Sunday, January 24, 2010

A New Life

My daughter--I'll call her V for now--was diagnosed with celiac disease on January 15, so she’s had just over a week to adjust to a total change in lifestyle. It’s been an emotional week for the entire family. Today we ran into Target and she said, "Mom, I just want a soft pretzel."

I'm going to use this space to occasionally chronicle what's going on with us, but also to pressure local businesses to provide gluten-free options. Luckily, we're coming into this at a time when gluten-free is HOT--celiacs have more grocery and dining options than ever before. So when a Cary business does a great job being gluten-free friendly, I want to commend that here in this blog. Later in this post, I am going to recognize Biaggi's Ristorante Italiano for doing just that.

Over at Gluten Free Raleigh, Zach mentions that it takes an average of 11 years for someone to be properly diagnosed with celiac. In our case it took seven years, and many visits to both UNC Children’s Gastroenterology and Duke Pediatric Gastroenterology clinics, unpleasant experiences at best. I give both hospitals an F. I could talk ad nauseum about UNC and Duke, but the bottom line is: no one at either clinic knew what was wrong with my daughter and she was never tested for celiac disease. I was not even aware of celiac until my mother was diagnosed with it.

In December, I finally found an independent pediatric gastroenterologist and requested the blood test. V tested positive for the celiac antibodies. The gastroenterologist then performed an endoscopic biopsy, a procedure in which a tiny camera is inserted through a tube which goes down the throat, through the esophagus, into the duodendum. Pictures and tissue samples were taken. Those samples were sent to a pathologist for analysis. The biopsy confirmed celiac disease.

The whole process of getting knocked out with general anesthesia before the endoscopy, the endoscopy itself, and waiting for the results frightened V, who is nine. Fortunately, our experience at WakeMed pediatric outpatient surgery was better than the UNC and Duke clinic visits. By the time we received confirmation of the celiac diagnosis on Friday morning, it was somewhat of a relief. If celiac is the sole cause of her problems, she will feel better very soon.

We wanted to do something at least a little fun Friday evening, so we ventured out for her first gluten-free meal. We went to Biaggi’s in Cary, which has a gluten free menu.

Biaggi’s was the perfect introduction to gluten-free restaurant dining. The atmosphere is relaxed but chic, with earth-toned décor, soft lighting, and plenty of space between tables.

A helpful server had the kitchen bake up a fresh batch of GF bread. They use their gluten-free pizza dough, which is salty and flavorful, and goes down easily drizzled with the olive oil at the table. I asked for the croutons to be left off my salad and that was no problem. V ordered the gluten-free pasta with pesto sauce, and she loved it. She said she couldn’t taste the difference between hers and regular wheat pasta, the ultimate compliment. When the Chef heard from our server that we were brand new to gluten free living, he sent over a paper copy of the GF menu and his business card with an offer to answer any future questions that we have. I plan to take him up on this, and we will definitely dine again at Biaggi’s.

More later. In the meantime, please leave a comment if there is a local gluten-free friendly business you'd like me to visit.


springsandra said...

This is a wonderful story and I'm so happy to hear about your great experience!

Have you had the opportunity to do a GF tour in Whole Foods in Cary yet? They have a plethora of products which, while expensive, can be a good way to ease into GF living.

We only lived GF for a year, and my husband was 26, not 9, at the time, and even that was a struggle. (It turns out his problem was dairy, not gluten - both being way too ridiculously difficult to diagnose.) I cannot imagine how she is taking it to start at such an "old" age -- but once she starts to feel better, hopefully that will be the drive she needs to stick with it strict as she needs to. I wish you all the best and hope your daughter embraces her challenge and adapts to it with her own positive spin.

Joanie said...

Thank you, we appreciate the good wishes!!!!

I tried to sign up for the Whole Foods tour but the person at customer service wasn't aware of it.
I did take Zach's Gluten-Free 101 class which was extremely informative....

springsandra said...

Hi Joanie!

I just saw this on twitter from the WF Cary feed:

Just finished up a gluten-free store tour. Our next tour is scheduled for Wednesday, February 17th at 6:30 p.m. Sign up at customer service!

That was posted on 1/24. I have no clue why someone would tell you they didn't know what you were talking about! That's rather upsetting, actually.

If you're on twitter, their handle is @WFM_Cary so you can follow them (or even ask them about it). Hope that helps!

Joanie said...

Thank you. Yes, it is a little disappointing. The woman at the desk not only had no idea, but gave me such an odd look that I thought I was mistaken and the tour was at the Whole Foods in Raleigh, not Cary.

I don't Twitter, but the good news is I've been back to WF so many times in the last two weeks that I think I've located all the GF foods!