SCALE of the prob­lem

Shai-anne Sif­ford, 21, from Las Ve­gas, was hor­ri­fied when her new­born baby’s skin started to crack in her arms...

Pick Me Up! Special - - Meant To Be Real Life -

Fast asleep and dream­ing peace­fully, I sud­denly felt it. A gush be­tween my legs. I was 35 weeks preg­nant in Novem­ber 2016 and it was too early for the baby to come.

But for three weeks, I’d been wait­ing for this mo­ment af­ter be­ing in a car crash with my fi­ancé Zach, 19.

I’d es­caped with three frac­tured ribs and bruis­ing and had been on bed rest ever since.

Now though, our baby was fi­nally on its way!

Af­ter I’d been in labour for 16 hours, doc­tors car­ried out an emer­gency Cae­sarean sec­tion to bring our first baby into the world.

As the nurse handed me our 6lb 4oz boy, I no­ticed Carter’s skin was bright red.

So bright, he looked sun­burnt.

He was just sec­onds old, and his skin was al­ready start­ing to crack.

His eye­lids didn’t quite close, the skin was so tight.

I could tell that Zach was wor­ried, too, but nei­ther of us voiced our con­cerns at the time.

Maybe this was what all new­borns looked like?

‘Time for his heel­prick test,’ the nurse said later.

She tried and tried, but Carter’s skin was too thick for the test.

Sud­denly, the nurse looked wor­ried.

‘We’ll need to take him to neona­tal in­ten­sive care,’ she said.

As Carter was whisked away for tests, Zach and I were left won­der­ing what on earth was wrong with our baby boy. It wasn’t un­til three ag­o­nis­ing days later that we fi­nally had an an­swer.

A doc­tor came by and handed me a leaflet about some­thing called lamel­lar ichthyosis (LI). ‘We think Carter has this,’ the doc­tor said. ‘What does it mean?’ I pan­icked. ‘Is there a cure?’ He ex­plained that Carter had been born with a rare ge­netic con­di­tion which caused his skin to re­pro­duce many times faster than nor­mal. His lit­tle body couldn’t shed the dead cells quickly enough, caus­ing scales. It also meant his skin was so thick he couldn’t sweat, and so he would be in­tol­er­ant of heat. Our baby couldn’t close his eyes be­cause the skin around them was too tight, and he needed to avoid sun­light be­cause of the po­ten­tial dam­age. Carter was also at high risk of skin in­fec­tions, which could be deadly, and of sud­den in­fant death syn­drome, be­cause if he got too warm he could suf­fo­cate.

As a new mum, this was just so much to take in. I was left reel­ing, ter­ri­fied. ‘What can we do?’ I stam­mered. ‘His skin has no mois­ture,’ the doc­tor ex­plained.

‘You’ll need a hu­mid­i­fier and you must keep his tem­per­a­ture reg­u­lated. Keep him slathered in Vase­line to stop his skin crack­ing.’

Later that same day, we took Carter home, and did ex­actly as the doc­tor said.

Even so, Carter’s skin cracked and formed scales and we had to be­gin the painful task of ex­fo­li­at­ing them off.

He screamed through every sec­ond of it. Heart­break­ing. Our boy was con­stantly ag­i­tated as he wrig­gled and scratched un­til the skin bled.

His lit­tle fin­gers curled in­wards be­cause of the skin tight­en­ing, and he slept with his eyes wide open.

We barely left the house for fear

of him suf­fer­ing fur­ther dam­age to his skin, or in­fec­tions.

Af­ter six months, the enor­mity of it all hit me.

‘There’s no sign of him get­ting bet­ter,’ I sobbed.

‘He’s per­fect,’ Zach re­as­sured me. ‘It’s just his skin. Be­sides, he doesn’t know any dif­fer­ent.’

It was a heart­break­ing re­al­ity, but Zach was right.

De­ter­mined to help my son, I be­gan do­ing re­search on­line.

I tried co­conut oil, caster oil, shea but­ter, oat­meal baths, and bak­ing pow­der.

Noth­ing worked.

Then I read that cannabis oils can im­prove chronic skin con­di­tions.

Although cannabis oil was le­gal in our home­town in Ne­vada, it was only avail­able to peo­ple over 21.

‘What do you think?’ I asked Zach ner­vously.

‘I don’t think it’s a good idea,’ he said, sound­ing wor­ried. ‘What if we get into trou­ble?’ I was anx­ious about that, too. Only… ‘But if it helps Carter, it’s worth the risk, isn’t it?’i said.

I doubted that any mother would feel dif­fer­ently. Any­thing to help my boy… So in Au­gust 2017, I bought some cannabis oil and mixed it with co­conut oil. Ner­vously, I rubbed it onto a patch of red, scaly skin on Carter’s tummy. And just five days later… ‘I don’t be­lieve it!’ I gasped. The red­ness had com­pletely gone away. I started rub­bing it over his whole body and used it to cre­ate bath bombs, creams and gels. Within a few weeks, the red­ness had dis­ap­peared and the scales were less thick. Bet­ter still, Carter wasn’t ag­i­tated and scratch­ing. For the first time since his birth, he trans­formed into a calm, happy smil­ing baby. It was such a relief to see that he was no longer in pain.

My eyes filled with tears when­ever he grinned.

Now Carter is nearly two years old and we’ve car­ried on us­ing the cannabis oil prod­ucts.

The doc­tors are full of praise for him, ad­mir­ing how well he’s do­ing and how well he looks. He’s come so far. He’s learnt to walk and loves watch­ing the

films. He’s not talk­ing yet and doc­tors be­lieve that the build-up of skin cells in his ear canal may have af­fected his hear­ing. But we’ll have to wait and see. Carter is still liv­ing a rel­a­tively nor­mal life and I couldn’t be more grate­ful for that.

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