“Hope starts here” has always been a beacon of encouragement to our family, and I am writing to you with a story of hope that I thought might interest and encourage others.
Briefly, my son Dustin began having episodes of what we eventually learned was CVS when he was about 9. He would be sick three or four times a week for several months and then the symptoms would disappear for several months. We saw so many doctors – we were told he had acid reflux, Crohn’s, celiac. We were told he was anxious about school, but there was absolutely no evidence of that. He loved school, he was happy, and did well. He always got up for school, got dressed and had breakfast, and then got violently ill. But he always tried. My heart still hurts when I remember mornings that he started down the hill to meet the school bus and then bent over to vomit. Sometimes he’d try to continue down the hill, but once it started, it was over for the day; sometimes for two or three days. He had blood work, an endoscopy, he was poked and prodded. Over the years he saw a therapist, an acupuncturist, a hypnotist, a cranio-sacral therapist, an allergist, and gastroenterologists galore. At one point he was sick so often that we took him out of school and put him on home teaching because he had fallen so far behind.
It took years of doctor visits, dead ends, and testing before we got a diagnosis. Throughout middle and high school, Dustin tried various medications and combinations, but nothing much worked for him. He did well in school, played two varsity sports but he continued to cycle – sometimes going for a few months without an episode, then suffering for weeks at a time. And once the episodes started, nothing seemed to help. He would throw up for several hours, sinking into a sleepy daze in between bouts of vomiting. Eventually, we found our way to Dr. Bu K Li in Milwaukee.
The summer before senior year, we convinced Dustin to see Dr. Li. We waited several months for an appointment, and then traveled from NY to Milwaukee to Dr Li. He spent several hours with us and for the first time, we felt like someone completely understood what we were dealing with. And he helped. He put Dustin on a regimen that reduced the frequency of his episodes. And for the first time ever, a doctor prescribed a combination of medications that actually aborted or shortened an episode when it did occur. For the first time, an episode didn’t mean at least 24 hours of non-stop misery. On some occasions, Dustin went to school after the meds and a few hours’ sleep.
When Dustin left for college in the Fall of 2010, he had not had an episode of CVS at all in over six months. I don’t recommend what happened next but it isn’t surprising. Since Dustin wasn’t sick, he tapered off his meds and then stopped completely. At Christmas time, when he told us, there seemed little point in re-starting the meds since he had been episode-free for nearly a year. The following spring, Dustin spent an exciting, happy, and completely healthy semester abroad in India. When he returned to college after the summer, it had been a year and a half since he’d had a CVS episode.
Over the last three years, he has had an occasional episode. We know that CVS can rear its ugly head at any moment, we know that it could return often or rarely – but we also have hope that Dustin may simply have outgrown it. In any case, we are grateful for the time he has had to travel, go to school, work and live on his own these last few years. There were times when we couldn’t have imagined this. And years ago, I would have been so grateful to hear a story like this, to know that it was at least possible to move beyond CVS, maybe for a time, maybe forever. I’m writing in case others could derive hope and encouragement from our story.
And to thank you at CVSA for the support and information you provided to us when we needed it.