Matthew's Story told by his mother Zillah

Nirvana, Matthew and Alisha

Nirvana is one of many children from all over the world who suffers with eczema. She is over the moon here in Avéne because she is able to spend time with two other children form South Africa. Their names are Alisha and Matthew. These children are really wonderful and have very hard stories. Enjoy Matthew's journey below:

Matthew's Story told by his mother Zillah:

Matthew was born in 2006, in Pretoria, to a young single mother with a compromised immune system and absolutely no family. After much consideration and for the sake of the child, the mother decided to give him up for adoption. Matthew went into safety during the usual tests for HIV and others, until the Children’s Court decided his future. Matthew was eventually placed with a loving American family who desperately wanted to adopt him, but at that stage American citizens were refused permission to adopt South African children. That is how Matthew came to us, and for which we will always be thankful and blessed.

Unfortunately, but understandably, the move from safety care to adoption was a traumatic experience for Matthew which triggered both anxiety and eczema. Although he does have a mold allergy, it is not severe enough to explain the terrible skin reactions he had during various periods of his life. His skin was terribly dehydrated. In order to minimize his eczema and occasional acute dermatitis, keeping the skin hydrated has been our primary challenge. However, we have failed dismally. 

Despite the cortisone, which has been a part of Matthew’s daily life since he was 5 months old, we have tried various diets. We even went completely organic for a while. We cut out bread, sausages, boerewors, yoghurt and anything that would expose him to mold. We found our dogs new homes to minimize dog dander which was devastating in itself. We tried various natural and homeopathic remedies. We sent him to play therapy to improve his anxiety and consequent behaviour in new social situations. We even changed schools last year when he had his worst dermatitis reaction ever. It was clear that anxiety within that particular context played a massive role. Although, since the school change, we had managed to stabilize the skin as far as flare ups were concerned, but nothing really seemed to be helping on a day to day basis. The incessant scratching resulted in restless sleep, often angry moods and impaired concentration at school. Concentration medicine did not help because it does not minimise the scratching. In addition to that, other children have told him that his legs looked ‘disgusting’ or ‘gross.’ This humiliation meant that for months Matthew refused to wear shorts out of fear of being ridiculed. This aggravated the anxiety. When the anxiety was under control, it did not completely sort the skin out. I realised that although it’s a trigger, it's not necessarily the cause.

It was by absolute chance that, through a friend of a friend, Matthews name was sent to Pierre-Fabre Pharmaceuticals as one of the children who would use their products, and possibly visit France to demonstrate how the products would react on South African skin. I met Meagan two months ago. She arrived at the coffee shop with a bag of products which must have cost a fortune. I immediately resonated with the company and product, and became excited when I heard that the product was natural. When I saw the results of the treatment in other children, it felt too good to be true. Two months before we got to France, Matthew started using the products. There was such a marked improvement that I was concerned the Avéne doctors would wonder why he was selected for the Hydro therapies. With the anticipation and anxiety around the trip plans, Matthew’s skin did flare up a bit, but still not very badly. It was with my own anxiety that I walked in to see the dermatologist and the head of the therapy centre. Both of them had a good chuckle at my concern, and explained that although it would mess up their photo shoots a bit, it is better when someone receives the treatment when there skin is in a period of stability. They were also quite pleased that the products were working for Matthew.

I'm writing this account of our journey while Matthew is taking his ‘bath with jets’ at the hydrotherapy centre, his favorite therapy by far! The journey has been fraught with social anxiety but hopefully that will settle now. The hard skin on the front and back of his knees and elbows is already gone; the itching far less and the general hydration of the skin has improved. We will no doubt publish before-and-after pictures at the end of the three weeks. 

This is such an exciting opportunity and I am so grateful to Meagan and Pierre-Fabre. I still can't believe we're here in France.

Here are some pictures of Matthews skin in a time of flare up.