The Start of My Allergy Journey: Getting Diagnosed With Celiac Disease
My journey with allergies and food intolerance started at a very young age.
I was born in Sarajevo, the capital of Bosnia (Yugoslavia at the time). Unfortunately, when I was 2 years old, the Yugoslavian war started, and my family was stuck in the middle of it all.
As time went on and the war progressed, we did not have electricity, water, heat, and other basic necessities. Bosnia also started to experience a food shortage. This is how my journey with health conditions, including allergies, began.
The nightmare that is war
My mother had taken me and my brother to Croatia, a neighboring country, where it was much safer in 1993, right after the war began. We stayed there for about 9 months before venturing back to Bosnia. While we were in Croatia, I was eating normally. They were not experiencing the same thing as Bosnia regarding food.
During those 9 months, the kids who did still live in Bosnia were being weaned off food very slowly, so the lack of food wouldn't shock their system. I, on the other hand, didn't get that. I went from eating normally and having food in Croatia to practically eating nothing when we returned to my hometown in Bosnia. My body went into shock.
Within 2 months of returning, at 4 years old, I was starving – literally. I weighed about 9 pounds and was a scary sight to be seen – only skin and bones. My stomach was enlarged from water retention, and my ankles were swollen to the point I couldn't walk. I quite literally looked like the starving kids you see on TV commercials. To be honest, it's a miracle I'm even sitting here sharing this with you now.
A much-needed package
I spent about a month or 2 in the hospital while everyone essentially waited for me to die. There was nothing anyone could do – or so we thought. Fortunately, we received a package with powdered milk and a few other things from a friend in another country by some stroke of luck or divine intervention. My health started to improve pretty quickly after that.
My first diagnosis of celiac disease
However, the malnourishment in my early years had lasting effects that will stay with me for the rest of my life. During the hospital stay, I found out I had celiac disease. Doctors also told me that my digestive system may not ever work normally again after the damage caused by starvation and malnourishment. I was lucky not to have permanent brain damage, considering my state.
Thus, my journey of dealing with health conditions started. After that, I continued to develop other allergies and worsening skin rashes, among other things.
Finding hope in the midst of darkness
Little did I know that one event would change my life forever. While I'd be lying if I said it has been easy for me, there are still a lot of silver linings.
Dealing with allergies and other chronic health conditions entirely changes you as a person. My experiences have certainly taught me not to take the "little" things for granted. I may still deal with allergies, atopic dermatitis, celiac disease, etc., but I'm still alive and breathing.
Sharing my allergy experiences
I truly believe everything happens for a reason. My only hope is that by sharing my journey and bearing my heart out to the world, I can inspire others to do the same.
By sharing our stories and having communities like these, we start to remove the stigma surrounding chronic illness. And hopefully, through our shared experiences, we continue to heal ourselves and one other – one day and one story at a time.
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