Tuesday, 23 October 2012

Pull up a chair ... it's storytime

You may be aware that our youngest daughter has been unwell for many months. Last week, she made a remarkable recovery, in circumstances that I feel compelled to share. I know many of you have been very concerned for her, and have shared similar stories in an earnest desire to help our family. We have been sincerely encouraged by your thoughtfulness and concern. It seems only right to share what has happened; that our experience might help others of you who are struggling. The story is six months long, complex, and deeply personal. I will intersperse it with images from my spring garden which, as always, has been a solace for me :)

Prunus 'Shimidsu Sakura'
Olivia (age 11) came home from netball training on Monday 30th April, with abdominal pain. She was nauseous, white and weak. I kept her home from school on Tuesday, and her tummy pain continued. This pain has been a recurrent problem. Every few months or so for the last six years, she would have a bout of pain that would last for a couple of days and then disappear. The pain has always been in her upper and central abdomen, and always unable to be relieved with paracetamol or ibuprofen. The frequency of this recurrent pain seemed to be increasing, but I fully expected her to improve with a couple of days of rest and return to school. 

Two days later, Olivia developed a headache. It was frontal, extending across her forehead. Again, it was unrelieved by paracetamol or ibuprofen. While the tummy pain was recurrent, the headache was new. 

Multiple visits to our GP ensued. Blood tests and a breath test for a possible stomach ulcer returned normal. Abdominal ultrasound returned normal findings other than some inflammation of lymph glands in the abdomen, suggesting mesenteric adenitis. This is a common childhood complaint, often a reaction to a virus.

Farm garden, early spring 2012

Olivia's abdo pain and headache continued unabated for weeks and she was unable to attend school. Further visits to the GP and two late night trips to Emergency yielded vague suggestions of possible hormonal change. At no point did she show a temperature or vomiting. There was some dizziness, and a couple of instances of aura, suggesting migraine. In an attempt to relieve her pain, Emergency administered endone. This gave her a nice sleep, but had no effect on the pain. We tried migraine pain medications to no avail.

Rosa 'Reine des Violettes'
Three weeks into May, we were able to see a paediatrician. On examination, he felt that Olivia's perception of her abdominal pain (at 9 out of 10) was inconsistent with her physical presentation. This was the first suggestion that Olivia's illness may have a psychological component. I was confused about this, and defensive. I couldn't understand how pain could be anything other than a physical reality. Olivia, not missing a trick, said, "Mum, he thinks I'm faking it"! Hmmm, we had a lot to learn at that point!

The paediatrician scheduled an abdominal x-ray, which revealed significant constipation. This had never been an issue for Olivia, and her toilet habits had been daily and normal (yes, I'd been checking ;). She was treated with increasing doses of Movicol to clear her bowel. Her tummy pain was relieved a little, and we thought there may be some light at the end of the tunnel - so to speak! However, her abdo pain resumed soon after and the headache continued. 

An MRI of her brain in June eliminated any sinister causes of her headache. We joked with her that at least it confirmed she had a brain and that it was normal - she couldn't see the funny side of things by this point! The headache pain began to predominate, and moved to above her left eye.

We had her eyes tested - you guessed it, normal!


In mid-July, with no definitive answers, I tried Olivia on a strict gluten-free diet for two weeks. This made no difference to her pain.


Clematis montana
Olivia missed almost all of the nine weeks of Term 2 at school. When Term 3 rolled around (mid July), all medical advice to us was that she MUST return to school and learn to cope with the pain; that the routine of school was important to her recovery. Every morning was a struggle, and I felt cruel making her attend school. However, I persisted. Olivia battled through each day, her headache constant and unrelenting. She was having trouble concentrating on her work, but bravely toughed each day out.

We sought some psychological help at this point. It was deemed that Olivia needed to learn to relax and to try to get back to creative pursuits that previously made her happy. It cost us a lot of money for that advice, and I was pretty cranky and frustrated. 


I took Olivia to a physio several times to ensure her headache wasn't related to muscle tightness in her neck and shoulders. Pain remained unchanged.


Magnolia x loebneri 'Merrill'
Olivia's headache was now four months old. It was with her day and night. There was nothing I could do that would help relieve the pain. You can imagine, she was becoming increasingly frustrated and worried that perhaps she would never get better. Our family worked hard at staying positive for her, and maintaining patience and gentleness. But it would be a big fat lie to say we managed the situation faultlessly! Olivia's illness was testing us all.

