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.