Our story and Alexandru’s began on a beautiful summer morning, on a little Caribbean island.
He was born naturally, on time, a beautiful baby boy, so loved and so expected by all of us! My heart never knew such fulfilment and such gratitude! What could have been more precious than our complete family, a wonderful community and a dream home, on one of the most beloved beaches in the world?
It all seemed a beautiful dream that not everyone shared…the days were passing by in love and harmony until I noticed the first signs of something not quite right. His restlessness, the slight changes in different moments, especially when he needed to feed. And then, that day, after the doctor’s visit…that day we shall never forget…it was the day that suddenly completely changed everything. The day he never stopped crying. A neverending cry, hours and hours of unexplained suffering, torment and pain we did not know where it was coming from because he was shranking and arcing at the same time. Diagnosis: unexplained…unexplained crying, unexplained pain…
And the days that followed did not bring anything good: he ended up not being able to hold anything in his hands, not able to chew while it became really difficult for him to hold his head up. And in the end he lost all the things he knew and we held dear-the first words, the sounds, the visual contact…his eyes were empty and sad…like my soul…like our souls, all the ones who loved him so!
There are no words to describe the darkness inside of us and no words to describe the cold that filled our home, although outside were 40 degrees Celsius. No words to describe the lack of color around, although we were surrounded by a tropical paradise…no words to help you sense or understand what we went through, although, much later, we were given a word to define all of these. No parent would ever want to hear this word: autism! It was the most foreign word to me but also full of meaning and a sentence I did not want to accept! I could NOT accept!
There was no one to convince me that something so sly and unexplained could crawl into our lives and steal all the love and all that my happy, lively child had accomplished without me knowing, sensing or agreeing to!
And the answers of all the specialists? A slight raise of shoulders, a sadness coming from the inability to give me an answer.
Where could I go, whom would I talk to? Who would know how to help me save my child? If I was told, repeatedly, that nothing could be done, why was I so stubborn to fight? To search? To understand?
Because nothing was making any sense!!! MY child was slowly disappearing into a world I did not know and I could not comprehend.
There was no time to waste. We ended up in therapy, we ended up taking all the steps they offer you with hope. We were all trying but Alexandru was not saying a word, was not making a sound, was not able to understand what he was being told, he had no interest in communicating…he was not even looking for nobody’s company but mine. He was holding onto my body so tight with his small fingers, in a constant state of fear and anxiety … a dreadful fear had taken hold of him. Afraid of what? How could I understand? What was I to do? I felt like I was falling apart … that was not my world, it was not the reality that I had dreamed of! It no longer resembled our little tropical paradise with the smell of flowers and sea salt.
The instinct told me to move along, to move to Malta. Once we got there, we went to see Dr. Lidia. I had been talking to Lidia over the phone countless times and she wanted to see him … she had a gruesome suspicion. A suspicion that was confirmed to me: Alex was suffering from chronic inflammation. Her first question: what does he eat? I was looking at her puzzled, my eyes big and wide open. What do you mean, what does he eat? What relevance does this have? I am telling you he does not eat anything, does not chew, he had stopped talking, stopped looking into my eyes? Why don’t you ask me something else?
One second later I realized the extent of my ignorance and I decided to immediately follow her advice. I removed gluten, casein and sugar. I changed everything in the kitchen in less than two hours. I had done shopping and prepared the donation box. No one in the house was to make any exceptions because I knew how hard it would have been for Alexandru.
And I was not mistaken-the milk bottle and the few crumbs of bread he had dissolved in his mouth disappeared. I had replaced the menu with a meal rich in vegetables and stewed steak, passed through the blender and served with the spoon. There were prolonged protests, screams and things slammed everywhere but I was so determined and firm that I did not even blink. And it seemed like the next day it became easier … on the third day I noticed a sparkle in his eyes: he was looking at me! The days that followed he even came to me to show him something in a book and play with a puzzle!
And on the seventh day he spoke!!! He spoke his first words, after two years of complete silence! And his voice was so beautiful and clear, like pure crystalline water! And that moment stayed with me, as real and alive like that day….a moment so memorable, it can not be erased from my BEING!
He had a set of colored cups, those cups I take with me everywhere we go, even now, like a reassurance that there is only a way ahead and we shall never go back! And he started telling me all the colors, one by one. And then I realized not only that something had just happened, something so powerful and wonderful that his voice returned, but also that he had been present during all this time! My child was there, present in that body, listening and understanding everything around him, absorbing all the information but some sort of obstacle was not allowing him to communicate.
And then, that moment chaged again our lives. On another island, two years later, my child was recovering his language, his voice, his life! And everything that followed was a direct consequence of that moment.
I can not even replay everything that was going on in my mind at that time, at a dizzying speed: what had just happened? What was the connection with all his condition and with the food we were feeding him? Why was I not aware of all these things? Why there was no one talking about it? Why this commonplace intervention was not mentioned anywhere by any one of the specialists we visited? Whom was I to talk about these with? Obviously, more could be done. Obviously, I could have intervened much faster, I could have helped him, I could have saved him from such suffering!
Days and nights of studying followed, I devoured books…medical studies. I gave up everything that I was and everything that I knew up to that moment in order to become the person that could help Alexandru completely overcome his condition.
I went back to school. I gave up my career and the company I was managing. I reached out to autism organisations from foreign countries. I wrote, emailed, called, I reached out to doctors, I spoke with so many families that overcame autism, I asked too many questions. And then I applied everything in our home.
Today happiness lives again in Alexandru’s eyes who constantly follow me everywhere, full of love and curiosity. Today we are four in our family again, maybe more alive and joyfull than ever, more aware of the fact that we can be grateful for apparently small things, like the image of our children paying together, the fact that Alexandru is asking us to buy him yet another book to read, the fact that we can all sit at the table and enjoy a fresh salad or a nut flour muffin, or the fact that we can hear the piano accompanied by Alexandru’s voice, so clear like pure crystalline water.
Today I know that no matter what happens from now on, I will never be the person who left the small tropical paradise. Because, some time ago, a very special young man showed me a world that is no longer foreign to me and that I know for a fact that it can be changed.