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Real Life

REAL LIFE: "His bones were sticking out" - A dangerous allergy left my poor boy starving

My son was wasting away in front of my eyes.

By As told to Take 5

Kerri-Ann Spanko, 48, Sydney, NSW shares her story:

The doctor patted my shoulder as I stared anxiously at my son Riley, 17 months.
"Stop worrying," he insisted. "He's not dying."
I frowned, fighting to contain my frustration.
Since Riley had started eating solids at six months old, he'd struggled to keep anything down.
He vomited every time he ate fresh fruits, vegetables, meat and even plain rice.
I'd gone to various doctors while Riley lived off breastmilk and toast.
With his bones sticking out, how could no-one else see that my son was seriously ill?
As the doctor prepared to dismiss us, Riley lurched forward and vomited all over the spotless mahogany desk.
I felt bad about the mess, but part of me was cheering.
Stunned, the doc turned to me. "You might need some help," he admitted.
We were referred to an allergy clinic where Riley was put on an elimination diet to determine the foods that didn't agree with him.
He was also diagnosed with eosinophilic oesophagitis, a condition common amongst people with food allergies.
It meant that white blood cells were hurting the lining of his oesophagus, making swallowing hard for him.
I wasn't sure how I'd cope but the doctors at the allergy clinic were so supportive.
He was so excited to be making cupcakes for 
his birthday Image: Supplied
They started Riley on a formula that had all the nutrition he needed but was gentle on his stomach.
As soon as the bottle was in his hand, he guzzled the drink.
I was relieved that he was getting the nutrients he desperately needed but it broke my heart.
My poor boy had clearly been starving for 11 months.
If he hadn't thrown up on his doctor's desk, I wasn't sure what would've happened.
Soon, Riley was feeling much better Image: Supplied
As time passed and Riley's stomach recovered from the allergic reactions, we slowly started re-introducing solids like bananas and rice mixed with milk.
Preparing Riley's meals was a lot of work.
I had to be careful with every ingredient, right down to the oil I cooked with.
When Riley turned four, I bought a Thermomix.
With so many functions from blending to slow-cooking, I could spend less time on Riley's meals and more on just being his mum.
On his birthday I used the Thermomix to make his first ever birthday cake.
His eyes lit up so much it brought a tear to my eye.
Me with Riley at 10 – he'd become a healthy, happy boy Image: Supplied
Now Riley is 12 and although there are still foods that don't agree with him, like vegies and essential fats, he's a healthy, active boy.
He plays soccer and goes mountain bike riding, something he never would've had the energy for when he was young.
He's even started cooking eggs for breakfast.
"Look, Mum," he beams proudly as he gobbles it up.
When Riley was a toddler, he looked like a walking skeleton, now he's healthy.
I won't take a single meal for granted.

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