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In April 2011, funding for the post I held – Dietitian for Children with Special Needs in Richmond and Twickenham, was withdrawn. Despite extensively pleading the case with NHS management, 100s of vulnerable children were left without dietetic support.
At face value, a dietitian may appear to be a ‘luxury’ which, during these times of austerity would not be missed. However, for these children with very complex needs, dietary manipulation can have a profound effect on their quality of life.
Just one example is the little girl with severe epilepsy who was being fed through a tube, and able to eat small amounts of food. I first saw her a few weeks after starting in the post, she was referred to me for constipation. Not too serious?? The constipation was painful, and reduced her appetite so much that she refused to eat. Constipation for people with epilepsy can also be a seizure trigger, unfortunately during a seizure she suffered a fracture (anti-epileptic medications can cause reduction in vitamin D resulting in bone thinning). I visited her at home, and within days, we were able to change the tube feed to one containing fibre, resolving the constipation, reducing the seizures, and giving her appetite back. She was able to eat her favourite yoghurts again, something that brought her immense enjoyment! We also started her on calcium and vitamin D supplements to reverse the bone thinning.
Having a dedicated dietitian to children like this little girl is fundamental to improving their quality of life. Currently, as this post no longer exists, children are seen at two local hospitals by very overstretched dietitians. It can take months to secure an appointment, and it can be very difficult for many of the children to get to appointments due to their lack of mobility.
In the last few weeks, in an effort to help these kids in some way, I have been volunteering at a playgroup for children with special needs in Richmond called Me Too & Co. The children are an absolute delight, and I am able to bring my 11 month old son along too (so don’t need to arrange child care!!) Unfortunately, I am only able to give general dietetic advice as for more in depth and complicated cases, a full medical and dietetic history would be necessary. Impossible in the fun and chaos of a playgroup!
Me Too & Co depends on donations, grants and fundraising to operate, so watch this space for any up and coming events! If you fancy donating thank you x