Yesterday, I took Samuel into hospital for a blood test which was to be followed by a clinic appointment with Sam’s pediatrician, Dr H. Samuel had to fast for the blood test as it was in relation to starting the ketogenic diet, so we turned off his feeding pump at midnight instead of letting it continue until 8am.
As there was time in between appointments I thought I’d take his pump bag & feed with us so I could give him a quick feed before seeing Dr H. But no, it didn’t work out as planned. I think they were either running late or forgot about us, but we got called in late for the blood test, which took a while to do as his veins aren’t very cooperative, oh yes and they had to pause while he had a seizure.
Anyway, we finally got into see Dr H. I normally arrive to appointments early and am always calm and quite relaxed. But on this occasion I was late and very flustered. And then it hit me. Sam had essentially been fasting for 13 hours and the poor boy was really unsettled and very twitchy (I should add that although I might refer to Sam having ‘twitches’ sometimes, it is in fact all seizure activity).
You may not think it is surprising that he was unsettled as the poor boy was probably hungry. But you see, the ketogenic diet is a high fact diet, used to mimic starvation. I understand from Dr H that back in good old days, that was how doctors treated epileptic patients, by essentially starving them. And Samuel, well there was no visible change to him whatsoever. In fact, it appeared that we were having quite a bad day. I was thinking about it but chose not to say anything out loud about it to Dr H. But I didn’t need to. While looking at Samuel as we were chatting, Dr H said what I really didn’t want him to say. That he was concerned that this was a sign that the ketogenic diet might not work for Samuel.
Right from the start when we started talking ketogenic, although extremely keen to start it (anything is worth a try), I have continued to remind myself that it certainly isn’t a cure and not guaranteed to work on everyone. I didn’t really need to remind myself what a tricky customer our boy is. In fact I’ve almost told myself it wont work, just so I’m prepared because I’ve seen the ‘conventional’ epilepsy drugs that have been tried on Samuel not even touch the sides, as the doctors have put it, his epilepsy ‘is off the scale’. And I guess because I’m use to preparing for the worst.
Samuel is on three strong medicines, which he has twice a day (this doesn’t include his bedtime medicine to help him sleep or his emergency epileptic medicine). If this diet works, we could take him off one or more of these medicines. If it works it could mean he has far less seizures. Less seizures mean less distress for him, less pain and discomfort. It would give his brain a rest. May give his brain a chance to develop – could he even reach a milestone? Oh my goodness, if it works, I can’t begin to tell you what that could mean for Sam and us. But I can’t let myself get too excited. It may make no difference at all.
But I must remain hopeful. I mean Samuel has already surprised the doctors and proved them wrong. He’s still here isn’t he? He’s still fighting. And I can’t help but think of one day last November (it was a Thursday) when he had bad diarrhoea and on one day when he must have been pretty empty because of his upset stomach, he was so still it was like he was a different child. He was wide awake, but there was no twitching and ‘abnormal movements’. Auntie C visited that day and couldn’t believe that it was the same boy. So I think we can still have a little hope.
Time will tell. We are hoping to start the diet in April and it becomes apparant if it’s working within the first three months.
I just pray that it does make a difference to Samuel. Even the smallest difference could change everything. So, dear reader, I ask one small thing of you. Say a little prayer for Samuel. Pray that somehow this diet will work for our boy. Because we really need it to. Samuel needs it to.
More information about ketogenic diet: A useful website to visit to find out more information about the ketogenic diet is matthewsfriends.org and their document about the different types of ketogenic diet is particularly useful.