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Mr. Moo

Mr. Moo

Male / 2 years & 7 months

Share the first part of Mr. Moo's story for readers on Sleuth! When and why did you start to feel concerned?

My husband and I have two beautiful kiddos, and tried for a few years to conceive another child. After many months of failed attempts, several visits to the doctor, many tests, tracking ovulation and all of that...we believed we couldn't get pregnant, and without explanation. The first two were very quickly conceived so we were left scratching our heads. We stopped using birth control of any kind and just decided to let whatever happen... happen. Fast forward NINE YEARS, we were going out of town and I wasn't feeling quite right. I felt pregnant, and sick. I had felt this way many times before and taken many pregnancy tests only for them to come back negative. I don't know what made me take the test, but I did, and wouldn't you know - I was pregnant! Mr. Moo was a healthy baby, or at least that's what the sonographer told us. I had my 20 week scan done at the peak of the pandemic, so it wasn't routine. I couldn't see the baby at all because of the room we were in, and by some fortunate twist my husband was allowed to be there (we've read many stories of partners not being allowed in.) I just remember the scan taking forever, well over an hour. To top it off, the sonogram was really uncomfortable. The tech was pushing really hard and I didn't know why, I just wanted to know our baby was healthy and be able to leave. When it was finally over, we walked out with a "Congratulations! Everything looks great, you have a very healthy baby boy!" Two days later, we received a phone call. It was the genetics office calling because they saw "something concerning" and wanted us to have another ultrasound, at a different facility, with special doctors. They wanted to do a genetic workup, and "discuss our options." I finally asked, "Do you know what you're looking for?" "Oh, I'm sorry!" the nurse replied, "A cleft lip and possibly a cleft palate." The news felt like it stopped time. Then the questions came. Mostly, what did we do wrong? What does repair look like? Quality of life? Was their co-conditions? It was like a flood. We just had so many questions. We did the genetic workup, and we were told there was no reason they could see that if Mr. Moo did in fact have a cleft - they had no idea what caused it. It just happened, and long before I even knew I was pregnant. We then were taken back to a room with a sonogram tech, and we had a level 2 sonogram that was reviewed by a doctor, and she and the genetics team, and cleft team came into the room to confirm the diagnosis. The baby for sure had a unilateral cleft, but we wouldn't know about the palate until he was born. Mr. Moo was born with an incomplete bilateral cleft lip and palate.

Easton

Easton

Male / 4 years & 11 months

Share the first part of Easton's story for readers on Sleuth! When and why did you start to feel concerned?

Easton's story started before he was born. At about 28 weeks pregnant, I found myself very sick in the ICU with an infection, pneumonia, and relentless fevers. At the time I was blissfully unaware of what cytomegalovirus (CMV) was. However after weeks of testing, I was diagnosis with CMV and told that there was a chance that my child would be born with a congenital form of CMV as it could pass through the placenta. However, I was told to not worry and that it was unlikely to cause issues. This was far from true for us and so many. A few months later, Easton was born! At 36 weeks and 5lbs, he was doing well but had issues from the get go. He did test positive for CMV at birth but I was again reassured that he would be fine, and there was nothing to do for it. He was jaundice at birth and didn't as eat much as I felt he should. Every time he ate he would spill so much milk around his mouth that it soaked his shirt and mine. He sounded like he was gargling milk when he drank, almost like he was drowning. It was so concerning to me, but it was brushed off by doctors very frequently. I took him to his pediatrician, lactation consultants, chiropractors... I was desperate for help, He cried all the time, slept restlessly, and developed thrush. He was diagnosed failure to thrive at two months old weighing just 6lbs 7oz. This is when we were able to move to a larger children's hospital and start on this journey!

Feeding Therapy started at 0 years & 6 months

HankStrong

HankStrong

Male / 7 years & 6 months

Share the first part of HankStrong's story for readers on Sleuth! When and why did you start to feel concerned?

Hank was born in 2015. The (facebook) world was waiting as family and friends literally across the globe watched for the first picture. His birth was uneventful. Great APGARs and no problems. Our real story starts in August of 2015. Hank had failed his newborn hearing tests and his Audiology referrals had failed too. We had an ABR done and determined that Hank had total hearing loss in his left ear. She was really concerned because he had a small head and we had no family history of hearing loss.

Speech & feeding therapy started at 0 years & 9 months

Zuzu

Zuzu

Female / 5 years & 10 months

Share the first part of Zuzu's story for readers on Sleuth! When and why did you start to feel concerned?

