Lioness Arising Mom #5: Melissa Vega

I am so honored to introduce my 5th Lioness Arising Mom, the amazingly courageous Melissa Vega.

I started this series to bless these mommas by vindicating them through telling their story, and in hopes of helping others not experience the same heartache & pain.

These stories a true reality for many many parents these days. It’s not a fun journey to walk through and it’s a hard lesson to learn. What’s worse is that their are still people everywhere who don’t want to believe them. Each and everytime I tell one of their stories, I am blessed in return. Blessed because everytime I get to know one of these amazing mothers, my life becomes incredibly enriched. Enriched by truth. And a passion worth fighting for. And for every “debate” I’ve been in over the last 7 years, it is all worth fighting for these mommas. I recently said, “These autism mommas captured my heart…and there is no turning back”…

Before I tell the story, I have to be honest. The night she sent it to me, I wasn’t prepared. I was sitting on my bathroom floor bathing my kids. And her story hit me in my gut. I sobbed. I was so angry over what she’s had to indure. It doesn’t have to be this way. And then I was thankful. I’m thankful that we serve a God who heals and I’m thankful that her story can be told.

This story should be required reading for every expecting mother.

Here is Melissa’s story, told through her eyes.

“My husband and I married young and I could not wait to be able to afford to be a stay at home mom. Fast forward seven years, my husband has a good job with the government and we can afford to start a family. There is so much that I know now that I would have done differently during that pregnancy. My parents came out to Miami for the delivery and then Aidan decided not to arrive on time.  My doctor told me that he could induce and there would be no complications. A date was decided and Aidan was forced into the world. Holding him for the first time was an awakening. I never knew how powerful love could be.

He was vaccinated on schedule and reflecting on his baby journal breaks my heart.  I tell him in the journal that I am causing this pain because I love him and want to protect him.  During Thanksgiving week of 2005, he had his two month shots and stopped pooping completely.  He was exclusively breastfed and pooped after every feeding up until that day.  When I finally got a doctor to call me back, I was reassured that this was perfectly normal and to give him water with Karo syrup.  I could slap that stupid new mom for believing this was normal.  From that day on, he could not move his bowels unless I used an enema.  Holding down your screaming baby with a bloated belly is an awful feeling. I wouldn’t know for another 3 years the correlation to GI issues and autism.

My husband is transferred to DC for a job that will require him to travel non stop for the next two and half years.  Aidan is a happy, healthy baby hitting his milestones and walking at 9.5 months.  But he’s not really talking.  “He’s an only child.  Boys are late talkers.  Maybe you need to talk to him more.”  Since it was mostly just Aidan and myself, I felt I was to blame for the late speech.  He could sign with me so I knew he understood what I was saying, but only had a handful of words.  Then I hear about Dr. Wakefield and the MMR.  I look at his records and it’s too late… he has already had the shot.  I made an appointment to talk to his pediatrician about vaccines and their safety.  “There is nothing to worry about.  They are perfectly safe.  There is no evidence of vaccines causing autism.”  So I continued to vaccinate and slowly lost my little boy.  Between 15-18 months, he stopped making eye contact,  wasn’t interested in playing with other children or toys appropriately.  He was completely obsessed with trains and could swing for hours.  His pediatrician kept telling me that all of the quirky things he was doing (like flapping his hands) was perfectly normal and that his kids did the same things.  I have often wondered if his children were autistic and he didn’t recognize the signs.

During my second pregnancy, I started researching vaccines and wanted to do things differently.  I couldn’t understand why the hep b vaccine was given on the first day of life if I was not a carrier.  This is a disease transmitted through sexual contact and intravenous drug use.  I was pretty sure he would not be doing these things in the hospital nursery and opted out of this vaccine.  I made sure everyone in my L&D knew my wishes.  My second son was born a fat, healthy baby.  I decided to do an alternate vaccine schedule with him.

When my boys were 3 years and 4 months respectively, my husband was transferred to the US Embassy in Uruguay.  Within weeks of our arrival, I was certain something was seriously wrong.  Aidan stopped sleeping and started banging his head.  Everything in his world had just turned over and he couldn’t adjust.  His daddy wasn’t traveling anymore and was home every night, he had a new baby brother, a new house, a new school, in a new country (without our pet beagle) with a new language all around him.  I dreaded telling my husband and adding more pressure along with his new job.  I got the courage one morning just to say it, “something is wrong with Aidan.  I think he has autism.” 

I started researching everything I could find.  There were very few resources in Uruguay, but we were able to find a speech and occupational therapist that spoke English along with our beloved ABA therapist.  We started him on the GFCF diet (eventually eliminating soy, dyes and preservatives) and made plans to head home to Texas for part family vacation, part doctor consultations.  I contacted Thoughtful House and CARD (center for autism and related diseases) in Austin and made appointments.  When I sat down with my initial intake packet, I felt sick to my stomach when I looked at the vaccination dates along with dates of illnesses.  I had allowed this to happen.

My list of questions was several pages long and we left Texas with a biomedical action plan, an official diagnosis of high functioning autism, and hope from the doctor telling me I could reverse this with a lot of time and hard work.  We were also told to stop vaccinating both boys since Aidan had extremely high levels of mercury, aluminum, formaldehyde and arsenic.

