Sometimes something happens that leaves me lost for words.
Having heard the furore on Facebook from fellow EGID parents, Mike and I sat down last night to watch Tuesday's episode of "Holby City" on the I-player. To say that I was speechless as the drama unfolded would be an under-statement; to say that by the end I was fuming would be a gross denial of the feelings that it had caused. My hackles started to rise from the moment we were introduced to the character later described acerbically as "Mr Allergies" and we both sat in stunned disbelief as the storyline ended with everything being cured by a rapid diagnosis and a special injection.
For those of you who aren't Holby City fans, or who didn't have the misfortune to catch it when it aired on Tuesday night, let me give you a quick precis. A young man, portrayed from the start as little more than a time-waster and with a list of allergies as long as your arm, is admitted into the hospital. Nobody can pinpoint what's wrong, but the doctor in charge of his care recognises that his symptoms fit with EGID. She performs that little-known-as-highly-reliable diagnosing tool of an ultrasound (!) to rule out Crohns disease and Diverticulitis and comes to the conclusion that it could possibly be EGID, but is more likely to be a mental health issue due to him craving being a "rare" individual and the attention that obviously affords him. On the basis of all this, and having given him leaflets about planning his own funeral, she tells him it's a previously unidentified trapped nerve, gives him an injection and within minutes he's up on his feet, completely cured and feeling better than he has in years.
If only M's life were that simple. If only a simple injection could take away the pain and acute discomfort that M struggles with on a daily basis. If only I could tell him that the magic wand we both are longing for has finally appeared and all his hurt and frustration and despair will be gone, just like that. If only it was likely that since he was small, my distraught 8 year-old has been craving nothing more than extra attention by being a medical rarity. If only I'd known that it was all in his mind, or, more likely, all in mine as I've known from babyhood that there was something very wrong.
It has taken 7 years for us to reach a diagnosis, bypassing multiple doctors who thought it nothing more than a bad case of toddler diarrhoea and a somewhat neurotic mother. Even though we now know his chronic illness by name, lack of funding and research means that we still don't have any answers and every step taken with GOSH is a step of faith that something will help at some point. Every day I meet with people who have no idea what EGID is and the impact it can have on the family as a whole, let alone on my 8 year old himself. Most of the medical staff we see have never heard of the illness, do not understand the subtle nuances of this hidden disease and have no idea how much we all need their help. And we're not on our own. There are over 300 other families who look to FABED for support and share the highs and lows of this illness with each other, as we can understand like no outsider can; and that's just in the UK.
I've done my bit:
I've made my complaint known - via Twitter, via Facebook and via the BBC online complaints system - and I've written this blog. BUT the damage is done. Nothing is going to be able to take away their careless portrayal of EGID to the 5 million who watched Holby City on Tuesday night. I would love to meet the researchers and writer for Tuesday's episode to understand who they spoke to and where their information was sourced. The daily battle that M and other EGID children struggle with bears no ressemblance to what was shown, but sadly that is the viewpoint the public will now hold. I would love for them to spend time living life in the shoes of an EGID family, even for a day, so they could experience a fraction of the living hell that that life can be at times. To comprehend the heartbreaking decisions we EGID parents have to make and the challenges of restricted foods, bowel problems, chronic pain and a multitude of daily medicines our babies deal with. This type of inaccurate and frankly irresponsible representation of a serious illness is not what I associate with the BBC and it is left to parents like me, who have enough daily battles to fight, to raise awareness and voice our concerns.
You can do your bit too: Just share this blog. Make your family; friends; colleagues; strangers in the street aware of it and the rare illness that affects children like M and families like mine. I don't mind how you do it - RT it; link it to your Facebook page; send it out to your email address list; print it out and pin on noticeboards around your town; or get it emblazoned across the sky - but please do it and help us get our voice heard.