Hawaii Oh Why: How A Mysterious Illness Led Us to Natural Medicine

Being back in Hawaii is bringing back all the feels. We are so enjoying being with our family in such a beautiful setting doing exhilarating things. But we also clearly remember our experience 10 years ago in this very place and can’t help but feel grateful. Grateful that our oldest son is alive. Grateful that he can run and jump and play soccer. Grateful that what might have been didn’t come to fruition. So in honor of being back in this place, I am going to tell you a story… A story of how a mysterious illness in our infant son turned our world upside down and sent us on our journey into natural medicine.

The Day He got Sick

It is almost ironic that I am writing this blog today right before we go on a helicopter tour.  I distinctly recall the day our precious son got sick. It was about five days into our week long trip, and our excursion for the day was a helicopter tour of the volcano on the Big Island. I remember feeling a little nervous putting those big bulky headphones on my tiny 5 month old baby’s head. But he was an amazing little rider and took his afternoon nap in momma’s arms that day way up in the sky. Everything so far had been smooth. Traveling with an infant was a piece of cake! That was until that night when everything changed.

The Symptoms Begin

That Friday night (June 1, 2007), our sweet Joshua came down with a high fever. After seeing the Hawaiian doctor the next morning, we were told it was likely a virus and to keep him hydrated. She gave us an antibiotic as precaution since his ears looked inflamed and suggested alternating Tylenol and Motrin to control the fever. (I cringe as I recall all the medicine we gave him back then not yet knowing the superior natural options out there.) The next day he broke out in a rash which we were hoping meant we were at the end of a virus, but were told it might also just be a reaction to the medicine. So we stopped the antibiotic per the suggestion of the doctor. His fever was still ridiculously high, and now he was lethargic, filled with congestion and absolutely miserable. The 9 hour flight home that Sunday was awful.

The ER Visit

As soon as we landed in Dallas, we took our sick baby to the ER. He had barely nursed for 2 days now and his condition just seemed to be getting worse. At the ER, they gave him IV fluids and diagnosed him with pneumonia. Now I realize that was just a symptom and not an actual diagnosis, but at the time I just trusted the doc. They told me the antibiotic might take a few days to work but to keep him comfortable and hydrated. So we began the new antibiotic that night and watched him over the next four days continue to go downhill.

Back to the Doc

By the time I decided to take him to his pediatrician that Thursday, he looked terrible. He was irritable, lethargic, had red, cracked lips, red blood-shot eyes, a fading rash, and continued to have high fever. Our pediatrician looked at him and went out of the room to get his colleague. Then they both studied him. After a moment, he said “Well, I’ve never seen this in person, only in a text book, but I think your baby has Kawasaki’s Syndrome.” Not exactly the words you want to hear from your doctor. After poking and prodding our severely dehydrated infant, several blood tests pointed to our pediatrician’s suspicions. They called us that afternoon and said we had a room waiting for us at Medical City Dallas and to pack enough clothes for a few days.

The Diagnosis

Kawasaki Syndrome, also known as mucocutaneous lymph node syndrome, is an autoimmune response in which blood vessels throughout the body become inflamed. The cause is still unknown even after more than 40 years of intense study. Experts think it is likely triggered (in those that are genetically predisposed) by some sort of infection, but it is not contagious. It is more common in boys and mostly affects younger children under the age of 5. If left untreated, symptoms can last up to 4 weeks. The most troubling aspect of Kawasaki’s syndrome is it’s effect on the heart. It can cause significant dilation of the coronary arteries and even aneurysms sometimes resulting in lasting damage. Kawasaki’s only occurs in 8 to 67 in 100,000 people (except in Japan where it is 124 in 100,000), but it the leading cause of heart disease in children in the US and Japan. 1

The Hospital Stay

What a nerve-wracking call! We drove down to Medical City and checked in. Joshua was now under the care of a top cardiologist in the Dallas area, Dr. Laird, who had treated many Kawasaki cases. Even though there is still much mystery surrounding Kawasaki’s, there is fortunately a treatment that works on the acute symptoms quickly. First things first, Joshua needed an IV.  It was extremely difficult to find a vein big enough in such a small baby, especially being that he was so dehydrated. They ended up putting it into his jugular! That was not a sight a new mother (or any mother for that matter) wanted to see! He was then given a 12 hour round of IVIG (intravenous immunoglobulin aka donor antibodies). After such a traumatic experience, I can’t explain to you the relief we felt the next day when our precious baby started coming back to us.

The Good News/The Bad News 

Thank God, the IVIG worked! Joshua’s temperature finally went back to normal. His  irritability was definitely subsiding, and he even managed to crack a smile. The doctor was very pleased that he responded well to that first round of treatment. Unfortunately though, he also had some bad news to share. The ultrasound revealed that Joshua’s coronary arteries indeed had been affected. He had significant dilation in two spots, and we were told it could be a lifelong condition. Dr. Laird said there was a chance it could heal after 1-2 years, but that we might be looking at a lifetime of baby aspirin and limiting his activities to reduce the chance of blood clots and stroke. Talk about a deafening blow as new parents to a once perfect little boy.


Enter Dr. Brown.

About that time, my mom had just been completely healed of Lyme disease by closely following the protocol and diet laid out by Dr. Brown. She encouraged us to take Joshua in to see him after the ordeal we had just endured. So we did. Dr. Brown examined Joshua, treated him, and gave us natural medicine to help him heal. Those next six months we were careful to do everything that Josh’s doctors had us doing, and we had everyone praying for him. Thankfully, he got back to his normal self quickly and hit all his milestones on time if not before. But we were still scared what might be happening on the inside of his little body.

The Ultrasound

At his 6 month check up, Dr. Laird was very quiet as he examined Joshua’s heart via ultrasound. He even got up and excused himself and then came back in and did it again. JP and I were so nervous… what had he found?! After what seemed like an eternity, he finally turned to us and said, “Well, I can’t believe it, but Joshua’s heart has completely healed. I’ve never seen it turn around so quick. It is definitely a miracle.” We left that appointment with a clean bill of health for our baby. No more baby aspirin. No more limited activity. Just a lifetime ahead of possibilities!


The Soccer Player

I can’t imagine how different our life would have been if Joshua didn’t receive his healing back in 2007. Ever since he was born, he has been a mover and a shaker. There was even a joke among my family of “how many Barkley’s does it take to change Joshua’s diaper?” as it was often a 3 person job to keep him still. And today, at 10 1/2, he is a competitive soccer player and a part of the FC Dallas youth program. He is without a doubt one of the fastest and fittest kids on the team. It’s hard to think that he might have not been able to run or participate in sports had his heart problems lingered.

Grateful, indeed.

We are just so grateful, first to God, for His mighty hand and his loving kindness that protected our son so many years ago. We also don’t know where we would be without Dr. Brown and his expertise. It was this encounter with natural medicine that completely changed the trajectory of our family’s health. It was the miracle of Joshua’s healing that sent me on a journey to learn more about alternative medicine and treatment options. It was honestly this experience that was the seed that eventually became Marpé.

And here we are back in the birthplace that started it all. About to take another helicopter ride. But this time equipped with knowledge and an arsenal of natural medicines, God forbid one of us come down with some mysterious illness. What a difference 10 years can make.

Now off to make more {and better} Hawaiian memories.


Kristen Barkley
Kristen Barkley
Kristen is a happily married mom to four beautiful and active children and is the co-founder of Marpé Wellness. She has a BBA in Marketing from the University of Houston and completed extensive coursework in the areas of nutrition and fitness. She is excited to be putting her education to use in an industry that she is passionate about where she can help others live a healthier and happier life.

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