We continued to see our paediatrician at regular intervals. As a personal friend, he was very concerned for Olivia, having not seen a childhood headache that had endured so persistently. He scheduled a lumbar puncture at our local hospital, to test for a condition called intracranial hypertension. This is essentially an overproduction of cerebrospinal fluid (CSF) which can manifest itself as a headache. During a lumbar puncture, a measurement is made of the CSF pressure. Olivia's procedure was not conducted by our paediatrician. Lumbar punctures are difficult, and unfortunately for Olivia, after three failed attempts, the procedure was aborted. This was a horrible day.

Prunus 'Elvins'
On Monday September 3rd, Olivia was admitted to the Neurology Department of a well regarded Australian Children's hospital for further investigations into her headache. I spent 11 days with her there, camping next to her bed. The staff were professional, careful and thorough. Day 2 of our stay saw a repeat of the lumbar puncture. As you might guess, Olivia was terrified. Thankfully, the staff had success on their second attempt. Her CSF pressure was normal. Many more blood tests were analysed, serious possibilities such as Wilson's disease were eliminated.

After 11 days of testing, discussions with neurologists, gastroenterologists, endocrinologists, psychiatrists, psychologists and pain experts, we returned home with a diagnosis of 'chronic daily headache'. We returned armed with a specialist neuropathic pain medication called gabopentin, which we hoped might break the cycle of chronic pain that Olivia seemed to have developed.

I also returned home with my head spinning with doubts that came from the psychology sessions: that perhaps I had a 'depression-prone', high-achieving daughter who was internalising her feelings; that perhaps she was being psychologically challenged with something that was outside her control and was overwhelmed with a sense of failure because she couldn't get herself better; that perhaps my close relationship with Olivia was a big part of the problem, and that I should distance myself from her. So many questions, so few answers.


Arums, lime kniphofia and snowball bush (Viburnum macrocephalum)
from the farm garden



At this point, we felt like we'd tried every trick in the book. All hope was hinging on the effectiveness of the gabopentin. However, Olivia's pain was now only a portion of the story we were dealing with. Olivia's stay in hospital had taken a serious toll on her state of mind. She was significantly affected by the lumbar puncture. I think an 11 day stay on a neurology ward shared with three other children did her no favours. At the age of 11, she was well and truly able to understand what was happening to the other patients, many of them babies and many of them with tragic prognoses. On returning home, there was a new problem to deal with - she was not eating or drinking. 

Our life seemed to be spiralling out of control, downward and quickly. Our previously happy-go-lucky, easy-going, always-hungry girl, had declined over the months to a shadow of her former self. She was sullen, quiet, irritable, sensitive to touch and noise, and depressed. It was heartbreaking to watch. She was struggling to sleep, fearful and plagued with horrible nightmares.

Ballerina crabapple 'Maypole'

We are a Christian family. I came to an understanding in my Uni days of my  wretchedness before God and of His gift of forgiveness to me. My husband and I have sought to live lives worthy of God, and to raise our children under Him. We fail miserably at this at times, but a desire was given to us all those years ago to remain faithful to God and to His teachings. So we have prayed ... and prayed, and prayed for healing for sweet Olivia. We have a community of wonderful friends who have earnestly prayed, many of them Christians, and even some who are not! It has been difficult, especially for Olivia, to understand why our prayers were not being answered.

Last Monday morning, both Olivia and I were at our lowest ebb. I had hit the wall emotionally, having no idea which way to turn. The medications from our hospital stay were proving ineffective. Olivia was in as much pain physically as she'd had in the last 6 months, and her mental state had deteriorated to a point where she didn't feel she could keep going. She had said to me, "Mum, I wish I didn't exist so that you didn't have to go through all this". Heartbreaking and very scary.

Too many flowers, no vases big enough. Solution? Use three small ones :)
On Monday night, in sheer desperation, we took Olivia to a Christian naturopath/kinesiologist/prayer healer, Yvette, who one of Olivia's teachers had persistently recommended to us. Up until this point, I had doggedly followed the conventional medicine path. My education has been rigorously scientific. I have a PhD in biochemistry and my education has endowed me with a healthy scepticism about natural therapies. 

