Not only did eating make Joseph Doherty gag and throw up, at the height of his illness the mere sight of someone else eating could provoke the same response.
Now, diagnosed, treated and having grown a foot in the past 18 months, the seven-year-old Maple Ridge resident will help out Variety Club Charity during this weekend’s telethon – giving back to the agency that helped pay for his $16,000 treatment.
He will be one of their featured Variety Kids on Sunday.
His mother Joanne describes how Joseph always had trouble eating solid food as a baby. He didn’t like it, and he threw it up.
As he aged, his growth was stunted, and doctors in the UK, where he was born, were puzzled.
“He was tested for all sorts of horrible diseases,” said his mother.
Because of the nausea and gagging, mealtimes became a torture. He would eat potatoes and little else.
Joanne and husband Graham brought their family to Canada in 2012.
Finally, he was diagnosed with food allergies – wheat, dairy, eggs and soy. His severe reactions were causing symptoms like inflammation of his esophagus, asthma and chest infections.
Years of being made sick from food took its toll on the little guy. He had a selective eating disorder.
“It put him off trying anything new,” said Joanne. “He was scared to eat.
“Even the sight of other people eating would make him vomit,” she said.
That was a social barrier for Joseph as he got ready for school, and family outings to restaurants were out of the question.
“I was so desperate for help. He was such an easygoing, nice boy.”
Joseph began intensive therapy with feeding and behaviour specialists in September 2013, four days a week for most of a year.
They worked at getting him to try new foods, and relieve his fear of eating.
They were expensive sessions, totaling $16,000.
The family received one of approximately 1,500 grants that Variety gives out each year to individuals to help defray the costs.
But they were worth it – the treatment has changed Joseph’s entire outlook on mealtime.
“It’s not just a little difference, it’s a massive difference,” said Joanne.
Now he chucks back veggies, and is perhaps the only Grade 2 student in Maple Ridge who says broccoli is his favourite vegetable.
Better still: a treat from the gluten-free bakery.
“It’s still quite a good donut,” said Joanne.
Joseph grew a full foot in 18 months. His parents have replaced all of his clothes and shoes.
“It’s a really welcome problem to have,” said Joanne.
The fear of food is gone. Last weekend there was a family birthday, and Joseph enjoyed a meal out.
“He went to the Keg, sat with his family, and cleaned his plate,” said a delighted Joanne. “Steak and fries – amazing.
“He fits in. He doesn’t feel strange anymore.”
The Doherty family wanted to give back to Variety Cub, and Joanne said the 49th annual telethon is a simple but effective way to help.
“They show a video and the phones start ringing, and it brings in thousands,” she said. “And they have really helped.”
• Show of Hearts
The Variety Show of Hearts Telethon will be running from Feb. 14 at 7 p.m. until Feb. 15 at 5:30 p.m. on Global B.C.
Joseph will be on television on Sunday between 1 and 2 p.m., with a short video featuring the Doherty family, and a moment on the stage.