Saturday, March 30, 2013

YES, I am THAT Dad!

My life changed forever in a half hour time span – that was the time it went from feeding my daughter a snack of peanut butter on banana slices to being in the intensive care unit of the local hospital emergency room.  I posted awhile back about the “scariest moment of my life” when I went from being totally ignorant about food allergies to learning my daughter suffered from a life threatening case of them.  It’s been a few years since that episode when my 18 month daughter went into anaphylactic shock that caused her eyes, nose and throat to swell shut and began shutting down her vital organs.   The struggle continues everyday as we have to monitor our little girl who is now 4 years old making sure she doesn’t eat or have her skin come into contact with peanut or tree nut proteins that cause the reaction.

You would think it would be easy to just check ingredient listings to keep her safe, but unfortunately it’s not that simple because most cases of people with food allergies going into anaphylactic shock occur from contamination of a food item when it is being cooked, prepared or served rather than them eating something that had the allergen as a “ingredient.”  I love ice cream but because of the potential of contamination when making the ice cream (using same machinery to make a batch with peanut butter than another with a different flavor) or serving it (using the same scoop to put nuts on a sundae as to get a scoop of Superman for a cone) going to the local ice cream stand or Dairy Queen has become a no no for our family now.  It doesn’t have to be a noticeable ingredient to cause a reaction, a microscopic contamination could kill my daughter, put her into a coma, or cause her serious organ damage.

Take for example the recent story of 27 year old actress Chantel Giacalone who while on vacation in Las Vegas in February indulged in some ice cream at a local restaurant.  While the ice cream didn’t have any peanuts in its ingredients it somehow was contaminated and she suffered a severe allergic reaction on the spot.  Chantel has been in a coma now since Feb 20, 2013 in a Las Vegas hospital.  With no family in the area and no health insurance this is a tragic story of a young woman letting her guard down to enjoy a treat with some friends and things going horribly wrong.  This though is what people with severe food allergies have to deal with on a daily basis. CLICK HERE to read more about Chantel's story.

I didn’t realize until we had to start monitoring my daughter’s diet and interactions how prevalent food is at school and social functions.  I have become THAT Dad who has to tell people NO when it comes to providing treats at school or family functions.  We just can’t risk food prepared from a bakery or someone’s home where there could be contamination risks.  Yes that even means I have to turn down items baked by grandma because she keeps peanut butter and nuts in her kitchen to bake with when we aren’t over visiting.  I can see people’s body language when I speak up, like last week when a woman brought in cupcakes for my daughter’s preschool class for her daughter’s birthday treat from a bakery that weren’t safe and the teacher said she couldn’t give them out or when I told my aunt that she couldn’t bring cupcakes to Easter dinner for our kids from her favorite bakery, that they see me as an overprotective parent especially when something doesn’t have peanuts or tree nuts listed as an ingredient.  It is OK though, because I am going to continue to be THAT Dad and do what it takes to keep my little girl safe.

Food allergies really are a life or death matter.  Just a few weeks ago, a 19 year old freshman named Cameron Groezinger-Fitzpatrick lost his life after eating a cookie that had been baked using peanut oil.  He decided to take a chance and ate the cookie on a whim when a friend offered it to him when he was back home in the city of Plymouth Massachusetts for Spring Break from his freshman year at Bryant University.  Two hours later he was pronounced dead at a hospital emergency room on March 8, 2013.
CLICK HERE to read more about Cameron's story.

These are examples of a 27 year old woman and a 19 year old woman who knew the precautions they needed to take and still suffered horrible consequences from food allergy accidents.  Now just picture the trials parents with younger children who may not even be able to understand their medical conditions face.  Please if you know of anyone with a severe food allergy, especially children, please understand the significance of their condition, and make an extra effort to be considerate and understanding.  Your kindness will be truly appreciated and you may just save a life!

For more information about peanut/tree nut allergies visit the FARE (Food Allergy Research & Education) website:

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