After years of pain, teen and mom adjust to new normal
LAFAYETTE, La. (AP) — Few 14-year-old boys get teary-eyed and when talking about their moms. After four years of endless pain, hospital stays and close calls with death, Gunnar Lantier has good reason to get choked up about his mother, Lorrae Lantier.
“I’m so thankful to have the parent that I do,” Gunnar said. “I owe her my life, several times over.
“If I would have stayed on some medications, I could have gotten cancer. There’s so many things that she’s done. I don’t know if other average parents could have done.”
Lorrae helps Gunnar deal with a life with Crohn’s disease and ulcerative colitis, severe inflammatory bowel diseases that have no cure. Patients endure abdominal pain, severe diarrhea, fatigue, weight loss and other debilitating symptoms.
Before 2015, Gunnar was a typical teen. But unusual stomach aches turned into frequent trips to the bathroom, bloody stools and a loss of 20 pounds in three weeks.
Symptoms subsided after several weeks in the hospital. But reaction to medical infusions left Gunnar with fibromyalgia and swollen lymph nodes. One swollen node in his groin put Gunnar in a wheelchair, unable to walk.
Gunnar has developed kidney disease, along with bouts of psoriasis and eczema, that will never go away. He’s had clostridium difficile, or C. diff., bacterial infections that brought more diarrhea and pain.
The frequent illnesses caused Gunnar to miss 55 days of school last year. He has trouble remembering the constant agony.
“A lot of it is kind of a blur to me now.,” said Gunnar. who turns 15 on Dec. 8. “After a certain point, I just stopped thinking through it.
“I would just go through the motions. Get up, go to the bathroom, sit there for however long and go back to sleep.
“Sometimes, I couldn’t sleep because every 30 minutes I was going back to the bathroom.”
Through the pain and countless trips to specialists across the state, Lorrae Lantier stayed by her son’s side. She became a comforter, researcher, teacher and advocate who sometimes had to spar with doctors who were stumped for answers.
“I almost lost him twice,” said Lorrae. “You have to become the advocate for your child. You’re in a room with doctors coming and going.
“For them, it’s like you’re just another person, just another room. They pretty much tell you that you don’t have the right education level sometimes.
“But you’re with your child 24/7 and you now when something isn’t right. You know how he was before this and you’ve seen it and feel his pain. But you have to keep advocating for your child. No one else is going to do it.”
.. Gunnar is down to four medications a day, a reduction that’s relieved many of his symptoms.
A freshman at Acadiana High School, Gunnar made all As on his recent report card. He’s joined the art club and recently went on his first outing without mom, Comic Con, a comic and entertainment convention at the Cajundome Convention Center.
Days without pain bring a smile to his face.
“I’m definitely feeling a lot better, as far as all the internals are concerned. I’m still not the most agile or have the most physical endurance, when it comes to running and all that stuff.
“But I’m doing a lot better than I have been. Every once in a while, I’ll get bad days, whenever big temperature changes occur. My bones and my joints suffer a little bit. But that’s all right.”
Gunnar has a list of specialists that he’ll have to see for the rest of his life. But for now, Lorrae is taking pleasure in little victories, like family trips and watching Gunnar run outside.
...“We can get in the car and go somewhere. At first, I didn’t know if something was going to trigger his stomach and he’d need the bathroom.
“I saw him run for the first time, the other day, in a long time. I see kids riding up and down the street or playing in the yard.
“Their parents are screaming. ‘Come back in the house.’ You don’t know how good you have it. Let them be boys and play. Be happy you have a healthy child that can run, jump and ride bikes.”