Not one doctor had ever asked for our medical history when we vaccinated our children.  The fact that my husband and I both had amalgam fillings in our mouths, and both have a history of autoimmune disorders in our families was never considered.  The fact that I grew up surrounded by 4 major chemical plants and my dad was exposed to Agent Orange while in Vietnam.  No one asked us those questions.  We had loaded the toxin gun and vaccines had just pulled the trigger.

My first biomedical supplement was cod liver oil.  Aidan went from saying “juice” to “want juice” to “want apple juice” within one week.  I was sold.  Adding magnesium took away his three year battle with constipation.  He started to gain weight and not look like those commercials about starving Ethiopian children (big, bloated belly and skeletal limbs). He made steady gains with each new thing we implemented, but he still wasn’t really there.  He only slept about 3-4 hours a night and ran full force all day long.  With a baby that was still waking through the night and Aidan getting up usually by 2 am, I was a complete mess.  After being in Uruguay for about 18 months, the school notified us that they could no longer accommodate Aidan.  The decision was made that I would go ahead to our next assignment in Texas with the boys (almost 5 and 2) and my husband would finish up his job in Uruguay and join us in 5 months.

I made an appointment with an OT in El Paso, TX that turned out to only do neurofeedback.  With as much research as I had done over the last couple of hears, I had never heard of it. She explained what she did and I decided we would try it.  After the third visit, Aidan was making eye contact and talking in small sentences.  I have nicknamed her Aidan’s guardian angel.  It was by chance that I picked this OT out of our insurance directory. Two years later, he has made huge gains with sleep, social interactions, and speech.  We did ABA for the first year back in the states, but had to stop since our insurance would not cover it. We spent about $10-15K hoping we would get reimbursed since TX law requires insurance to cover autism services.  Denied, denied, denied.  We will never see a penny of that money again.

I researched chelation for almost two years.  Our DAN (defeat autism now) doctor wanted to do IV chelation, but that made me very nervous.  I finally decided on the Andy Cutler protocol of low/frequent doses and took the plunge.  No doctor in the area was familiar with this protocol, but I wanted these metals out of his body.  I knew all of these therapies and diet modifications were just a bandaid to the real problems.  We just completed round 7 and the results are nothing less than spectacular.  My husband still travels quite a bit and Aidan  has always refused to talk to him on the phone or skype.  While my husband was in London for the Olympics, Aidan had a full conversation on the phone.  “Hi Daddy.  Today we got a hair cut, then went to lunch, the mall, and then the park.”  Full conversation.  When I got back on the phone, he said, “Can’t you keep him in some kind of chelation tank?”  Amazing results in 7 weeks.

My husband’s job relocates us every two years… something that can be extremely difficult from normal children and downright horrific for kids that cannot handle change.  In five months, my husband is going to Iraq for a year and the boys and I are moving to Austin.  We could stay were we currently are, but I would rather have Aidan in the best school possible and Round Rock ISD has some of the best special ed classes in the nation.  I am so excited to be moving to a city that has farmer’s markets, Whole Foods, HEB plus… all wonderful grocery stores that have a variety of healthy foods and supplements for my children.  I am growing more and more concerned that the world’s largest pesticide company is growing and engineering our food.  Aidan’s high level of arsenic came from eating so much rice and chicken.  Now we only eat organic.  I cannot risk putting more poison into their little bodies. I have removed as many toxins from our lives as possible including flame retardant clothing, toxic toys, toiletries full of chemicals, and I have started making my own cleaning products.  I try to focus on how our grandparents lived and ate.  Not so many processed foods and all of these things created to make our lives easier are slowly killing us.

I was part of a discussion of wonderful lioness mothers this morning asking why God has allowed this to happen to our children.  God did not do this to my child.  Evil men in lab coats preying on our fears did this. Even in my darkest moment, I never questioned my faith.  I questioned myself and whether I am strong enough to do this.  I was chosen, for whatever reason, to be Aidan’s mommy and I will fight to the end of my days to protect him.  I am blessed to have him, but autism is not a blessing.  I have learned many lessons through this journey, but I will never accept autism as anything other than a horrible injustice for my son.  Most parents take for granted all of the little things their children do.  I am lucky to see miracles on a regular basis at each new accomplishment. His diagnosis forced to me to look at what we were consuming in our lives and make drastic changes.  It forced me to look closely at the medical community and come away frightened.  It forced me to re-evaluate my life and find true meaning.  I am honest and opinionated and not afraid to tell others what I have learned in hopes of preventing my friends and family from making my mistakes.  I want others to know never, ever give up.  There is always hope.  Autism is not a death sentence.  It is preventable.  It is treatable.  It is reversible.  I see my baby boy emerging more and more every single day”

Aidan in 2009. (No eye contact, fear/frustration on his face, and a pair of hands holding him to the chair)
Aidan 2009

Aidan in 2012. (engaged, happy, smiling, looking directly at the camera).

Aidan 2012

Autism currently affects 1 in 50 children.
Autism is treatable and reversible.
And most importantly, it’s preventable!

Thank-you Melissa for sharing your story!
Because of your courage, Aidan will be healthy and whole one day!

To learn more about the Lioness Arising Series and read about the other mothers changing the world, click (HERE)