I distinctly remember leaving a message for my pediatrician after Zuzu's 8 month appointment because I had forgotten to mention that she wasn't babbling. She's my second child so I knew that the expression of noise was very different than babbling. My pediatrician said to "wait and see" and that maybe her bilingual environment contributed to some form of 'normal delay.' I took her advice and kept an eye on it. I got most concerned when Zuzu was 15 months old. A family member wondered why her face was asymmetrical and that tipped me over to decide to go to a neurologist. I was already aware - and concerned - that she was behind with walking and talking, and this seemed like yet another issue (incidentally, I didn't notice the asymmetry myself!) To be honest, I had somehow convinced myself that she probably had an issue but that the issue wasn't serious. After all, there are a thousand reasons why a child would be talking late and I figured it was mild. My mind didn't put all the symptoms together b/c I guess I was in denial about the bigger picture - it's hard to see that there's something wrong with your child. Eventually, by 18 months, I finally 'saw' that all these small concerns might actually add up to something more important that I had been missing.

Feeding Therapy started at 1 year & 6 months

J.

J.

Male / 6 years

Share the first part of J.'s story for readers on Sleuth! When and why did you start to feel concerned?

When my son was born, I said, “His breathing sounds super-congested.” The doctor said, “Yeah, he probably swallowed a little amniotic fluid. Don't worry about it.” I saw his chest pulling in a little bit when he breathed, and I kept on questioning. (Now, I know those were called “retractions.”) They said, “Don't worry about it. That's normal.” He was born at 35 weeks. We knew that potentially at 35 weeks there could be some minor respiratory issues. But he was six pounds eight ounces. He looked great. His Apgar scores were really good. All the things that we use to measure the typical stuff were good. Then, my husband pointed out that he was not really responding the way our other son had responded 24 hours into being in the world. Bright lights weren't really making him squint. A bunch of things just weren't happening that we thought were normal. (My first son is a healthy, typically developing six year old now.) He also has what I call his “cute” ear, a malformed ear. That was something I also pointed out, and the doctor said, again, “Listen, your kid is healthy. Don't worry about it. He's okay.” My son was born in Jamaica because both my Husband and I had successful careers there. It was a private hospital with a reputation for great doctors. So we thought, “We got this. This is okay. We didn't need to come back to the U.S. to have a baby.” They transferred him to an ICU unit because of his breathing. He had a little jaundice. We were in the ICU unit for about a week. While we were there, I kept on asking questions: “You know, when he cries, I noticed his mouth is a little lopsided.” (“Don't worry about it, Mom. It's not a big deal”.) “His breathing is still a concern to me.” (“Don't worry about it. He doesn't need oxygen. His O2 is fine.”) He wasn't feeding well, and they said, “Well, sometimes with babies it just takes a little time for them to figure out feeding.” They discharged us from the ICU because they had more critical kids. They handed me a syringe and said, “Just keep squirting some milk in his mouth until he gets sucking under control, and head home.” I thought something doesn’t feel right. We went to our pediatrician, and he said, “Listen, I hear your concerns. I can refer you to any doctors you want. Yeah, his breathing looks a little off. Maybe he has something like a PDA (patent ductus arteriosus), which is very common in a lot of kids.” He sent us to a cardiologist who seemed to be rushing. She said, “He has a minor PDA. It's nothing to worry about.” My husband said, “Listen, this is actually good news. It's not like he has a major heart condition.” But again, something felt off. We went to an ENT (ear, nose, and throat doctor). They said, “Everything looks great. His airway is perfectly normal.” I thought, okay! But again, he still wasn't feeding. We just kept on pushing and pushing. It was constant: “Mom, you're freaking out too much. There's nothing to worry about. It just takes time.” But while this was going on, he was losing weight. I could see it. I mean, I could see it. He was the most miserable baby as well. My other son was such a happy little baby. I know kids are different, but there was just something about it that didn't feel right.

Feeding therapy started

C.

C.

Male / 6 years & 1 month

Share the first part of C.'s story for readers on Sleuth! When and why did you start to feel concerned?

