Looking for the Light at the End of a Very, Very, Extremely Long Tunnel
WRITTEN BY JENNIFER NEWCOME
My family’s journey began about seven years ago on a Sunday afternoon at lunchtime. The reason I remember it was a Sunday is because the events of that day have traumatized me, sticking every single detail to my brain as if it had been stapled there. I had just finished making my families lunch…my husband and I were having roast beef sandwiches and my son (Alex) PB&J. Alex was a year and a half and we had been given the okay to try it.
I should have known something wasn’t right because my son pushed it away after only a bite. Who doesn’t like PB&J, I wondered, the holy food, in my book (and my husbands). In my mind he was just being picky. I attempted to get him to eat more but he wouldn’t and I started to notice a strange cough. The cough I can only describe as almost like little hiccups but coughing instead. Then I saw it…the rash around his mouth! I knew, my husband knew, Alex deep down knew (like a twisted sixth sense, but not the awesome movie, more of a “my body is rejecting this” sixth sense) he was allergic! But still I didn’t think it would be that bad (How naïve I was in that moment), like it would all just magically go away and all would be well with the world again…NOPE! I took him up to his room and gave him some Benadryl. Benadryl fixes all, he’ll be all better in about 5 minutes and all will be okay…NOPE!
By the time I brought Alex down he was covered from head to toe in hives. His face was unrecognizable and his ears resembled Dumbo, the elephant. We couldn’t drive him to the hospital because he was passing out and having trouble breathing so we had to call an ambulance to take us to the hospital. There we were told he was having an anaphylactic reaction. Luckily, our little Alex lived! We did find out he was allergic to peanuts and later we found out through testing he was also allergic to all tree nuts. He has not had a major reaction since then (only a small contact reaction, on his arms, to a stuffed animal).
I prayed…hard, that Alex was not really allergic, that it was all just a mistake. I was actually hoping it was a virus and he could easily get over it or be treated…NOPE! They say you are not given more than you can handle, well who are they and how do they know? It sure felt like I couldn’t handle it, that I would go crazy worrying constantly. I felt that I would never let Alex out of my sight and that he could simply die in a split second if I wasn’t there. I used to worry about small things like a cough or cold (before I knew about his allergy). Ha, I don’t worry about that now. Wait…do I hear my daughter coughing right now, Darn it!! Surprisingly, you do learn to accept it and eventually let them see the light of day again, sometime even without you there (believe it or not). With time it does get easier and actually becomes second nature.
You are wondering where that light is right? Well here it comes. It wasn’t until four years after we found out that my son had an allergy that I really got involved with spreading awareness. I had been on the FAAN now FARE committee for a couple of years but didn’t really do much more than that. That is until our first back to school night (when Alex was in Kindergarten). I didn’t expect what happened. I was eight months pregnant and somewhat emotional, okay moderately, fine HIGHLY emotional! And I heard another parent express anger over the fact that a “kid with nut allergies” was in the class. The parent didn’t think it was fair that other kids should have to go without peanut butter. Unfortunately, my emotions got the better of me and a tear rolled down my face, okay a few tears, fine I was full on crying. My husband immediately confronted the other parent and explained that what was an inconvenience for him is a life threatening situation for our son. After that night I felt I needed to get more involved and help spread awareness and educate those who didn’t fully understand food allergies and their very real life threatening consequences. Now I have a blog, a nut free recipe group on Facebook: Nut Free Recipe Exchange and Lunch Ideas and I’m still working with the FARE committee. I am not afraid to stand up and speak for my child which in itself is a miracle because I have always been painfully shy.
So the light and the end of my tunnel is that I can use our family’s journey with food allergies to help enlighten, educate and advocate for others who are struggling with food allergies. If you look hard enough you will be able to find your light too!