As most doctor’s have told us, food allergies and asthma go hand in hand. What they neglected to tell us was that food allergies and anxiety go hand in hand as well. It’s a lifestyle you never foresee being so intense. When people hear of someone having a food allergy, most tend to think that they just can’t eat a certain food. They don’t realize that it’s so much more than that. It’s a total lifestyle change.
When our daughter Natalee was born, she was very intolerant of any formula we fed her. We tried every formula and over the counter milk we could find. I even attempted to feed my child goats milk. Yes, goats milk. We were desperate. Our anxiety level had skyrocketed. She wasn’t gaining weight and she was striving to enter the Guinness Book of World Records as the number one projectile vomiting infant. Her pediatrician finally diagnosed her with a milk protein allergy when she was about 3 weeks old. At least at this point, we had a diagnosis to go on. However, it seemed that we were still on our own. Her pediatrician’s were still stumped as to what formula was going to work. We decided to do what most people do in unknown situations. We hit the internet and began a manhunt for something she might be able to tolerate.
Our search led us to a formula called Neocate. It was manufactured in England and distributed by a company located here in the US in Maryland. Not knowing whether or not this would work, I contacted the company with our situation and asked them for a sample can. They were very accommodating and sent us 2 cans. It was a complete break through. Although she was still “spitting” up quite often, the projectile vomiting ceased and she was able to keep the majority of it down. We could almost breathe a sigh of relief until we stopped to think “How and where do we purchase this formula?” We contacted the company again and they informed us that we could get it through a pharmacy. Our local Walmart is the pharmacy that we used and they informed us that we could get it through them at the purchase price of $38.
Yes, $38 a can. Our anxiety level was once more at an all time high. The internet was not going to do us much good at this point. We needed a miracle. Well, it seemed that a small miracle did appear. I had a good friend at work that told me I needed to attempt to apply for WIC. I thought to myself, “No way will this work, but I’ll give anything a shot right now.” Then came the miracle. We were able to get 8 cans a month of the formula through WIC. It was better than nothing but still not enough. We went to the best place we knew to ask for help, our church. Soon, the word spread that we needed assistance and the milk started pouring in. It was certainly a blessing to us and we couldn’t thank everyone enough for the support.
Once Natalee turned a year old, her other allergies of egg and peanuts reared their ugly head.
We were once more caught in that high anxiety level. Only this time, it was tripled and it was a bit more intense due to the fact that these allergies were discovered by mistake. A few trips to the emergency room at the local hospital got us referred to an Allergist at a trauma hospital about 2 hours away for a consultation. After a few tests, they confirmed that she was indeed allergic to Milk, Eggs and Peanuts. We had become accustomed to the milk allergy, but now we were throwing in 2 more and she was now old enough to begin eating all sorts of table food. When your child basically can’t have any dairy or anything with peanuts, what do you feed them?
We quickly became experienced food label readers and master’s at asking “What’s in this?”
Dining out became a challenge and also became few and far between. It was just simply much safer to eat in. However, we soon realized that we just couldn’t retreat like hermits and keep her from living as much of a normal life as possible. We had to find a way to maintain our sanity and keep her safe all at the same time. We had good friends who owned a deli restaurant and they were extremely accommodating to make us and her as comfortable as possible when we were there. They took the time to learn of all her allergies, what she could eat that would be safe and took time to learn about cross contamination. Now they simply cater to her and fix her anything she wants.
Let’s not forget about starting school. Oh yes, that was whole different level of anxiety. I can’t begin to explain the levels of stress you enter when you take your food allergic child to their very first day of school. Nevertheless, the school principal, teachers, bus driver and nurse were all on board and ready for the challenge. They were all trained to correctly administer her medications and recognize the signs and symptoms of anaphylaxis.
Now, I go into all that detail and information to say this. There are great support groups on Facebook (I’m a member of quite a few). There are even those support groups out there that meet face to face, sit around in a circle and share their stories of what happened in their week and how they made it to yet another support meeting without going over the edge. However, there is support out there that you can utilize that just isn’t that obvious to you.
What about that local restaurant who caters to her every need, or the principal who makes it a priority that everyone responsible for her be trained about her allergies and medications, or the waitress that goes above and beyond to communicate our concerns to the restaurant manager about our situation,
or the pharmacist and pharmacy techs who take the extra time to find coupons for her medications, and especially family and friends who agree to throw out every jar of peanut butter and empty their cabinets of all peanut products just so we can visit. These people can certainly become the best support system out there. They give you a sense of ease and complacency that you need just for a little while.
So don’t be afraid to ask about the menu, or if there is special seating in the school cafeteria.
You never know who you might meet or who may surprise you and become that go to person when you need that little extra effort and comfort in keeping your child safe. And when you do find them, always remember to say Thank You.