bouncing around the house, literally. I can’t wait to see him slide on his knees on the carpet for no reason and put a new hole in his pants.”
Everywhere you look, whether to friends, doctors, pharmacists, or Google, you find conflicting research and/or conflicting opinions or warnings.
While I’m thankful that I don’t have to worry like parents 100 years ago did about my children dying from a run-of-the-mill disease, thanks to the wonders of modern medicine, my stress feels like it’s just as high because the weight of the decision is on my shoulders. It’s not like it’s completely up to God what happens, since I have to discern His will and the best course of action and act on it. No matter how much prayer I put into it, the act of being His hands and feet in the world will never be easy.
The Power of Suffering
I was struck by the Sunday Gospel in a pretty powerful way, as I sat there praising God for the return of my son: his health, his appetite, his spunk, his sense of humor. The rush of relief I felt when I knew the fever broke in the middle of the night (Friday) was renewed as I lifted my heart to the Lord in the Mass.
Little did I know He had something to say to me.
The Gospel was John 9:1-41, about the man born blind whom Jesus healed on the Sabbath. Christ said two things just to me through this story and our priest’s homily:
- Suffering is never given in vain, but to show Christ to the world in some way. YOU, Katie, did not show Christ through Paul’s illness. You were negative, frightened, and sought only a solution, an end to the opportunity of suffering I granted your family, instead of trying to find Me in the situation and trusting Me.You thought it was not fair that Paul, a child, be the one with the affliction. How little you understand that my grace flows through him, too, and could have given many people an opportunity to see Me through how you reacted to the Cross I gave your family. Instead you complained.
- Like the Pharisees, you were blind to My will, to my gift. Like the Pharisees, I want you to see the truth of suffering, to see the beauty in it, all of it. Like the Pharisees, I need you to be blind to the ways of this world so that you may truly see holiness. The suffering of children is not in vain; it gives the parents a road to Heaven, along which they may bring all their children.
I’m learning. I’m a slow learner. God really has to pull truths out of me and work hard at it.
Have you had experience with choosing a natural remedy over conventional medicine? How difficult was it for you?
UPDATE: Since this post I’ve had a lot more experience battling illness naturally. If you need to know how to get rid of warts naturally, I’ve since written a post on it HERE. You may also be interested in the Top 5 Herbs for Cold and Flu Season.