On Monday night, Olivia, my husband & I spent an hour and a half with Yvette, and sweet Olivia walked away with NO PAIN, after 5 1/2 months and a smile on her face like we've not seen for a long time. Yvette used a combination of techniques including kinesiology, iridology, and prayers of confession and forgiveness. She quickly assessed Olivia as having an issue with her 'gut-brain connection' and further, that many of Olivia's organs were struggling to function. She used a technique which involved Olivia holding onto two metal rods which were connected to a computer. She was able to run some software which apparently pinpointed where Olivia's 'energies' needed to be realigned. She also prayed Olivia through some fear that she felt was burdening her. It was the strangest most confronting experience we've ever had, and has turned our thinking upside down. Thankfully my husband was there or he'd have thought I'd lost the plot! He'd never have believed me. The pain, both headache and tummy, left her in a particular instant, right at the end of the session. 

 
It is nothing short of a miracle. We have been praying for one, and on Monday night it was delivered! We are in complete shock, astonished by the transformation, and to be truthful, worried that it is too good to be true. But it would seem God has brought us from a point of complete desperation, to now bless us with a miracle. We are dumbstruck and enormously thankful. 

Seventeen 'Double Delight' roses from the farm for my newly 17-year-old eldest daughter.
I have spent much of the last week unable to function, such is the level of shock! If you'd asked me before last week if I believed in miraculous healing, I would have said yes, having heard many a testament to it over the years. But it obviously had not occurred to me that it might actually happen to us! It would seem my 'sensible' Sydney Anglican/Presbyterian sort of christianity had subconsciously set some limits on God's goodness to me and His power to heal. We are left reeling, confused, but awestruck, humbled and thankful.

Thank you to everyone who has endured this storm with us; for your many thoughtful messages, for kind gifts sent from afar, for your prayers and unending support. I have laid myself bare with this post. I'm not sure how long I will keep it online. I have been honest in the hope that our story might help others in a similar situation.

OUR GIRL IS BACK! She is back, as if a switch has been flicked. It has been such a long journey that we'd almost forgotten what the 'real' Olivia was like. She is happy and silly and making jokes; she is eating, drinking, and sleeping. She has maintained good health for the last week. I have been carefully watching the change, eager for it to continue. We are praying that this transformation for Olivia is permanent and that we can put the pain and suffering behind us. And that we can go forward, armed with a most astonishing story to tell!

68 comments:

  1. Some things need no explanation, just acceptance. So pleased a corner has been turned and you have your young lady back. Huge hugs to you all xxx

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    1. Sharon, my analytical brain has been trying to make sense of it all week, but of course I can't! It is what it is. Thanks for the hugs :)

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  2. Thank you for sharing. I have also been wondering how Olivia was getting along. I hope she continues in good health and blooms (pun intended)into the lovely young lady she is meant to be.
    As one who has also searched in what I considered 'strange places', I can understand your initial feelings about Yvette, but am glad you took the chance.

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    1. Kayly, I am very thankful that Olivia's teacher kept hassling me to see Yvette. He was convinced that she could help us. You can imagine his reaction when I gave him the news! "I told you, Ros, I told you"!

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  3. Crying at this point & Praising the Lord for His goodness to little Olivia! Kym

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    1. It feels like we have cried oceans of tears Kym! Many sad ones in the past few months, but now buckets of happy ones! God is good!

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  4. This Sunday at church we taught the little ones about the Centurian on the road to Capernaum, asking Jesus to cure his servant, and how Jesus cured him in an instant. We spoke with the children about how God can heal, and how the healing isn't always about making a sick person better, but that it about healing and helping them in other ways. My goodness, this is such an explicit example of the power of all-encompassing healing. Like you, I have a conventional scientific background, and like you, I have a conventional "sensible" Christian background. Olivia's story is truly a miracle. I am so pleased that this has happened for all of you, and so pleased that you have shared all of the story with us. Take care.

