A Boy Under a Different Sky
Hi, I am Reza. A medical graduate from Bangladesh. Dealing with the pain and sorrow of people around me is my job. Yes, this is a bad, boring job. Because nobody wants to know your sorrow. We are too busy with our own complicated life. Unfortunately, adding other people's complication with my complication has been my destiny. I need to know the ugliest truth of my patients. Even I need to digest the facts that no one ever wanted to tell anyone. I accept every little sorrow and pain and try to cure my patients. I know how it feels when someone at your home becomes so sick. I think if you can stay healthy, you already have received a gift in your life. A gift, that is so precious. Today, I will tell you a story. I true story of my life. Some of you might find it familiar. Some might find it close to your heart. All I can say about the story is that there has been much sorrow, and slowly, gently, came much joy. This is about my brother Rabbi. A 17 year old angry teen. He is always in a rush. He loves to play football and cricket. He sacrificed all his valuable time for his love. But I am not worried about that. Why should I be? As long as he is healthy and happy. It was never a smooth journey for him. At the age of four, he was diagnosed with severe childhood onset Asthma. It was a terrible experience watching my brother suffocating to death.
Till now, he is fighting this disease though his symptoms are not so severe right now. Once he said to me, "I am fine and grown up now. May be you are too slow for me"! I smiled. :-) I do not think he is done growing. I hope he never does. When he was ten, he had a very severe gastroenteritis. He had to get admitted into a hospital and was released after three days. Everything went fine after that except his occasional abdominal discomfort. It started gradually. Whenever he came home from his practice session, he used to complain of severe abdominal pain, nausea, bloating and sometimes loose motion.
Later on, the frequency of his problem increased. At first we were not much concerned. Day after day, we found the situation getting really troublesome. He was so annoyed with this condition! After all a school going teen with abdominal pain all the time! It disturbed his daily living both physically and mentally. I decided to consult a physician. We knew that Dr. Mahtab was a well known medicine specialist. He scheduled my brother for an exam. After a thorough physical examination, he told me to perform some laboratory test for my brother. He suspected peptic ulcer disease. It is a common well known disease mostly caused by Helicobactor Pylori; a tiny bacteria living in our stomach. After a few days, the test result came. It was positive for the organism. We were pleasantly relieved. Dr. Mahtab prescribed proton pump inhibitor (omeprazole) along with H. Pylori eradication therapy for fourteen days.
But unfortunately, his symptoms were not improved even after ten days! Rather, his condition made him emotionally handicapped. He decided not to get out of our home. His friends might make fun of him. One morning when I went to talk to him, I saw him crying, twisted in pain. He had tears in his eyes as he tried to escape from me. Right then I knew it was not peptic ulcer disease. It was some other disease. Something was missing in our diagnosis. We again consulted Dr. Mahtab. He seemed a bit anxious. He ordered an upper gastrointestinal endoscopy to see any pathology of his abdomen. Three days later the result came. It was completely normal! Dr. Mahtab told us not to worry anymore. It was a simple irritable bowel syndrome! He might be suffering from anxiety. If we could keep him relaxed it would go away. I told my brother about the diagnosis. He smiled. He said, " Do you think I am Superman? Do I have to look after of the world? Why should I be anxious?" I did not know what to say. Next two and a half months, he swallowed some anti anxiety and anti spasmodic medications with no improvement. I knew anti anxiety medications take one to two months time to work effectively. But after waiting for so long, we could not find a result. I never felt so helpless in my entire life. My brother used to offer me some new chocolates every time I went to see him. Those chocolates were brand new in the market. He liked them so much. One day, I was looking at the chocolate box. I thought my brother had no symptom before the gastroenteritis. It all happened after he started eating those chocolates! He did not even mention a single word about his new love to his doctor! How could his doctors diagnose his disease?
Day after day it became pretty clear to my mind. Whenever he took those chocolates or any type of dairy products he became very sick. I rushed to Dr. Mahtab to tell him about my brother's secret story. He advised my brother not to take those chocolates for two weeks in a row as a protocol of his diagnosis. My brother was so sad but hopeful at the same time. Two traumatic weeks passed without his favorite chocolate! He was really starting to feel better. No abdominal pain, no bloating, no nausea! He felt so healthy. I knew that our superman is back to save our world. Later on, he stayed out of dairy products for six months in a row. He showed a no sign of those abdominal problem. He was completely cured! We went to our doctor. He was relieved also. He said my brother was suffering from Lactose Intolerance. He was lacking an enzyme in his gastrointestinal tract known as 'Lactase'. This enzyme helps to breaks lactose in our food that we find in milk, dairy product, chocolates, ice cream etc. If he could avoid those foods in his diet he would be as healthy as ever. After that, we went to see a nutritionist because we were not sure what he should eat. Moreover, my brother did not like meat at all. Our nutritionist advised to eat lots of pulses, vegetables, fruits, beans, soya milk, which is enriched with calcium and vitamin B12. So, what about chocolates? No, he cannot take much. Occasionally he takes those accompanied with some digestive aids that my uncle sends from U.S.A. Those pills contain Lactase enzyme w hich helps to digest dairy products that he takes.
Now a days, there are also lactose free products in the market which he now use all the time. I hope they will make those lactose free chocolates, cream and cheese in the near future. :-) Now, Rabbi is running in full speed. He plays football and cricket. He also has found a new love in his life named 'Ria'. He said she is like Angelina Jolie! Well, good for him. I am also busy with my life. Still, we breeze through life, and every once in a while we do exchange giggles and tears, some funny words, a wink and two grabbing hands. Under the same sky that covers our street. This is my story. Please remember, Lactose intolerant people are not food intolerant. They just can't digest lactose.
If you can detect this condition early you can save you and your close one's from some serious side effects. Be sympathetic to them. Being lactose intolerance is not a choice. Let me give you an idea how common this disorder is. Somewhat less than 40% of people in the world retain the ability to digest lactose after childhood. The numbers are often given as close to 50% of Mediterranean people, 90% northern Europeans, close to 0% of Native Americans, 5% of Asians, and 25% of African and Caribbean people! The vast majority of these people do not have a slightest idea about this disorder. Some are treated as Irritable bowel syndrome, some as Peptic ulcer disease, some even as Celiac or Crohn's disease. Finally, those who are intolerant to lactose, you can have whatever you wish, but you must make the effort. Do not sit around accepting life's handouts. Make the effort. Any effort. Now, let us take a deep breathe. It's time to know about Lactose intolerance .
My next topic is about What is Lactose intolerance ? .