Tag Archives: Genetics in Medicine

How to save money with a PKU herb garden

An article published in the March 2013 edition of Genetics in Medicine found that 50 percent of states provide either no coverage of medical formula and modified special low-protein products or only partial coverage of these required PKU therapies.

Those of us living with PKU do not need a reminder about just how expensive it is to remain on-diet; however, there is certainly a bit of vindication whenever a peer-reviewed, academic journal reiterates this point. Beyond specially formulated low-protein products, families dealing with PKU are often advised to experiment with herbs and spices. The idea being that some creativity in the kitchen can lead to flavorful meals that people with PKU will actually want to eat!

Yet, I have found that even buying fresh herbs on a regular basis can be costly. Plus, you generally have to purchase them in large quantities and then you are left tossing the left over herbs when they have eventually spoiled.

How to Save Money with a PKU Herb GardenThe solution? I recently started my own PKU herb garden and it features a handful of herbs that I have used most over the past three months: cilantro, basil and rosemary (and for good measure, I’ve also included two cherry tomato plants).

Here is a basic cost comparison (tax not included) for purchasing herbs at a local grocery store versus growing your own:

Herbs at
Grocery Store
Herbs at Home
Improvement Store
Cilantro, $1.99/0.66 oz Cilantro, $2/plant
Basil, $1.99/0.66 oz Basil, $2/plant
Rosemary, $1.99/0.66 oz Rosemary, $2/plant
TOTAL: $5.97 TOTAL: $6

There you have it; only a $0.03 difference for the initial upfront cost. What’s significant is you’ll have to pay approximately $6 each time you buy these three herbs at the grocery store whereas you’ll pay $6 one time for plants that will last you all growing season!

Of course, there is the added cost of potting soil and a planter, but you could also experiment by planting your own garden directly in the ground.

Have you also started a PKU herb garden? Perhaps you’ve planted more than just herbs. Either way, let me know how green your thumb is!

–NM

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Filed under Lo-pro Diet Management, Recipes

Is taking-on maternal PKU a rational decision?

Some blog followers may have noticed that I have taken a short hiatus from posting content. My absence has in large part been attributed to the fact that I spent the latter part of January, all of February and the beginning of March battling for access to my prescribed PKU formula. Despite having insurance coverage, the durable medical equipment company I had worked with for over a year decided they were losing too much money, cited it as a “reimbursement issue,” and claimed that it was perfectly legal to deny me access to the formula. I spent the next days and weeks attempting to liaison between my employer, my health insurance provider, the formula manufacturer and alternate DME companies. I embarked on an extensive letter-writing campaign and spent many weeks living day-to-day, wondering where my next supply of formula would come from, whether I needed to leave work early to pick up an emergency supply from my local clinic, and so forth.

I go into all of this to belabor my next point, something that has been weighing heavily on my mind: Will I ever feel confident enough to take the next step and transition my “return to diet” into a “preconception diet?” After being off diet for nearly 19 years, I recently returned to the low-protein diet and have been working hard to adhere to its limitations for nearly three months now. For some clinics, that is long enough before women with PKU can conceive. Other clinics recommend six months, but whether the recommendation is three months, six months or an entire year, I do not know that the uncertainty surrounding treatment for maternal PKU will ever improve.

Newborn screening 50 years later: Access issues faced by adults with PKU, Genetics in Medicine, 2013Two recent, yet very different, pieces of literature caught my attention and magnified this dilemma further. The first, which was passed along to me by another PKU advocate Kevin Alexander, is a peer-reviewed, academic journal called Genetics in Medicine. Published by the American College of Medical Genetics and Genomics, the March 2013 issue reviewed the 50th anniversary of the U.S. newborn screening program and looked at the barriers that still prevent access to PKU treatment five decades later. Many barriers were examined including the limited number of adult clinics; the lack of third-party payer coverage; transportation-related issues; and perhaps one of the most commonly ignored barriers, social and mental health support.

Factors identified as affecting access to treatment for phenylketonuria. Source: Newborn screening 50 years later: Access issues faced by adults with PKU, Genetics in Medicine, 2013.

Factors identified as affecting access to treatment for phenylketonuria. Source: Newborn screening 50 years later: Access issues faced by adults with PKU, Genetics in Medicine, 2013, doi:10.1038/gim.2013.10.

The second piece of literature – a blog post by National Public Radio titled “Is having a child a rational decision” – is obviously a much less formal form of literature; however, from a philosophical perspective it examines the reasons why people decide to start a family. The post goes on to say, “Most people don’t decide to start a family after logical and ethical debate; they’re moved (says Belkin): To create a family. To craft a whole greater than yourself, of which you will eternally be a part. To take part in a life from its start to your own finish.”

I guarantee that I am not the only woman with PKU who does feel so moved, to have a part in creating a whole greater than oneself. Unfortunately, women with PKU do not fall within the category of “most people.” The very personal decision of whether or not a woman with PKU will attempt a pregnancy does in fact involve logic and debate. I have experienced many debates…sometimes with friends and family and other times with my self-consciousness. Is a PKU pregnancy is a wise decision, especially given all the unknowns that are seemingly beyond my control?

As a good PKU friend of mine in New York once told me, there are no happy accidents when it comes to maternal PKU. The demands that maternal PKU places on a woman are great indeed. The decision is big. The hurdles along the way will at times seem insurmountable.

Given the current state of the healthcare system and all the barriers that still exist, one almost has to be irrational to finally take the plunge.

–NM

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Filed under Maternal PKU, Research