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    1. Lara, thank you for your thoughtful comment. What a lovely story! How special that my story of Olivia's healing fits in with yours so perfectly! I posted our experience with much trepidation, so it is a real encouragement to me that there are others with a similar background who are willing to see it for the miracle that it is - and not dismiss me as a complete kook!!
      Kind regards,
      Ros

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  5. We have all read your post today and all of us here have breathed a sigh of relief for you! Lots of Love and best wishes from us at Marally.
    Glad you've had the strength and persistance to get the result you so needed!
    We discussed holistic methods before and it works! Yay!
    Hope to see you soon!!!!!
    xxxx

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    1. Thanks so much Marally girls for sharing my relief! Thanks for listening all those times in the last few months when I've dropped into the shop, and for being worried for Olivia. As you can imagine, my sewing productivity has suffered, but I'm ready to get back into it VERY soon :)

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  6. That's why it's called 'faith'....it works in many wonderous ways and through many wonderful people. I wish you all continued happiness and health.

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    1. Your comment reminded me of something: As a school girl, I learned piano at the local Convent. One of the nuns, Sister Oliver, was particularly lovely (as opposed to another who rapped me over the knuckles with a thick pencil when I made a mistake ... but I digress). Sister Oliver had a poster above her piano, and it said, "Faith is the substance of all things hoped for, the evidence of things unseen". This is from Hebrews 11, has stayed with me for all these years, and is particularly near to me this week :)

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  7. So happy to hear of Olivia's recovery.

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  8. Such a great and miraculous outcome I am so happy for you all. Please don't take this story down I believe it is purposeful and a definite read for many. Hope you don't mind but I would like to share this on my FB for friends to read (message me if a problem). Now you will all be able to enjoy the remainder of the year together... In our weakness he remains strong. xox

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  9. I'm so happy for your family and the great relief Olivia and the rest of you must all be feeling! What an inspirational story, from the strength of your child and family, to the testing and confirmation of your faith! Thank you so much for sharing it with us!

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  10. Happy and crying too. Thank you for sharing your wonderful story.

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  11. What fabulous news after such a long and traumatic time for you all. I look forward to seeing your beautiful creations and garden pics again, sending love and hugs xxx

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  12. "And He said unto her, Daughter, your faith has made you whole; go in peace, and be whole of your disease." Mark 5:34
    Wonderful news!

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  13. What a terrible time you have been through over the last few months....so hard as a parent to watch your child suffer and so hard too for poor Olivia to have to endure the pain. I am so pleased you have finally reached the end of this road and what a long journey it has been for you all. So pleased to hear this fabulous news.

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  14. Thanks for sharing the whole story Ros. I can't imagine what you have all been through! God is indeed good and just when we think we have Him all figured out and in a neat box, He goes and jumps out of it and does something really different! And He can because He is God! I am just so happy that Olivia is back to her lovely, happy self! Praise God for that!
    I can't help but think of another lovely, happy little girl that once was. We mustn't forget to keep praying for her healing also. I guess through this you would have more of an understanding of what her parent's have endured. I just can't imagine...and to think it has been years! God knows though and we just need to keep bringing her before Him. Love you all xxx

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    1. By the way, that's from me, Julie Lovegrove! Sorry, forgot to sign off :)

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  15. I am so pleased for you that finally things are looking up. I hope your daughter continues to be better.
    Mandy Hawkins.
    tarranmay@optusnet.com.au

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  16. I am totally blown away by your story! I felt your pain in it's rawness and your anguish as a mother, unable to find the answers to help her child. I sincerely hope that this feeling of well being continues for not just Olivia but also your entire family. May you all find peace again swiftly and may Olivia continue to enjoy the childhood she so deserves. Hugs to you xox

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  17. What a wonderful ending to so much pain and frustration for you all! Thanks for sharing your story! :0)

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  18. My heart is exploding with joy for you, DH and the miracle expressed thru Olivia here. I have always believed in this type of healing but never actually "seen" it in action. Move forward with blessings. Joyfully.

    Who knows who is going to read this... and their lives might also be transformed. *karendianne. (Recently added your blog to my reader so I guess that makes me a new here.)

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  19. Wonderful news!! Was wondering how she was going.......thank you for sharing.......
    I have sent you a PM on Facebook today.
    I can sense your relief & joy!!
    xx

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  20. How wonderful..... so great to hear this... miracles do happen to us and it is so exciting to hear of this one.... all the best to all of you....
    Hugz

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  21. My heart goes out to you as a mother and to your family and to Olivia. I'm am overjoyed to hear of Olivia's relief from pain and suffering, and yours equally as a mother. How wonderful to have your faith and prayers answered in this way..

