Posted by Sami Kennedy on August 15, 2014
In 1999, at my 2-month check-up my family learned I have Turner Syndrome. Before my 6th birthday I had ear tubes put in; tonsils and adenoids taken out; a tethered spinal cord released; my bladder and kidney tubes reconstructed, and was on daily growth hormone injections. I was regularly followed by an Endocrinologist, Urologist, Nephrologist, Allergist, Cardiologist, and the “team captain” my Pediatrician. Despite all of this, I didn’t look sick. People thought I was vibrant, brilliant, and basically a healthy, cute little Muppet.
I am the middle of three girls. My older sister had a prenatal stroke, resulting in right hemiplegia and seizures. My baby sister spent the first month of her life in the NICU but is very healthy now. All that is really just to say that my family has spent a lot of time in hospital waiting rooms.
During my 6th grade year, I missed a lot of school with complaints of pain and fatigue. A normal check-up for my asthma ended with a “by the way, I’ve had a lot of stomach pain and some diarrhea…” This prompted a second look at my weight chart, which showed a drastic loss of 21 lbs. in less than 2 months. Blood tests showed I was severely anemic and Vitamin D deficient. And so, we added Dr. Moyer, my GI from NWPGI, to my list of specialists. A colonoscopy was ordered, then we waited to find out if my official diagnosis would be Crohn’s or ulcerative colitis (UC).
My family and I believe that the fact that I was on long term antibiotics for both kidney and ear infections may have contributed to the triggering of my UC. It’s also possible that my frequent doses of steroids to treat my asthma masked, or put off my UC symptoms. By my 13th birthday, I had gone from 113 lbs. to 72 lbs.; from a girl’s size 16 down to an 8/10! Several bad flares led to ER visits, hospital stays, IV’s, several rounds of steroids, and recommendations for Remicade. For me, with compromised kidneys, and a bicuspid heart valve, (my only real health threats from Turner’s) biologic drugs like Remicade are quite scary and will only be a last resort.
Because of my health, my family and I decided on home schooling for 7th grade. My mom and I decided to try the Specific Carbohydrate Diet (SCD) in hopes of staying away from Remicade or other heavy drugs. I thrived doing online school, eating a SCD diet, and we began doing individual food challenge tests to identify foods I really have to avoid. We were able to slowly add back some ground corn, like gluten free corn chips, rice occasionally, and sweet potatoes (my favorite!) into my diet. My health leveled out with these adaptations and we believe the carbs helped metabolize my meds and make them work better. I feel so much better on a gluten and dairy free diet, and feel bad very quickly if I eat “wrong”. Even Portland’s famous Voodoo donuts are no longer tempting because I know what will happen if I eat one. I take my prescribed Azathioprine, Delsacol, and Allopurinol along with VSL-3 Probiotics, Iron, Vitamin D, Fish Oil, and Calcium, and have staved off the need for Remicade so far.
One year later, and I was back in full time public middle school. I was in my second play, walked a 5K, only missed 2 days of 8th grade due to UC, and graduated from middle school with the highest honors.
Now, I will be a sophomore in high school this fall. I pack my modified Paleo lunch to school every day and have a 504 medical plan that gives me clearance to leave class and access to the nearest restrooms whenever I need to go.
I am sensitive to stress, still on hormone therapy for Turner’s, and turn into a mean little hulk when weaning off of Prednisone. I have been able to avoid steroids for a long time now by carefully watching what I eat and not missing any meds.
In my spare time I write, read, sing, and practice archery, (Twitter, Tumbler, Pinterest, and Facebook too!) I want to be a writer and travel. My first stop will be Ireland! I have a big imagination, an even bigger heart (not in the enlarged, real medical sense) and am willing to help anyone I can, especially other kids who are dealing with IBD. I want to help raise awareness that Turner’s girls have higher chances of having IBD. This is still news to many endocrinologists who diagnose Turner syndrome.