The title of this post is hopeful. And it describes how we feel, generally, about our condition. We all wish we could be free of these food allergies.
On the eve of Food Allergy Awareness Week (May 9 – May 15), I am reminded of the first time when I (we) believed that our dear daughter, 2 1/2 at the time, had outgrown a food allergy as diagnosed (or misdiagnosed) by our Allergist via a skin prick test or SPT.
It was a beautiful Spring day, not unlike today, in Los Angeles, California. I had arrived home from work hopeful that the rice cheese with casein (a milk product) was going to be a pass for our dear toddler. Indeed it would open up a whole new world for her. We had cleared it through both the Allergist, who had done a skin test and said that she had outgrown milk, which had been the first reaction at five months that told us we had an allergy-kid on our hands, and the pediatrician, with whom we were working closely on clearing her eczema. I happily said hello to Susan, our nanny at the time, and settled into the transition for the evening, anxiously eyeing the rice cheese. It was also the evening that our dear friend Marcello, visiting from New York, was coming over for dinner.
P was sitting on the green granite kitchen counter in a pink dress and the afternoon light was so beautiful that I quickly grabbed my camera and took a picture. She was smiling, though her skin was red from eczema, her hair was patchy in spots, but she was happy, anxiously awaiting her new food. I let Susan feed her a few bites of the cheese before she left as I rushed around the house getting ready to host Marcello.
After Susan left, I fed her more bites of the cheese. She seemed to really like it. My husband and I were beside ourselves with excitement. Marcello arrived and we quickly explained what we were doing and why. My husband walked Marcello around the house since it was his first time visiting, and they were laughing and having a good time. In between bites I took food out of the fridge and managed a bit of prep work for dinner.
Then P began coughing. It was a quick, dry cough. I looked at her and all of the color had drained from her face and she became lethargic. I took the cheese away and gave her Benadryl, took her into the bathroom in case she vomited and watched and waited, not long afterwards her whole body turned red. (NOTE: If I knew then what I know now, I would have called 911 right away).
P anaphylaxed, we ended up in the ER, dinner with Marcello was cancelled and our nerves were rattled. We learned a lot from that day 1. Never hesitate to give the epi-pen 2. Don’t do food tests when guests are coming over (and preferably not in the evening after work). and 3. Always call 911 when something isn’t right.
Granted, sometimes it is difficult to come to a food allergy diagnosis, especially in toddlers, and sometimes without trying a food, one can’t possibly know if it has been outgrown. However, it is important to know as we look at the challenges, successes, and solutions that have helped define us over the past twelve years – life has, for the most part, gotten easier, even though the severity and the number of the food allergies has not dwindled.
There are two things that have NOT changed over the past twelve years is that we still need to stress to people that our food allergies are #1. Real and #2. Life-threatening. This is a daily occurrence.
So in honor of Food Allergy Awareness Week, I challenge you, if you are a parent, grandparent, or caregiver of a child with Food Allergies, even though I know you’re already empathetic, to avoid ALL your child’s allergens for the entire week. Walk a week in their shoes, and I guarantee you will have a different perspective, and they’ll really appreciate it!