Tuesday, March 29, 2011

The frightening world of an allergy mama!!!

A few nights ago, I had the pleasure of "meeting" another allergy mama on Twitter (@castletonyoga). We bonded over the fact that we live in constant fear with our allergic children. It got me to thinking about it because sometimes, just for a brief moment, I actually forget that my child could die at any time. I decided to put that fear into words so here it is!

A couple of months ago, I presented a lunch and learn presentation at Mabel's Labels all about being an allergy mama. I wanted to reinforce to people the importance of Mabel's being a nut free work place. I've taken what I've presented and written it here for you all to enjoy! Note that when I was preparing my presentation, the stats that were most readily available were from the US, but I hazard a guess that Canadian statistics would be fairly similar.

  • Peanut allergy is one of the "Big 8" food allergies that account for 90% of those suffered by 21 million Americans.
  • Approximately 1% of the US population has a peanut allergy (that's approximately 3.1 million people!!)
  • Less than 21% of people who suffer from a peanut allergy will outgrow it.
  • Four out of every 100 people have a food allergy
When I first read these stats, I was alarmed. Are you? As I'm sure you all know, the most severe reaction a person can have is anaphylaxis. For those who don't know, this reaction basically can cause the throat to swell to a point where the person can't breathe. And once a person has had an anaphylactic reaction, subsequent reactions can become more and more severe. Let me tell you... this is scary... super scary! An anaphylactic reaction can kill a person in minutes.

So here's why I'm interested in this stuff... 2 months before his third birthday, my sweet baby almost died. (Wow... just typing those words makes me feel sick to my stomach and makes my eyes water and my heart race!) We were out for dinner one night at Moose Winooski's. We had planned to meet friends and when we got to the restaurant, we had to wait a few minutes for a table. To keep him occupied, my hubs took Evan into the bar.. the sports bar with peanuts in bowls on the table and peanut shells on the floor. Now, Evan had some sensitivities from early on so my doctor had advised that we introduce certain foods slowly. Nuts was one of those foods. Evan had never had a nut before this night. Hubs decided to let him try one that night. He took one bite and immediately started spitting it out and saying he didn't like it. Within minutes he got a rash on his face and got extremely irritable and started crying. Since I'd seen him have little reactions to things before I didn't panic immediately. The restaurant is close to our house so my hubs left to go home and get the Benadryl!!!!! In hindsight, I guess this wasn't the best idea, but honestly I had no idea what I was experiencing. (I have not stopped feeling guilty about this for 2 1/2 years!!) While he was gone, I realized that the situation wasn't good. I had our friend drive me to the closest walk in clinic because it was closer to the hospital (again... not the smartest decision)... the clinic was closed for the night! During all of this, poor Evan was alternating between freaking right out and being completely lethargic and dazed.

Finally we made our way to emerg. They took us in immediately. In fact when we went into the emergency area, there were 5 doctors and nurses around a bed waiting for us to come in. They gave E a shot of epinephrine and hooked him up to an IV. According to them, Evan had about 20 more minutes. 20 minutes... that is NOT very long at all. That night I came very close to losing the most precious thing in my life. The doctor in emerg that night gave me our first prescription for EpiPens. He told me that if it happened again, that EpiPen would "buy us 20 minutes to get to the hospital"!!! I always thought an EpiPen was a cure... I learned a lot that night. We now carry an EpiPen where ever we go.

So let me explain what this allergy means to me. It means that everyday things in life are super scary. I mean, imagine sending your child to a birthday party not knowing if they'll have a reaction while they're gone. Even if the parents are aware of the allergy, if they don't live with it daily, they might just think not serving peanuts is good enough. They might not think that if they've eaten peanuts and touch my child, that could be enough to trigger a reaction.

Imagine how scary Halloween can be, and not just because of the ghosts and zombies!!! I personally can't believe they still sell Halloween packages of Reese's Peanut Butter Cups and Snickers bars. And trust me, they're 2 of my favourites. But they could kill my baby.

And now I'm considering sending my babe to sleep away camp. The camp that I REALLY want to send him to is Camp Kandalore. It's the camp my dad went to and the memories he created there still impact him at 64 years old. But it's not a nut free camp so how can I possibly send him there. He could die there... away from home... without me! It makes me feel sick.

