Tiffany Marler, 23, tells the story of her daughter in her own words.
S￼taring at the screen, I couldn’t believe it had come to this. Typing straight jackets for toddlers into Google I hit ‘search’.
My precious girl, Gabby, was an angel. But at night, she’d wake up screaming, scratching her delicate skin so hard it bled. Like most new bubs, Gabby was born with a pimply rash on her face.
‘It’s hormonal – she’ll grow out of it,’ the nurses reassured me.
Instead, it got worse. My girl’s skin should have been silky smooth, but it felt like sandpaper.
‘Something’s wrong,’ I said to my husband, David, 26.
So at six weeks old, we took Gabby to the GP where she was diagnosed with eczema. Given a steroid cream, I slathered it on her. Initially, it relieved her angry, red flesh. But the rash returned with a vengeance, spreading all over her tiny body.
To stop her itching, I’d put socks on her hands when she slept, but I couldn’t always protect my girl.
When Gabby was learning to crawl, her hands and arms broke out in crimson pinpricks. ‘I think it’s the carpet!’ I exclaimed to David, laying down a sheet for her to clamber over.
Despite her discomfort, Gabby was hungry all the time, so I was constantly breastfeeding. And when our girl tried fruits and vegetables at four months old, she just loved them!
Tucking into egg-free custard a few weeks later, Gabby was in heaven. But just seconds later, Gabby began heaving and going blue.
Racing to the hospital, my concerns weren’t taken seriously. ‘It must’ve been too heavy for her little tummy,’ a doctor said. But my mother’s intuition told me otherwise. ‘Let’s not give Gabby any dairy,’I said to David.
A month later, we were eating eggs for breakfast.‘Would you like to try some?’ I asked my girl.
When introducing new foods, a nurse had suggested putting some on Gabby’s skin first to see if she reacted. Rubbing a little into the back of her leg, I waited. Nearly instantly, it went bright red. Covered in hives, Gabby’s leg ballooned. What if she’d eaten it? I panicked.
‘This is definitely an allergic reaction,’ our GP said, examining Gabby’s swollen limb.
Referred to a specialist, it took us four months to get an appointment. Tests revealed Gabby was allergic to wheat, dairy, eggs, potatoes, soy and corn. She’d also been reacting to me.
I’d snack on chocolate or have a white coffee. Then I’d feed Gabby and the allergens would pass through my breast milk.
Unwittingly, I was poisoning my girl and it broke my heart. ‘I’m so sorry, Gabby!’ I whispered, holding her close.
Cleaning out the cupboards, David and I both overhauled our diets. Slowly, Gabby’s personality started to shine. As she began to feel better, our cheeky girl started giggling more, but, terrifyingly, her skin erupted yet again. ‘Is she contagious?’ a stranger once asked cruelly when I took Gabby out.
Now, our bub had started to react to everything. If Gabby played in the grass or with other kids her skin would flare up. Lying on her bedspread had the same effect. I can’t keep her safe! I fretted.
All the doctors could suggest was wet wrap therapy. Coating Gabby in a thick cream, she’d be wrapped up in wet bandages, like a little mummy. Still, no matter how gently the gauze was removed, it ripped off a layer of skin. By now, she’d also started reacting to the steroid ointment. ‘We can’t keep doing this to her!’ I cried.
When Gabby was two-and-a-half, on specialists’ advice, we began a strict Paleo diet to strengthen her immune system. Still, it felt like we were fighting a losing battle.Gabby was allergic to dust mites and polyester, too. She was also hypersensitive to chemicals in perfumes, cleaning products and also tap water. Even the paint on our walls emitted toxins that made Gabby’s skin break out. She’s allergic to our home, I realised.
Vacuuming every day, I even put Gabby’s soft toys in the freezer to kill any nasties. To neutralise her bath water, I’d pop in three pureed cucumbers. Short of keeping my girl in a bubble, there’s only so much I can do. That’s why we need your help to build an allergen-free house. She needs to live somewhere with special hardwood floors and no VOC paints, an air-filtration system and built-in drawers to reduce the risk of dust-mites living in her clothes. So we’re crowdfunding for $25,000 to help create a safe place for Gabby, where her body can start to recover.
Now, our precious girl is three and a proud big sister to Adalynn, 16 months. And Gabby is the bravest kid I know. Each morning, we repeat a mantra together.‘I’m not itchy, I do not need to scratch, I do not need to pick, I am not itchy!’ we chant. My greatest dream is to make this a reality for her.
To help Tiffany and David reach their goal, visit gofundme.com/safehomeforgabby
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