FOR the first 15 months of Isaiah’s life, his mother Logeswari took a cooler bag everywhere the pair went.
The blue-and-white carrier was stocked full of towels and wipes, ready for the inevitable.
“Isaiah would just throw up everything, at least five times a day,” Logeswari says.
“Even people at the supermarket knew him, because it always used to happen there too.
“And we had to put lino over the carpet in our house. He couldn’t really keep anything down, and I couldn’t get him to eat anything.”
Isaiah, a healthy toddler by every other measure, had reflux.
But the more he vomited up his feeds and food, the less interested he became in eating.
Logeswari says her son was low on energy. Finding clothes to fit became increasingly difficult; Isaiah’s belly protruded while his limbs were lean.
“I tried every type of food,” Logeswari says. “I was so upset. I didn’t know what to do anymore. He was afraid, but I don’t know what caused him to be afraid.”
Western Health speech pathologist Adriana Vespucci, who worked with Isaiah at Sunshine Hospital’s Paediatric Speech Pathology and Dietetics service along with dietitian Tamara Sherry, says food aversion is “multi-factorial and complex”.
“It is very unpleasant for children to vomit a lot,” she says.
“This can also be extremely stressful for parents as they just want their children to grow and be healthy.”
Fearing, understandably, that Isaiah was missing out on vital nutrients, Logeswari and her husband Peter resorted to feeding him with a syringe. But solving one problem had inadvertently created another – syringe feeding became another barrier to Isaiah developing normal eating patterns.
Logeswari says she was given all kinds of advice – both wanted and unsolicited – by family, friends and medical practitioners.
But it was only when they were referred to Sunshine Hospital that things turned around.
Having first determined that Isaiah did not have a swallowing problem, Ms Vespucci adopted three key strategies in helping Isaiah overcome his aversion.
The first was to reduce the pressure on Isaiah to eat, which included encouraging “food play”, tolerating exploration and mess, as well as offering food during family meal times and modelling “positive interaction with food”.
The second was eliminating all syringe feeding.
The third was reducing milk intake. (“Have you ever tried eating a meal after you have just had a milk shake?” Ms Vespucci says. “It reduces your appetite”).
The response was almost immediate. Within weeks, Isaiah was showing curiosity with food – and eating it.
Logeswari clearly remembers the turning point.
“One night he wanted to eat the chicken biryani (we were eating),” she says.
“He now asks for food, and he wants spicy food. He wants spice and salt, he wants curries and rice.”
Ms Vespucci says Isaiah and his family “did an amazing job turning things around”.
“His parents were very responsive and were able to follow the guidelines given at home, which resulted in immediate and significant change,” she says.
“Parents would typically require much more support than this and children often progress more slowly. But for Isaiah, the major change happened over four weeks.”
Isaiah’s parents are sharing his story in bid to help those at Western Health who need it most.
By making a donation on Isaiah’s behalf – and sharing his story on social media – you are making a difference too. Thank you.