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  22. amazing! sharing in your praises

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  23. I had a similar experience with headaches lasting 3 months while on medication to help me function, I had two little children and sometimes couldnt get out of bed, it was a nightmare. I did all the medical stuff as you have, and then I went to a physio who was 2 minutes away, she was wonderful. It wasn't overnight, but it worked, I still get symptoms occasionally but It's all ok. Blessings to you all !

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  24. Compelling story the wonders are vast, feeling your relief

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  25. I have been reading your blog for a while and was wondering how things were going. I myself have recently gone to a naturopath/kinesiologist for some mental health and physical issues. As I started to read this post I was wondering if this could give you a positive outcome. I myself am at the "nothing ventured nothing gaine" stage. In his words this is at times a little "cosmic", but I was staggered with what he identified as my issues. I can only believe that God does work in his own way and I am thrilled that her health is much improved. Good luck with everything. Annee

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  26. I sit here in tears. I've been reading your blog for quite some time. Thank you for sharing about the miracle that has blessed your lives.

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  27. Wow, what an amazing transformation! No wonder you are in shock. It's so encouraging to hear your story. We have struggled with my husbands health issues for over 20 years, having tried every route we could think of including much prayer and many alternative treatments. We have adjusted our family lifestyle to manage/cope with the ongoing health issues and live with them as best we can. Your story offers hope that the answer may still be out there somewhere, a miracle waiting to happen - what an impact that could have.

    SO pleased for Olivia and all of you. It may yet take some time to really adjust to the new normal, lots of emotional energy has been used along the journey.

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  28. Wow what an amazing story. I have followed along as you tried all sorts of treatments. Sometimes it seems we have to let go, and let God. How awesome God is, and I am so glad that your little family is whole and healthy again.

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  29. Happy to hear of Olivia's recovery! Thank you for sharing this...

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  30. Thank you Ros - this is a most remarkable story and I sincerely hope that all good things continue for Olivia and the rest of your family.

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  31. Long time reader of your blog, and admirer of your love, courage, dedication, creativity (your beautiful garden!) and your persistence to seek answers and assistance for your daughter. Wonderful news for all of you.

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  32. Truly astonishing and, I think, such an important story to share. I am not a religious person though I think of myself as having personal spiritual beliefs. I've read about energy healing and while I believe there are things I don't understand that can't be explained by science and logic ... things that are bigger than our little human minds ... I'm always a little skeptical, if you know what I mean. But stories like yours are reassuring to me. It reminds me that there are other options to the usual medical routes.

    I'm so happy for your Olivia and all of you.

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  33. What a traumatic time for all of you - but I am so glad to hear of your happy ending and that Olivia is still enjoying good health. Like you I am skeptical of these techniques, but that wouldn't stop me giving them a go if my child was suffering. As they say, He works in mysterious ways. Love to you all x x

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  34. So happy to hear you've found relief for your girl - y'all have often been in my thoughts and prayers.

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  35. I'm so incredibly moved by your story. Thank you for sharing it with the world. I'm so glad for your daughter and your family and hope the good healing continues.

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  36. Thank you for taking the time to share your very moving story of your beautiful and brave daughters journey. I'm so glad your prayers have been answered and a miracle has been performed. Isn't God amazing:-)

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  37. Wow, amazing strength my you, your family and Olivia. Very inspiring to not give up!

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  38. Thanks for sharing the story Ros. You have touched many. Absolutely love Olivia's 'after' photo (so happy - you can see it in her eyes). I hope you can all have a lengthy time of R&R; it has been a long haul....
    I stitched Hebrews 11:1 a few years ago and it still sits there (in a cute folk art embellished frame I found somewhere) reminding me of God's faithfulness. Blessings. Leanne

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  39. thank you for this wonderful evidence of God's goodness...i will pray for Olivia's continued health and your continued peace thank you as well for the beautiful pictures true testimony to God's miracles peace and grace to you

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  40. So so happy to hear....give Olivia a hug and well wishes from Sweden...:0) will have your family and her in my thoughts and hope this is it!!! HUGS to you all!!

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  41. I often follow your blog often (I love your delicate and perfect works) but I confess I have not spent several days around here!
    I was thrilled as your account of the illness of your daughter, Olivia, (like me) .. imagine how they must have suffered.
    Thank God all that is behind us ...
    Kisses, Olivia

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  42. I do believe there are things we may not ever understand based on our believe system or western scientific education, but they still work. So glad you went to the practitioner and your daughter finally found help. Friends of mine have had great success with extreme allergies through the Mayo clinic and a "2 rods & computer" device as well. Hugs from Michigan!

