Mother Makes Heartbreaking Plea amid Formula Shortage as Sons Face Irreversible Brain Damage

·5 min read
Alexa Biechler
Alexa Biechler

The Moody Momma

Like every other month for the past year and a half, Alexa Beichler walked out of her front door in Leesburg, Virginia, on May 10 to bring in her scheduled delivery of medical-grade baby formula.

Days prior, Beichler had called in an order of Nutricia formula for her younger sons, who were both born with a metabolic condition called classic phenylketonuria (PKU), in which their body is unable to process an amino acid found in protein. The lifelong diagnosis, which is determined at birth through the newborn heel prick test, requires the boys to be on a specialized diet that limits them to two grams of protein a day.

But on that spring morning, Beichler immediately noticed her shipment was not complete. As she counted out the cases of specialized formula for her younger son Jax, Beichler realized her middle son Taylor's supply was missing.

"Sheer panic set in. I was like, 'Why am I missing two more huge boxes of Taylor's formula?' " Beichler tells PEOPLE exclusively.

It was then, says the mom of three, that she realized the nationwide formula shortage had finally arrived at her doorstep.

Alexa Biechler
Alexa Biechler

The Moody Momma

RELATED: Moms Turn to Social Media, Drive Miles amid Baby Formula Shortage: 'It's Very, Very Scary'

Unlike other desperate parents who have been frantically searching the shelves of their local grocery store, Beichler says her options are extremely limited as the prescription-based formula can only be supplied through the manufacturer.

"I called them and they're like, 'Oh sorry, that's on backorder.' I was like, 'What? Was anyone going to tell me? What am I supposed to do?' " she says. "I hung up the phone and immediately sent an email to our doctors, but no one had any answers. They still don't have any answers. We have about a two-week supply left."

Beichler's boys — "affectionate and outgoing" Jax, 6 months, who is "always smiling," and "sweet and independent" Taylor, 20 months — receive almost 90 percent of their daily nutrition from their dwindling supply of medical formula. (They receive an additional one gram of protein from a limited selection of fruits as well as expensive boxed medical food.)

The stark reality, says the worried mom, is that her sons will be out of their specialized formula soon and the results will be devastating and irreversible.

"Our days are numbered. We have two weeks before we're out of formula. I'm trying not to freak out. I'm trying not to think about it," Beichler says. "I'm trying to get through each day as fast as I can and do what I need to do. The worst part is not knowing what's next."

"Over the past month, stress and anxiety is all I've felt," she admits. "I literally go to bed thinking, 'What are we going to do tomorrow?' It's not like I can give them cow's milk because that's too much protein. I can't pour extra water in their formula to stretch it."

"There's literally nothing I can do. I am helpless," Beichler says. "I've done everything in my power that I can possibly do."

In a statement to PEOPLE, Nutricia says, "Since the recall of Abbott formulas in February, there has been a shortage of infant formula in the United States. In the U.S., Danone sells standard infant formulas under Nurture's Happy Family Organics brand, as well as specialized medical formulas under the Nutricia brand."

RELATED: How Should Parents Navigate the Nationwide Baby Formula Shortage? A Pediatrician Weighs In

Alexa Biechler
Alexa Biechler

The Moody Momma

"Both our Happy Family and Nutricia teams are doing everything possible to increase the availability of these critical products," the statement continues. "We understand how important it is for families to access these formulas, which is why our absolute priority has been to increase production and supply to serve all the babies we can since the shortages arose in February."

"As the shortages persist, we are in discussions with the US government authorities to see how we can support them in addressing this critical need," concludes the statement.

Without the medical-grade formula, the protein in the boys' blood will quickly back up, acting as a neurotoxin in their brain, says Beichler.

"In a matter of days, they can go from being just fine to having permanent life-long brain damage. Their quality of life will go to zero as they lose their fine and gross motor skills. If it affects their brain, that will be forever and that, that, is terrifying."

Beichler says her boys aren't the only ones in desperate need of the life-saving formula. On Sunday, President Biden announced that the first international shipment of formula was set to land, with enough to fill over half a million baby bottles, the Associated Press reported. But, Beichler says, families are already being forced to seek out alternative solutions to the shortage while they wait.

Alexa Biechler
Alexa Biechler

The Moody Momma

RELATED: Over 70,000 Lbs. of Baby Formula Lands in U.S. from Europe as Operation Fly Formula Begins

"There's black market trading going on even though this is all prescription," says Beichler, who is active in the online PKU and metabolic groups. "It probably shouldn't be happening, but we're not going to let our kids go through this. We're doing everything we can as a community to step up and support each other."

She adds, "People are now turning to drinking expired stuff. There's nothing left. They're thinking this is probably better than nothing. That's a really scary thought."

The weeks of stress and the unknown are taking a toll on Beichler and her husband Ian, a public school teacher. For now, all the family can do is hold out hope that the backorders of formula can be fulfilled in time.

"When my husband gets home, I go upstairs and collect myself so I can get through the rest of the night," Beichler says as her voice breaks and she pauses. "We're literally living day-to-day right now. We're out of time."

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