Blake had an allergic reaction after having a snack at T-ball last week.
I wasn't at the game, Elliot was coaching. A parent gave it to him, and assured him that it didn't have nuts in it, when it had actually been made on shared equipment with peanuts and tree nuts. Another parent opened it for him, not realizing that it wasn't safe for him, and he got halfway through the bag before Elliot was even made aware of what had happened.
Blake was coughing a little when he got home and Elliot had given him Benadryl. He later threw up, and it was a not pretty and not fun, and we were very upset. He fell asleep until the next day, with us checking on him all night long, and Elliot sleeping in his bed with him. We kept him home from school the next day.
I was so upset. I hadn't been at the game, and while Elliot had, many parents had been right there. Blake had asked the right questions, and trusted the parents around him. It was an honest mistake, but I was sad that I hadn't been there to protect him.
We had to have the team instill a new rule that nobody open any snacks for other kids. We need Blake to check with us to make sure anything he eats is safe.
Being a baseball family has never gone hand-in-hand with Blake's food allergies all that well.
Prior to his diagnosis when he was 20 months old, I had no idea why I had been thrown up on at baseball games and on airplanes. I didn't know that he was having reactions to the foods we were eating on the road. I just thought he was sick from the travel we did.
Elliot has food allergies- we learned that he goes into anaphylactic shock when he ingests shrimp shortly after Blake was born (on our first date night out, actually). Because of this, we were told by our pediatrician that we should wait longer than most people do to introduce Blake to nuts and shellfish. We didn't give Blake a peanut butter and jelly sandwich until he was 20 months old, learning immediately that he had a peanut allergy. He threw up, and as I took his clothes off to give him a bath, I noticed some of the peanut butter had touched his cheek and he had hives where it had done so.
Over the course of the next several weeks, we met several times with an allergist and learned that Blake did indeed have allergies to peanuts and walnuts. He was to avoid all nuts, all foods made on shared equipment, and all foods in shared facilities because of cross contamination. We learned his allergy was so sensitive that even if he ate something that touched a nut, it would trigger an allergic reaction.
I already knew how to use epi-pens, since Elliot had been diagnosed just over a year earlier with food allergies. I was often asked if it scared me that I may have to use it on my son someday. I replied that having already known that I may need to save my husband's life with an epi-pen at some point, I would not hesitate to save my child's life either.
I tried to be cool about it at first, I was learning. Everyone has the best intentions for your child, nobody wants them to get sick, but they don't tend to be as extreme because they haven't seen the consequences of missing a label like we have. I cried as Blake would have allergic reactions to the weirdest things... certain brands of milk, cereals with nothing about nuts labeled on them, cookie decorations. I felt like I was losing a battle and I cried, tears rolling down my face, as my prayer group prayed over me that I may learn and understand his food allergies, that I may be able to help him stop being sick so much.
Things started to get better, I made friends with other food allergy moms, they taught me so much. I found local groups in Tampa and in Raleigh of families that deal with food allergies. I talked with friends I grew up with that had kids a couple years older than mine, telling me about their experiences with school, and others. These people gave me the strength I didn't know I had. This was my kid and nobody was going to care as much as I did about him, and I was his voice.
We got to pre-k orientation this year and brought up Blake's allergies. Food allergies are often a touchy subject at schools. You see it all over Huffington post and blogs, parents writing outrageous things to get views on their sites. I am no longer timid about telling others about his allergies, I chose a peanut free preschool for his safety. I asked without shame about what the protocol was for treats in class for birthdays, I explained my son's food allergies. The parents were overwhelmingly supportive and understanding. They asked questions, they wanted to make sure my son wasn't left out, and I even found out that another boy in his class had similar allergies.
Blake's allergic reactions are becoming less often and further between because of our precautions. In my opinion, the actual reactions are getting worse, and that scares me. I don't want for him to ever have another allergic reaction.
The parents involved at t-ball apologized, we knew they didn't want to hurt Blake, it was an honest mistake. We knew they felt terrible, and it's a tough spot to be in as the parent of a kid that was unintentionally hurt.
Unfortunately for food allergy parents, honest mistakes can have big consequences.
That's why we are all so crazy.
We are the sole protectors of our kids health, and even when others mean well, they just haven't been through enough of the craziness of food allergies that we have to know to check and recheck all labels.
We are a different breed. We scour labels with a fine-toothed comb. We check websites for allergy information while we are in the aisles at the grocery store. We call on allergy information while we are at the houses of our friends and family. We have to teach every single person that is with our kids how to use an epi-pen, and believe that they won't be too scared to use it if we aren't there.
We have decided to use this most recent reaction as a learning experience for us and Blake. Blake can read, and we have decided it's time to teach him to check labels. I'm thinking of including a few more posts on the subject here on my blog, as well, if there is interest. I want to open the communication between all parents on food allergies. I want to know that your kid is safe in my hands and that my kid is safe in yours.