Sunday, June 25, 2017

Held Up

The month of June hasn’t turned out as I’d planned. After over a year of not dealing with thrush, poor Alex has had one of the worst bouts he has ever had. Not only does the fungal infection make his mouth and throat sore, but the illness also causes him to develop terrible dandruff and acne. Besides the physical effects, the yeast overgrowth brings on brain fog that makes him less mentally sharp, especially when it comes to verbalizing what he wants to say. On top of that, we discovered that his lithium medication levels were too high, causing an increase of tremors that make using his hands extremely difficult. Since he had been doing quite well for many months, I was eagerly anticipating summer so that we could relax and enjoy activities together as a family. Instead, we have held up on doing things until Alex feels better.

Rather than going to restaurants, one of Alex’s favorite things to do, we have been literally spoon feeding him applesauce, coconut milk yogurt, eggs, and baby food. Our blender has been put to good use making fruit smoothies and rice milk ice cream shakes that soothe his throat and fill his tummy. Because he has lost some weight on his already slim frame, we have had to encourage him to eat every meal and nutritious snacks to ensure that he doesn’t become too thin. Even though he doesn’t feel good, he has been a trouper about eating what appeals and even trying to eat the foods he normally enjoys that apparently doesn’t taste good right now, a side effect of the thrush.

At the end of May, we took him to his family doctor because we were concerned about his decreased appetite, weight loss, and suspicion that thrush was behind his symptoms. His doctor gave us a prescription for seven days of the antifungal Diflucan to treat thrush and wanted us to return in a few weeks after he returned from vacation. He also expressed concern about the lithium level shown on a recent test, which we assured him we would discuss with the psychiatric nurse practitioner who prescribes Alex’s medications for anxiety.

After valiant attempts to contact the nurse practitioner by phone and email yielded no response, despite my insistence with her staff that we needed guidance regarding the lithium medication, we prayed and decided that we needed to do something to prevent lithium toxicity. With Alex’s doctor out of town and his nurse practitioner not communicating with us and unable to see him until the fall, we lowered his lithium dosage on our own. Thankfully, we saw no negative side effects, and his tremors seemed to decrease a bit with the medication reduction. While we were concerned about making this change without medical guidance, we believed it was the right thing to do.

This week, Alex had an appointment with his doctor, who was pleased that he had not lost any more weight and was showing signs of improvement. However, he agreed with us that the thrush is not completely gone, so he prescribed another round of Diflucan, this time for two weeks. When we explained our dilemma with the lithium dosage, he completely supported our decision, which was reassuring. In addition, he ordered a blood test to check the current lithium level that day and told us if the level was still too high, he would reduce the dosage again. We were pleased that he was taking charge and had a good plan after we felt abandoned by the nurse practitioner. Moreover, he wants to see Alex again in three months––or sooner if needed––to check his weight and overall health. Needless to say, we were happy with how well this appointment went, especially since Alex was very cooperative, feeling content and confident that we have a family doctor who genuinely cares about Alex and his health.

Later that afternoon, the doctor’s office called with the results of the lithium test (which was sooner than expected) to let us know that with the medication reduction we had made, the lithium level is now in normal range. Consequently, no further medication reductions are needed at this time. The good test results confirmed for us that we had done the right thing with God’s guidance and that Alex’s doctor is on top of things, which is important to us. While one professional had let us down, another had stepped up and made sure that Alex received proper care. Once again, God had shown us that He is always faithful and provides for our needs.

On Friday evening, we attended our first concert of the summer, a local church band playing in our downtown park plaza to raise funds and collect food for needy children in our community. Clearly feeling better than he has all summer, Alex enjoyed every minute of the concert, smiling, swaying to the music, and clapping his less shaky hands. While most of the songs were upbeat popular music, the band also played two contemporary Christian tunes. As they sang of God’s love, Alex’s expression can be best described as beatific. Sometimes I think he is closer to God than most of us, strengthened by a faith that allows him to be confident, in spite of autism, knowing that everything will be all right in the end. Watching his eyes shine and his smile spread across his face, I was reminded that, in spite of illness and autism and disappointments, God always upholds us and takes care of us, and, indeed, everything will be all right.

“So do not fear, for I am with you; do not be dismayed, for I am your God. I will strengthen and help you; I will uphold you with my righteous right hand.” Isaiah 41:10


K. C. Wells said...

I'm so sorry that Alex hasn't been feeling well! That is hard on everyone. I hope that he continues to feel better so you all can enjoy the beautiful summer!!

Pam Byrne said...

Thanks, K.C., for your good wishes! He's doing much better this week, so we are hopeful that he's on his way back to being healthy. Hope you and your family are doing well.