By Rob Gray
As in Part 1 of this series, this story took place many years ago, but I have no trouble remembering the afternoon I received a call from the school nurse from my daughter’s grade school.
“Mr. Gray, your daughter is running a fever with a temperature over 100 degrees. She has strep. Please pick her up from school immediately and take her to your pediatrician.” This puzzled me as my daughter (who was about nine years old at the time) was perfectly fine only a few hours earlier when I dropped her off. However, I quickly agreed and went down to my daughter’s school to pick her up. As a NONDOC, I did my own quick examination and noticed a kind of glazed look on her face. I felt her forehead and determined that she did indeed have a temperature. So, I took her directly to our family pediatrician.
Upon entering the pediatrician’s office, I went to the front desk and explained what the school nurse had said about my daughter having strep and a temperature over 100. After a bit of a wait with a couple of other kids (please don’t cough on my daughter) we were taken into one of the examination rooms. Shortly thereafter, a very nice nurse came in and took my daughter’s temperature, used a swab on my daughter’s throat for the strep test, then left. A few minutes later, the doctor came into the examination room with the nurse, who again took my daughter’s temperature while the doctor sat down next to my daughter. The doctor didn’t look all that pleased as he said “The strep test came back negative,” and after consulting with the nurse he said, “Your daughter’s temperature now is only slightly elevated.” He then examined my daughter’s ears, nose, and throat after which he said to me, “If your daughter’s temperature is normal in the morning, you can send her to school.” “OK,” I said, but as a NONDOC and a father, I was wondering what was going on.
In the morning I checked my daughter. She looked fine and her temperature was normal. So, I took her to school as directed, and informed the school nurse that my daughter, in fact, did not have strep. We had gone to the pediatrician who told us the strep test was negative. I offered her the phone number of the pediatrician’s office, but she declined and after looking at my daughter said she could go to her classroom. She too looked puzzled. So great, the nurse, doctor, and the NONDOC were all puzzled. I thanked her and went to work.
I’m sure you are never going to believe what happened a few hours later. Yup, a phone call from the school nurse, “Mr. Gray, your daughter again has a fever. Please take her to the pediatrician, she has strep. I want a note from the pediatrician before I can let her back into the classroom.” “Oh, great,” I thought as I got down to the school as quickly as I could. There was my daughter, same glazed look as the day before. So, again, I took her to the pediatrician’s office (where different kids coughed on my daughter) and I suspect you already know the rest. Basically, we repeated the same sequence with the same result. No strep. This time, I requested a note from the doctor and I was rewarded with one at the front desk before we left the office.
That night, I put on my NONDOC hat looking on the internet for clues as to what was the cause of these symptoms. As I searched and searched, I began to think that my daughter’s glazed look had some similarity to my younger son’s look when we discovered that he had some issues with milk.
I know what you are thinking. “Sure, I bet it runs in the family.” But, you would be wrong, as I have three children who are all unrelated. (It’s NOT what you’re thinking. My daughter and younger son (not related) were adopted from a Russian orphanage in the 1990’s.) So, given that there is no family genetics involved, what was the likelihood of my daughter’s condition at nine years old being food related? You probably know the old adage “To a man with a hammer, everything looks like a nail.” I did not want to be the guy where for every health problem, I immediately conclude it is some kind of food issue. So, I went to bed.
The next morning my daughter was fine. I went to school with the doctor’s note. But I could tell you that the school nurse must have thought I had incriminating pictures of the doctor, because she wasn’t buying the no strep test results. But, my daughter went back to her classroom and to my surprise, I did not hear from the nurse that day. So, maybe this was just a blip on the radar and now things will go back to normal.
The next day was a Friday and it had been a while since I could just drop off my daughter at school without a conversation about strep with the school nurse. What a nice, normal beginning of the day. Then, in the afternoon, my phone rang. “Mr. Gray, your daughter again has a temperature. I am going to call your doctor and discuss this with him. Meanwhile, please come and pick her up.” For the third time in the week (after my daughter yet again got coughed on in the waiting area) I was talking with the doctor about a negative strep test. “Mr. Gray, in rare instances the strep is localized in a place where the swab cannot reach, behind the tonsils or even up into the nasal passages. I’m going to send you to a specialist at the hospital where they will scope your daughter and locate the source of the strep.” So, although this sounded like a “Hail Mary,” (a low probability of working), I kept my mouth shut about the possibility of a food issue.
Fortunately, as it was the weekend, I was able to spend more time looking on the internet for an explanation for my daughter’s symptoms. As a NONDOC, I did not believe that my daughter had strep. Further, I found nothing on-line that linked my daughter’s circumstances or symptoms to strep. (Not that that in and of itself was conclusive.) However, the one pattern that stood out for me was that the phone calls I got from the school nurse all happened after lunch, and this gave me conviction and credence to my food theory.
Monday came, and I took my daughter to the specialist at the hospital. There was a lot of fancy equipment there, but none of it was able to find strep in any of the orifices in my daughter’s head. Frankly, I was disappointed, as finding strep would have been much easier to deal with. So, in the meeting with the specialist, as a NONDOC, I mentioned that maybe a food issue was the reason my daughter was having these symptoms. The specialist acted like he had no time for this kind of nonsense, “Mr. Gray,” he said in a firm tone, “this has nothing to do with food.” (See, I promised you in Part 1 it would not be the last time I would hear this.) Without stopping, the specialist then told me that he would discuss the test results with the pediatrician and they would determine what next steps to take. Before I even had a chance to respond, I was summarily dismissed. Next!
So, as in Part 1 of this series, I knew what I had to do. I talked with my daughter and told her that I thought that her symptoms were being caused by some kind of food that was making her sick and that we were going to try her on her younger brother’s diet that eliminated wheat and milk (GF/CF). My daughter was not so happy with this thought, but said that she would try it as it was no fun being sick and having to leave school.
So, guess what? My daughter had no symptoms for the rest of the week. (NONDOC was a “genius.”) Everything was good in week two until…Friday. I got a call from the school nurse. “Mr. Gray, I don’t know what is going on here, but your daughter is sick again and needs to be picked up.” (NONDOC was a “dunce” or a hammer.) My daughter had some kind of chronic sickness, and I didn’t have a clue as to why? So, as I picked up my daughter, I sadly said to her. “I am so sorry, nobody knows why you are getting sick.” My daughter begins to tear up, and after a moment says, “Daddy, today is Friday and they served ice cream for lunch and I had to have some.” I don’t know what I said, but I remember hugging my daughter so tight.
This NONDOC journey with my daughter continued as we experimented with a variety of dietary changes with varying degrees of results. Hers was more an issue of lactose intolerance, but had additional issues with most grains and even more of an issue with soy. As with my younger son, I was an active participant in the process. Whenever a food was eliminated, it was eliminated from my diet as well. I learned from my kids “what foods you choose to eat matter” and for that I am eternally grateful. I wanted my daughter to be the most effective person she could be and changing her diet was critical to that end. And, as it turned out, it helped me be more effective too.
And if you think my days as a NONDOC are over. Nope, there’s more.
Rob Gray runs the Gran Roca Project, (www.granroca.net), a sustainable commercial permaculture farm on a landmark property in the Yunguilla Valley, southwest of Cuenca. High quality tree fruits, berries, and a large variety of both native and heirloom vegetables and herbs are produced with animals also integrated into the mix.