Over the past couple of months our family has been trying to get to the bottom of Anthony’s hair loss. For those who’ve asked, I thought I’d write an update on the situation.
Let me start by saying we’ve been extremely lucky in that none of our children have ever been ill. They are, in fact, incredibly healthy. Some say a child raised in a dirty environment sometimes develops an excellent immune system and I think our family is an example of that given most of their early years…prior to coming into our lives.
Anthony, in fact, has always been a sparkling example of good health. I’m not even sure he’s vomited in the four years he’s been with us. Aside from a few ear infections and strep throat, he’s done fine.
Sometime this summer I took note that his hair had changed a bit. It seemed coarser than before and perhaps a bit lighter. I attributed the color change to the sun. After all, in Alaska, the sun shines all summer long and we take advantage of every waking moment to be enjoying the daylight. And the texture…well, my brother’s hair changed around that age from soft to coarse and so I assumed it was some kind of pre-teen hormonal change boys must go through.
But just before school started my mom came down to give them their haircuts and when she got to Anthony, she was startled by his hair.
“His hair is mostly gone!” she said.
It was true. I’d not really noticed. How could I not have noticed? What kind of mother doesn’t notice their own kid is losing their hair? The kind whose kid wears a baseball hat every day, I reminded myself. The kind who’s kid has outgrown mom washing his hair. The kind whose kid spends all day outside running around in the muck and rarely holds still long enough for anyone to pat him on the head. That’s who.
And so I took him to the doctor in Homer, about 45 minutes away, that week.
They drew blood, shrugged their shoulders and said, “I dunno…” or something to that effect.
A week later when the results came back they told me his white cells were just slightly elevated…his red cells were slightly low…and his kidney function was abnormal.
Yeeeeaaahhh…whatever that means.
I’m medically ignorant. So the first thing I did was Google. Wow, you wouldn’t believe the things that come up with you Google hair loss combined with weight loss and those blood test results. Scary.
The problem is, he didn’t have any other symptoms. Other than some weight loss, being a bit pale, and the obvious hair loss, he’s perfectly fine. High energy, good appetite, sleeping well. Nothing unusual going on at all.
The Homer doctor wanted me to have him tested again in three weeks. And so we did. Same blood tests, same basic results. When I asked the doctor what we should do, the answer was again, “I dunno…” or something similar.
And so I went to my friends. I went to Facebook. I looked for others in the same situation. I found a lot of people had been in similar boats. I found a lot of possibilities. I found a lot of support. But I still couldn’t find anyone in the exact same situation who had come up with a solution.
Alopecia, many suggested. Yet his particular kind of hair loss didn’t match up with the symptomology. It was only his head, not the rest of his body, and the texture and color changes suggest there’s more to it.
Meanwhile…his hair was getting progressively thinner. I’m not talking about “Oh, there’s hair on my hand when I shampoo.” Everybody goes through cycles with their hair. I’m talking this kid went from super-duper thick healthy hair in May…so thick he looked like a Chia Pet in the mornings… to ‘see-thru’ and wispy by September. The color is significantly lighter. The texture is completely different. It’s somewhat ‘wrinkly’ rather than poker straight…and it’s about 80% gone…and still going.
Thyroid was the biggest possibility, according to those in the know, and so I made an appointment with one of the few endocrinologists in Alaska. Three weeks and a five hour drive later, we were in.
Monday I drove to Wasilla and spent the night with my brother and his family. We saw the doctor first thing Tuesday morning. He scanned the reports from Homer…discussed the results…and said. “Huh….”
He mentioned many of his numbers were ‘within range’…which I’ve since learned the ‘range’ is up to interpretation, depending upon the person reading it. Some believe the ‘range’ for thyroid is far too wide. The doctor was also honest in saying he didn’t believe it to be thyroid, because the test they did in Homer is a reliable type of testing. Though I’ve read about people with thyroid issues who say, “Ignore the labs…go by how you feel.” Yet I need a diagnosis to get treatment…so the labs are fairly important.
And then the endocrinologist said the issues may be out of his expertise. In other words…. “I dunnooo….”
He sent me to his nurse so she could play Vampira with my son. She wrapped the strap around his arm, stuck the needle in and began to pump.
Very quickly his entire arm went white. I’m talking blood drained, printer-paper, white, from the shoulder down. And then, obviously, the blood stopped coming out. And then Anthony began to cry because apparently, when blood isn’t coming out, it hurts more.
She withdrew the needle and he rested back in his chair, sobbing quietly. And then, things got worse.
Anthony’s entire body went stiff. He straightened out in his chair so his whole body was stiff and his legs stuck straight out, though he was still seated. And then he began to convulse, shaking all over. His eyes rolled back, his head tipped to the side and he was out.
Now like I said, I’m medically ignorant. I know how to apply a bandage and that’s about the extent of it. I didn’t have a clue what was going on. The nurse calmly says, “It looks like he’s having a reaction….”
I bent over him and rubbed his arms and face until he opened his eyes. He startled, tried to sit up and said, “Did I just faint?” Yea…pretty much.
So we gave him a box of juice and got him the heck away from that place. Whew.
Meanwhile, the doctor decided to test for four different things. He’s running another thyroid check. He’s looking at his iron levels. He’s checking him for Celiac Disease (because of the weight loss) and he’s having a closer look at his blood…to check out the cell structure rather than just do a count.
This morning the nurse called to let us know she didn’t get enough blood out of him to perform all of the tests…so we’d have to go get some more drawn in Homer.
Right. I wonder if she wants to be the one to tell Anthony that one…
The end result is, if we don’t get some answers soon, we’ll take him out of state. Alaska is not known for quality health care…and Seattle is just a three hour plane ride away.