Wakefield, Quebec rallies to help baby girl who can’t eat

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by Trevor Greenway on March 18, 2010

Lauryn Bowie-Jamison gets a piggyback ride from her mom Erin Jamison.

Lauryn Bowie-Jamison gets a piggyback ride from her mom Erin Jamison.

Erin Jamison and Louis Bowie of Chelsea, Quebec spent this past Christmas fearing that their 18-month-old daughter Lauryn had liver cancer.

“It was awful,” said Jamison, remembering their depressing holiday period.

The Chelsea residents spent the first several months of their daughter’s life like most new parents would – sleep deprived, emotional and joyous overall. But at three months, Lauryn developed eczema, a condition that causes the skin to become swollen, irritated and itchy.

Jamison, who was breast feeding Lauryn, struck off dairy from her diet and the eczema went away. But at age one, when Lauryn was tested for dairy allergies, the results were negative. After the test, however, Lauryn began experiencing gastrointestinal problems before stopping eating altogether.

“Whatever we would give her, she would take a bite, curl up in a little ball and cry,” Jamison said. “It was obvious she was in a lot of pain.”

Lauryn had also lost 10 per cent of her body weight and the couple didn’t know why. Jamison, who is a nurse, was left scratching her head.

After several visits to their family doctor and trips to the Children’s Hospital of Eastern Ontario, Lauryn was finally admitted in September, 2009 to CHEO, where doctors said she had Cow’s Milk Protein Allergy (CMPA). They inserted a feeding tube through Lauryn’s nose and began giving her Neocate, an amino-acid based formula that she could absorb without having to digest it.

Doctors told the parents that Lauryn needed 4-6 weeks of tube feeding before she would make the transition back to normal eating. This didn’t happen.

By November, Lauryn’s condition had deteriorated. She was bringing up the feeding tube and was in total discomfort. Reinserting the feeding tube, Jamison said, was a task no parent should ever have to experience. Jamison and Bowie had to wrap Lauryn in a blanket and weigh her down to keep her from squirming. She screamed and cried in pain as the parents reinserted the tube .

“Thank God I’m a nurse,” said Jamison. “But when it’s your own kid, it’s rough.”

Lauryn soon became aware of the tube in her nose, and she noticed other people didn’t have a similar apparatus. She turned shy and sad, covering her face and crying with her head buried in her hands when in public.

By December, Lauryn’s condition was not improving, necessitating another CHEO visit. After looking at her blood work, doctors thought she might have liver cancer, hardly welcome Christmas tidings for the parents.

“The unknown was the worst bit,” said Jamison, wondering how she and Bowie survived the dampened holiday.

The couple then consulted a Gatineau doctor who began testing Lauryn for viruses. She tested positive for Epstein Barr Virus, which causes mononucleosis in adults and can cause liver problems in children. Jamison and Bowie were “super relieved” that Lauryn most likely didn’t have cancer. The couple was referred back to CHEO, where doctors are still awaiting evidence to confirm the diagnosis.

Meanwhile, each time Lauryn brought up her feeding tube, Jamison and Bowie would give her a 24-hour trial period to take solid nourishment. They had no luck with a dozen or so attempts until about three weeks ago, and Lauryn has been eating solid food ever since.

Despite eating on her own now, Lauren is still not gaining weight. Jamison thinks the damage caused by dairy foods combined with a recently identified soy allergy may be the reason. She and Bowie are very happy Lauryn has begun eating, given that surgery to insert a gastric feeding tube had been scheduled for March. 11. The surgery is on hold until it’s determined whether or not Lauryn will need the procedure.

Side bar:

Emergency fundraiser March 27

Erin Jamison and Louis Bowie’s daughter Lauryn became ill at the worst possible time. He had just started his own construction business after being laid off from his high-tech job, and she had just returned to work after a year’s maternity leave. That left them with virtually no benefits, and Jamison was forced to stay home with the baby without pay. Bowie had money tied up in his business and the two were on their “last legs.” They were spending $1,000 per month on the Neocate formula, as well as forking out cash for trips to Montreal and Ottawa on a weekly basis.

This is where the Wakefield Community Emergency Fund (WCEF) stepped in to help. Most of the funds raised this year will go is to help Lauryn, but WCEF board members want to assure people that not all the money raised at the event will be going to the family – only what is needed.

This year’s WCEF fundraiser takes place March 27 at Vorlage and features a silent auction, as well as live entertainment by Burnside and J Dog and the Rockin’ Hound, among others. Ottawa Senators hockey tickets, massage therapy sessions and tools are among the 100-plus items up for bidding.

Previous fundraisers have each generated more than $20,000, and organizers are hoping for much of the same this year.

WCEF board member Barry Schwerdfeger wants Villagers to know that although $56,000 has been raised since 2007, more money is needed, given that there is just $10,000 left in the fund.

“We are going to need another pile to keep this going,” said Schwerdfeger.

The March 27 bash at Vorlage starts at 7 p.m., beginning with the silent auction. For more information, visit the WCEF website at: www.wcef-fscw.ca.