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  43. So happy for you all, dealing with a sick child where no one can explain what's going on is incredibly difficult and wearing. I hope she stays well.

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  44. Thank you for sharing a very deep and personal family journey, praise God from whom all blessings flow, encoraging for all who read this story and who believe.
    Lyn

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  45. I am so happy that your daughter's health has had such a wonderful turn-around. We too often forget the power of prayer. God is good.

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  46. Thank you for sharing, how blessed you are xx

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  47. Thanks for sharing your story and I am so glad things are going well for your family. Bless your heart for carrying this load. My heart ( and prayers) go out to you.

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  48. Oh what a journey. I'm so pleased you have found some relief for Olivia. You can never give up. I've been dubious but still open to some natural therapies but have to admit I've had more success with them than other medical treatment. I hope Olivia's solution is long lasting. How lucky she is to have you all as a family. xxx

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  49. Ros I read this moving recount when you first posted. I never left a message because I could not find the right words in the three minutes that I had. Please add my name to all the messages above, and know how delighted I am that Olivia is back to her normal self once again. You have been blessed.

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  50. Thank you for your blog post! I was lead directly to it today...only God knows why! Will tuck this information
    into my heart!
    Love & Hugs,
    Mae

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  51. So thrilled for you all. It has obviously been an extremely tough journey for Olivia, but also for your entire family. Praise God that she is healed and has relief from the terrible pain. Will pray that her good health continues.

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  52. Hi there, I have a very similar story to Olivia's and I hope you won't mind if I share a little of what has helped me in the hope that it may help Olivia. I have had a sluggish bowel my whole life and experienced times of severe constipation as a child but have been fairly regular since then or so I thought. I also had headaches and a general feeling of unwellness most days. A year ago I ended up in hospital with a stomach complaint and I was unable to eat anything other than the most bland foods, cooked eggs, cooked Granny Smith apples and cooked veges. I felt better than I had in my whole life and my bowel starting working properly. I had no idea what a proper stool was supposed to look like (thick mousse like consistency). Other than pain in my stomach my headaches went away and I had energy for the first time in years. I found that if I ate anything at all with gluten in it I suffered severe stomach pain so I stayed off it. It is now a year since then and I have a gluten free cereal first thing in the morning and have mostly chicken and veges or salad and one gluten free biscuit per day as a treat. The two things that stand out to me are you trying gluten free for two weeks. I would say two months minimum as a trial. Even though Olivia doesn't have classic coeliac symptoms she still could be or may just have a intolerance. You should push for her to at least have a blood test for coeliac before trying gluten free because you can't have it once you are on gluten free. Also you may not have realised that gluten is in everything. Things I thought were gluten free such as Ricies are not. It is even in tomato sauce and some jams etc. I truly hope and pray that Olivia has had a full healing but if she was only given a temporary respite I hope this is helpful. Sorry the second thing I was going to add was avocado and or tinned salmon is at least as effective at getting things moving on through and of course natural. Blessings, Rachel

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  53. Goodness I have just read back through a couple of your paragraphs and I can't believe how similar a story we have. I just wanted to add even if she comes back as not coeliac I would still try her on the gluten free diet. Honestly it changed my life. I am 42 and I only wish I had known this when I was 11. Rachel

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  54. I have been following Olivia's story for the past months, feeling your pain and seeing the despair as each new event made no improvement. You can see such a difference in her from the photos. I am so glad she is feeling better and hope it continues.

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  55. Thank you so much for sharing this intensely personal journey, and your courage to share your Christian convictions with the world. Our God was, is and always will be, a miracle working God! Bless you and your beautiful family,
    Shani

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  56. What an incredible resolution! I have read your blog for a while and understand how difficult long-term illness in a child can be. I am delighted for Olivia, you, and all your family! Best wishes for continued good health for all of you!

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  57. Thank you for sharing with us. It sure has been a tough journey for you and your family but it's really great that things have changed for the better. Bless the Lord!:)

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  58. Such a profound and moving story, thank you for sharing it. I hope Olivia remains pain free.

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