Tuesday, February 28, 2006

a forced dietary change

About two years ago, an incident changed the way we live in subtle ways. We were at a festival in Florida, lots of people around us, loud music playing. A moment of inattention on my part and baby boy bit into a cookie covered with some sort of ground nuts. Within minutes, he vomited all over me and himself, his face was slowly swelling and turning red, his voice getting raspy. The adrenaline was rushing in my body, I had to think fast. Got the 5 of us out of there, ran to the car and drove to a pharmacy we had passed on our way there. Bought some Benadryl and gave him some right there on the hood of the car in the parking lot. I didn't sleep that whole night, monitoring him, giving him more Benadryl. A few hours later he was fine. But we knew what we were faced with: food allergies. Something totally new to us. No one in our families had ever had this.

Came back to Canada. Got him tested. Sure enough, he was allergic to all nuts. I sat there in that little room with the allergist talking a mile an hour filling my head with information, handing me pamphlets after pamphlets, explaining how to use an Epi-Pen all the while trying to comfort an unhappy and restless 29 month old who's arm had been pricked in a good 4 dozen spots.

So first, you go through this whole denial phase. Then a sense of panic and why him? And then you start getting informed. And then you have to inform and downright educate everyone around you: big sis, grandparents, babysitters. Shopping requires reading labels, going out for supper at restaurants or even friends houses requires vigilance. Birthday parties, playdates can be problematic. Yet, you don't want the child to feel different. You don't want to instill a total sense of doom but can't let it go lightly either.

Now that he is older, he understands better. We just got him a Medic Alert bracelet and he wears it proudly. But its still always a concern. We show up to a friend's house, who knows about his allergy, and there's a half eaten peanut butter sandwich on the coffee table around which the kids are playing. The grandparents come over with cookies sprinkled with nuts, argh, "but its not for him, only for you guys". They don't get it. We've instilled a no nut policy in the house, we had to. Another playgroup asks that he eats his snack separate from the other kids. How nice!! The preschool calls in a panic today cause one child brought pinenuts as a snack. A mother calls wondering if she can put nutmeg in a lasagna that she's preparing for a meal we'll have there. Another mother bakes her own kid's birthday cake herself instead of buying it at the pastryshop so it would be safe for him and he refuses to eat it. Part of me felt bad for the trouble I put her through. Each time we leave the house we have to remember to bring along the epi-pen. I now have a special folder where I put all the info I get my hands on about the subject.

As any parent, you have to become your child's ambassador. Yet, with food allergies, even more so. You have to contantly educate yourself and those around you. True, people are becoming more and more aware of this issue as there are more and more people affected. But anyone who doesn't live it is quite blase about it and doesn't always grasp the simple fact that you can actually DIE from it.


BeachMama said...

Sadly a friend of mine in high school died due to a nut allergy. She got a hot dog from Kwinters in Carlingwood, asked what they were cooked in and the young worker replied vegetable oil. Unfortunately it was peanut oil. You have to pay attention at all times. I try hard to be vigilant, but know that I have been lax lately. I will try to be careful again as you just never know.

twinmomplusone said...

A classmate died in university in a building full of MDs and across the street from an ER. No one knew he had food allergies and didn't have an epi-pen. Statistics show that most food allergy fatalities occur with young adults (teens and up). Young kids are viligantly supervised by their parents but then they get older, on their own more, have that sense of immortality, become more lax with carrying their epi-pen and letting people know about their allergies and such. Just so happened there was a news segment on peanut allergies tonight. (http://www.ctv.ca/servlet/ArticleNews/story/CTVNews/20060228/peanut_allergy_060228/20060228?hub=TopStories&s_name=)


My youngest daughter now in gr.3 has had a classmate over the years with a severe nut allergy. She has been well educated in the classroom about the danger of bringing anything containing nuts in her lunch bag. She is aware of food labels and realizes the importance of not bringing certain foods to school. Hats off to the teachers for doing this for their students.

Silver Creek Mom said...

Yup. I totaly understand this with Nathan, bee Allergy. It ws the scareist thing I have ever gone through. You helped me alot go through all the emotions that I need to deal with. I guess it;s like anything if you have not had to deal with it personally you don't believe it's that serious!

Hugs to one epi-pen mom to another!

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