My son (nicknamed C.) is a sensory seeker. He's very active. At 18 months, he was constantly moving and doing a lot of physical activities that I didn't see other kids his age do. He also had an enormous amount of trouble self-soothing at night to go to sleep. He was having trouble going from a highly aroused state to a calm, relaxed state where he could fall asleep. We tried sleep training. We tried to do all the typical things that people tell you to do at that age. None of it worked. I just felt like something was off. Like there was something else going on. And when he would wake up in the middle of the night, which a lot of kids that age still do, he just couldn't go back to sleep. He was in a highly vigilant state, wide awake. It was at 18 months that I first mentioned this to his pediatrician. She said, “Well, his nervous system is still maturing. Let's see what happens”. As the months went on, and he started to walk, we noticed that it was like he had no sense of where he was. And then feeding challenges started: he was a really good eater until he wasn't. It was very dramatic. We felt like there might have been some sensory-related stuff going on with either what we were putting in his mouth or what he was seeing. We still struggle with feeding. I mean, it's gotten better. But picky eating was a big indicator of his condition. Then there was the activity level and the lack of focus. C. had a hard time staying focused on one activity. My son was born extremely premature at 24 weeks. Not everybody knows that 24 weeks is the line of viability. He was literally four days after the line. It was a very traumatic birth for him and also a traumatic labor for me. He was born weighing 705 grams. I'll tell you why I say it in “grams.” Because when they are born that early, every gram matters. They consider your probability of surviving partly based on the number of grams you weigh at birth. After he was born, all the nurses kept coming into the recovery room saying, “Oh my! He's 705 grams! Isn't that amazing?” There was like this celebration. He was a little bigger than normal for 24 weeks, but 705 grams is actually one pound and nine ounces. He was tiny. He fit in the palm of my hand. He was very, very small. He spent about five months in the NICU, and it was a very complicated NICU journey for him. Every child in the NICU has their own story. He was challenged with a host of medical issues that almost claimed his life, and also were potentially going to impact his development. When we came out of the NICU we were linked with Strong Start, which is Washington D.C.’s version of early intervention. We started Strong Start at about four months of age, if we correct his age for his premature birth, or eight months old from birth. We were working on some very basic things around gross motor skills, making sure he was moving his head right, that he was making eye contact, some of those typical infant developmental milestones. From the beginning, I had a sense of vigilance around potential delays in his development. In that respect, I think my story might be a little bit different than most families. I already had a heightened awareness that things were probably not going to be typical. The challenges that I had were really the struggles with the system. We knew C. was going to need a lot of therapy. We knew that he was potentially going to be diagnosed with a host of medical conditions that we couldn't predict in his early infant years. I was very proactive about it. But it was still very, very challenging to get the right services, to know who the right people were to talk to, to get coverage from insurance. I always tell people who have questions about what it is like to have a child who was born early or has special needs: this is all really hard. You have the typical challenges of raising an infant. And then you also are a medical coordinator, you’re an insurance advocate, and you're an expert at X, Y and Z diagnosis. You have a host of different hats that you have to put on every single day. The system is not always cut out to support you, right? It's almost the opposite. There are some days where I wake up feeling, “Okay, I'm in fight mode. Let's go!” I have to fight to get through the day, to be able to accomplish the things that my son needs in order to continue to develop and to thrive. That’s our overarching experience. He is now three years and seven months old. When you're born early, they use “corrected age” (based on the date you should have been born, so to speak, if you came to full term at 40 weeks) versus actual age for the first two years of life, because there is a developmental lag. The medical and school systems assume that by the time you are two years old, the child should have caught up, unless there's a major medical issue. Then after two years, you use only on the actual birthday so to speak. So he's actually three years and seven months from his day of birth.

F.

F.

Male / 7 years & 1 month

Share the first part of F.'s story for readers on Sleuth! When and why did you start to feel concerned?

My son started talking and walking at 10 months old. For all we could tell - and for all the doctors could tell - he was typical. You could ask him, “What does a cat say?” and he would answer. He would play peekaboo. He was engaged, and he had probably 30 words by the time he was 18 months old. I noticed at around that 15-month mark that he was not saying “Mama.” My husband said, “He's saying it. Do you hear him? He says, ‘Mom.’” I said, “I don’t think so.” That was the first thing that I questioned. He would say words, and then he would stop using them. Then, on top of that, he wouldn't eat very much variety. The doctors told me, “Oh, he's fine. Lots of kids are like that. As long as he's eating yogurt and those fruit pouches, he's fine. Don't worry about it.” So I didn't give it much thought. Then, at around 18 months, some of his words started changing. He went from saying “bite” to saying “bing,” and then he lost that word completely. I was pregnant with my second child at the time. F. was going to be 22 months old when I had my second one. At around the 20-month mark, he quit eating even more, dropped even more safe foods and then dropped even more words. By the time he was 22 months, right around the birth of my second child, he lost basically all of his words, and his level of social engagement dropped to very little. A friend of mine was getting married, so we traveled out of state from Georgia to Oklahoma to go to her wedding. That's when it was the worst. We realized just how far into himself he had gone. My family was there with us, and we all thought, “He's just not engaging at all.” He went through a regression, basically. In December, at the age of two, he wasn’t responding to us and there were no words at all.

Feeding therapy started at 3 years & 6 months

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