This is James’ Sotos story as told by his mum, Michelle. From birth, James appeared generally floppy and lethargic and he struggled to feed. Several different conditions were suggested and tested for which came back clear. After months of being in and out of hospital, a Sotos diagnosis was finally made.
James was born on 4th December 2011 after a pretty uneventful pregnancy, apart from the fact I was absolutely huge! We put this down to him being my third child in fairly quick succession but when he was born it was obvious this wasn’t the reason why but his 60cm length and 10lb6oz weight!
During labour it was evident that something was amiss and scrapings from his scalp showed issues with his blood gases. An emergency c-section ensued and after a traumatic entrance to the world, James was rushed off to the Neo Natal unit to be given antibiotics, glucose and oxygen. It was some 12 hours later when I eventually got to meet him. It was strange seeing such a large baby lying next to the tiny premature babies. James wasn’t able to feed and had no sucking reflex so was tube fed but even then his milk had to be changed several times as he kept bringing it back up. Nobody really knew what was ‘wrong’ with James and several things were suggested, Cerebral Palsy and Mitochondrial Disease being amongst those suggestions due to his generally floppy tone (yet very tight in some areas) and lethargic state. James barely woke, couldn’t open out his hands and seldom even moved his head from side to side. At 4 days old the geneticist from St Georges, London came to see us and thought he could possibly have Weaver’s Syndrome. Xrays were taken of James’s arms and these were sent off to Sheffield for review. Some weeks later we got the news that they didn’t think he had Weaver’s.
After two weeks in the Neo Natal nursery, we were allowed to take James home as they believed he was feeding ok from a bottle and as he was stable and off oxygen there was nothing more they could do there than we could do for him at home. Once we got him home he seemed to sleep more than ever and his feeding was most definitely not ok. He would take one suck and then fall asleep so the nights consisted of a constant round of 20 mins sleep, one suck and back to sleep before waking for another suck. Of course, this meant that James was then losing weight. After two weeks at home and visits from the health visitor we were readmitted to the local hospital for them to review and observe his feeding. After a few days in there they sent us home with some Gaviscon.
During the very early weeks James seemed to have every test going — CT scan, MRI, XRays, EEG, ECG and more blood tests than most would have in their lifetime. Back home we tried to get into a routine as our older son, Spencer, was at nursery and our daughter, Emma, was at the childminder’s once a week so she could still see her friends there and keep her space for when I returned to work. It was only a matter of weeks before we were readmitted again, this time after me calling the GP surgery desperately trying to get an appointment as James again was particularly sleepy, sounded very chesty, was taking practically no milk and just looked very grey.
I recall the Nurse practitioner on the phone telling me that babies get colds all the time and they didn’t take much milk when feeling unwell. I stood my ground and said I thought she should see him so she reluctantly agreed but as soon as we got there and she saw him she sent us straight up to the hospital where James was given a full examination and ended up with an NG tube again and IV antibiotics as they thought it could be Pneumonia. After a chest XRay they could see dark patches on his lungs. We stayed in hospital for a week until James recovered but I still battled with the nurses who thought I just wasn’t feeding James and I had to persuade them by getting them to try themselves, that he just didn’t suck.
James’s consultant arranged for us to see the geneticist again for more bloods and also referred him to the Evelina Children’s Hospital in London to see the metabolic team there as he was convinced he had Mitochondrial disease. Thankfully, after a four month wait the results came back clear. He also arranged for James to have a swallow study there. The team at Evelina were great and the swallow study proved James had a disorganised swallow and had been aspirating silently which was causing all the chestiness, especially with his reflux. Omeprazole and Instant Carobel became our best friends and seemed to really help with his feeding. He was put onto Nutrini milk which helped with his weight gain and his health started to improve.
After seeing the geneticist again she advised she was going to test for Sotos Syndrome. Like most people we indulged in a spot of ‘Dr Google’ and we could instantly see the similarities. James received his official diagnosis in September 2012 when I had already been back at work a month.
With regards to childcare, we were very lucky that we had great childminders who looked after James once a week and even they had commented that James looked like a child they had looked after within their group of Childminders, who, incidentally, had Sotos Syndrome.
James also has a diagnosis of Global Developmental Delay and has yet to meet a milestone on time. He didn’t sit up by himself until July 2013 (we were in Brighton hospital at the time and he thought the tilted cots were great fun, slamming himself back down each time he managed to get up). He was cruising around the furniture at around 30 months and started to take a few tentative steps indoors in October 2014.
James received Portage sessions from about 7 months and these came to a close when he was offered a place at his nursery in September 2014. It is a Special School for children with Severe learning Disabilities and Complex needs. He loves going there and is making real progress. Although James cannot talk we understand what he wants from his brilliant facial expressions, body language and the tone of his voice. We have had hundreds of appointments in the past 3 years — more therapists than you can shake a stick at but thankfully these are now fewer due to the nature of the school and being able to incorporate the appointments there.
We are lucky enough to have my parents come and look after James, Spencer and Emma during the times my husband and I are at work and he is not at nursery and he has developed a fantastic bond with them. James is also very lucky that Emma (5) is like a second mum to him and absolutely adores him.
James is a truly adorable little lad, always a smile on his face and although the erratic sleeping patterns, feeding difficulties and mobility issues make life more awkward than for most, we love him to bits and look forward to seeing more progress as the months and years go on.