Friday, March 30, 2012

Two Little Ears and a Chiropractor

I have always been skeptical of chiropractors.  I'm not really sure what caused me to feel that way...perhaps it was just my lack of knowledge and personal experience, but it never seemed like a good option for me and my family.

LBZ had his first ear infection when he was 3 months old. We treated it with antibiotics and it went away. That was around the end of December 2011. I worried that he would have to go through 5 infections before we would talk about tubes. The doctor said that with BBZ's history of tubes and LBZ's age, she wouldn't wait that long.

While I immediately thought about tubes, I also wanted to explore a more natural approach to treating the ear infections.  I thought about chiropractor care while also hoping that they wouldn't be chronic and I wouldn't even have to worry about it.  When I first started thinking of taking LBZ to be adjusted, I realized that I was picturing an adult adjustment in my head.  You know, a big doctor grabbing my baby's head and turning it forcefully to the side to invoke cracking down his spine.  A friend of mine found a YouTube video of what an adjustment of a baby really was like and sent it to me.  That changed my mind completely.

LBZ had his second ear infection about 2 weeks later, in the other ear.  He was treated with antibiotics and it went away.  His doctor said there was fluid in his ears at the follow up, but no infection.  I honestly thought things would be ok because it was the other ear, and not a recurring infection.

At the end of February, just 2 months after his first ear infection and following his bout of what I think was Influenza A, he had a double ear infection.  He was given a stronger antibiotic and was better in just a few days.

At this point, the path we were heading down became very apparent.  If I didn't do something soon I knew I would find myself in a hospital ready to push my son into a (completely elective) surgery.  I knew this path would help his ears, but at his young age I had to explore other interventions.  And while tubes help drain the ear, in BBZ's case the infection presented itself in another way.  In his case it was in his sinuses.  BBZ has been on multiple antibiotic treatments even with the tubes in his little 3.5-years.

I put a feeler out on Facebook for a chiropractor that was good with kids.  I called one that a friend recommended and made an appointment on 3/1.

The visit was great.  The doctor moved his head slowly around and used a small silver mechanism that applied a jolt of pressure to different areas of his spine.  I left the office feeling an unbelievably good feeling.  I knew I was doing something that (as the chiro said) was more inconvenient and I knew was also more expensive, but was so good for his health and overall well-being.  I didn't pay anything for that first visit and we decided to come back in a few days and see how his body responded to the adjustment and work out a treatment plan next time.

He was pleased with his progress at the second session and we worked out a treatment plan of about 8-9 sessions.  Our copay is $40 and the visits generally cost $50, so insurance would have covered it, but the chiropractor lowered the cost to $35 per visit since it only took him about 5 minutes for the entire visit.  That's a total of about $315.

This is the part that really makes me mad.  Had we decided to do the tubes, it would have cost me absolutely nothing out of pocket, but would have cost the insurance company thousands of dollars.  Now the insurance company gets off scott-free.  American healthcare at its best.

I know it could have been a coincidence, but I saw huge changes in LBZ immediately following his second adjustment.  He slept better, he vocalized more, which I heard later is something very common after an adjustment.  I felt so great about this.  It was not the same path we took with BBZ, but as far as I could tell it was working.  I got really excited.

He had a runny nose for a while, which I thought was really a good thing since this fluid usually remained stuck in his nose.  But after a week or so of lots of snot, his health took a familiar turn.

He had been waking at night and I could tell he just didn't feel well.  On 3/15, his teacher called and said he was feeling terrible and she thought I should come early to get him.  I planned on picking him up early anyway because of his chiro appointment, so I got him and we drove there with my worry about him and the situation tearing me up inside.

I wrote on the comment paper that I fill out at each appointment that I was pretty sure he had another infection.  He had a runny nose all week, was night waking, was snoring and was at the point of general unhappiness during the day, something that is pretty rare with my happy baby boy.

The chiropractor confirmed that he was probably really close to an infection, and we needed to get the fluid out of his ear before that happened.  He did the adjustment, told me to keep up with the massage he taught me to do at home and gave me some other tips for helping him decongest.

I went to a LLL meeting and talked with a friend about how helpless I felt.  I was nursing him.  I tried the chiropractor.  I eat well.  I love him so much, why can't he just be healthy?  Why hasn't anything worked for him?  While the money wasn't a big deal, I was angry that I was spending money on something that appeared to not be working.  People began suggesting things I could try, but all that did was make me feel like I either wasn't doing enough or was doing all of the wrong things.  I knew I would feel better, but that night I was just sad.

The next day I sent him to daycare and hoped for the best.  They didn't call and I was thrilled that he did good enough to avoid a call from them.  I picked him up and was so happy it was the weekend so I could stay home with him and help him feel better.  I felt a new energy to find more information about what I can do to help him even more.  I felt empowered as I read about strengthening his gut, making some minor changes to my diet and looking at other factors.  I did still have some worries though.

He did great over the weekend and got through the illness without an infection.  Yay LBZ!!  The chiro and I celebrated this at his next appointment, which was almost a full week later.

At that visit, I asked the chiro what he knew about the relationship between LBZ's gut and his chronic ear infections and whether or not taking something out of my diet might help.  He said that it is all related, and that he would have made some recommended changes had the treatment plan not worked.  He suggested cutting out aspartame completely, trying to reduce my sugar intake and giving LBZ a probiotic.  I told him that I can become easily overwhelmed by all of the information on the Internet and while I want him to be better, I don't want to turn my entire dietary regimen upside down.  His exact words were "now don't go all neurotic on me".  I kind of wanted to kiss him.

You see, I have friends who have changed everything they and their families eat for various reasons.  While that is a perfectly good choice for anyone who wants to do that, it is a path I don't want to have to go down.  I don't want to have to manage every single thing I eat.  I don't want to have to remove dairy from my diet.  While I am always supportive of my friends and the decisions they make for their families, there are some that are not right for me or my lifestyle.  Making a dramatic change to my diet is one of those.  It is something that I would certainly do if nothing else helped my boys, but it would be the last resort.

I think what it comes down to is I had an all or nothing view of this intervention.  I can either eat every single thing I want or never be able to eat something I love ever again.  The truth is, there is a happy medium, and this chiropractor helped me see that.  There are some little changes I can make that I can live with that can also make a huge difference in my sons' health.  It's a place to start anyway!

So LBZ has not had an infection since the end of February (knock on wood).  At his last appointment on 3/28, the chiro said he looked great and that we could wait 2 whole weeks before having to return.  LBZ has had a runny nose all week, and I can tell he doesn't feel well again.  Luckily, it is again the weekend and I can focus on helping him get better and stay better with more frequent massage and nursing, which helps remove the fluid by sucking rather than bottle feeding.

So my sweet littlest boy's 2 little ears are healthy.  I just hope I can keep them that way :)