I know for people who don't live with this daily, "nut free" sometimes seems like more of an inconvenience then anything. I've heard other mums at Evan's school talking about what a pain in the butt it is not being able to pack peanut butter sandwiches in lunches. As a mother who's child could die from a peanut butter sandwich, this upsets me. I'm sorry if it's an inconvenience, but I also don't think those mothers would want to live with the guilt of their actions killing my child!

So, there you have it... my reality. It's a scary one but we do what we can to make this world safe for little E.

BTW... since that first reaction, I've had Evan's allergies tested several times. He is now allergic to shellfish, kiwi and coconut as well. I don't know the severity of these allergies, but since I have no intention of EVER going through that night again, I avoid those foods at all cost!

The picture above was taken in emergency about 5 hours after we got there. Evan's swelling had gone down and he was finally able to eat a snack of Cheerios.

Monday, March 21, 2011


Recently the Yummy Mummy Club held a contest about motherhood. Entrants were asked to write about 1 of 2 topics: How motherhood has changed you or How you have changed motherhood. I really wanted to enter this contest, but then I had a chance to read an entry that was submitted by a friend of mine. It was so perfectly written and literally brought me to tears. I knew I had no chance of winning against this entry, so I decided not to submit one of my own! But ever since the deadline passed, I've been feeling the need to write my entry down, just for myself (and whoever else wants to read it!) So here it goes... this is how motherhood has changed me.

In order to tell my story, I have to take you back to who I was before my little treasure arrived! I spent about 12 years living the life of an ad agency chick! For those of you who don't know, this means long, long, very long days. All nighters. 3 meals a day eaten with your work "family". Weekends in the office. Press approvals at 3 a.m. Week long photoshoots away from home. And, on the flip side, lots of fun work parties and "fun days" out of the office. I met almost all of the friends I have in my life right now in those agency years. There's nothing like making a deck of cards out of scrap paper at 4:00 a.m. to create bonds with people!!! You know, back in those days, I worked so much that I honestly don't know how I managed to meet the man of my dreams and actually marry him! I think it may have had something to do with the fact that we met at work!

When I think back, the worst part about it is that at the time, I didn't think there was anything wrong with my life! I absolutely loved my work to the point where I was pretty much obsessed with it. I was the ideal employee... I'd work 20 hr days and was actually happy to do so... all for the good of the company. Of course I felt guilty when I'd call home and tell hubs that I'd be home by 8:00, only to arrive closer to 10 or 11. But not guilty enough to make a change. It got to the point where I started talking to hubs about the fact that I didn't think I wanted kids. This is crazy... I had always wanted kids from the time I was a kid! But for a few years, my love of my work was completely changing my perspective. When I think about it, this is the ultimate in selfishness. I lost sight of who I think I was at the core... a giving, loving gal who had always dreamt of the perfect life... which of course included a perfect hubby, a perfect home and a couple of perfect children!

After some soul searching, I finally made a decision to leave my agency job and save myself! I missed the work for the first few weeks, but gradually I was able to regain perspective. I spent 5 months at home being a stay at home wife and loved every minute of it. Then I went on to spend a year on the client side as a marketing manager. It was a one year mat leave contract and while I was on the contract I got pregnant! It was perfectly timed... I was scheduled to end work 2 weeks before my due date. But, my little man was anxious to meet me and I actually didn't end up finishing my contract!

Let me tell you... when I set eyes on my Evan, it was love at first sight... a kind of love I never knew was possible. The kind of love that made me wonder how the heck I could have ever thought work was more important. And each day since November 20, 2005, I have felt that love grow stronger and stronger. Even on those challenging days, when I tuck him in to bed at night and give him his snuggles and smooches, my heart skips a beat and I can't ever imagine not having him in my life. All I want to do each and every day is make him happy. And at the end of a long day, when hubs and I are talking, not a single day goes by without us saying how happy we are with our amazing little family and how much joy Evan has brought to us both.

So, you ask, how has motherhood changed me? The answer is: in so many ways... It has opened my eyes to the meaning of life. It has made me a less selfish and more giving person. It has taught me patience and taught me humility. And most importantly, it's taught me the importance of having and giving love. It's funny... now I realize that motherhood is the most important job I could ever, ever have.

** None of this happiness would have been possible without having a super-deluxe hubs who stuck by me through all those years of agency life and still loved me at the end of it all. I love him to bits!