I got to listen to another horror story regarding nut allergies as we watched the PawSox defeat the Norfolk Tides on Mother’s Day.
Going to a baseball game with a peanut-allergic child is a somewhat nerve-wracking thing. Crackerjack has peanuts in it. People are cracking peanuts and dropping the shells all over the place. And we don’t really know how allergic Grace is to peanuts.
To our knowledge, she’s only had peanuts once — the time she had a peanut butter cookie at the command Christmas party on her second birthday. I thought perhaps she was allergic to tree nuts as well, as she broke out in hives after eating candied walnuts that had been hidden in my side salad at a restaurant one day. When we got here, we had her tested for tree nuts, and she’s not allergic. But we still don’t know how allergic she is to peanuts, not a definite, anyhow. We don’t know whether her allergy will worsen with exposure.
Will she break out in hives if she touches one? Will she just break out in hives if she eats one? How much can she eat before she has a reaction? Will her throat close up so that she can’t breathe anymore?
I do know there are online forums out there for parents of peanut-allergic children. However, it seems as though most of the parents on there are dealing with extreme allergies. Kids who are allergic to peanuts, as well as everything else under the sun (wheat, eggs, milk, soy, strawberries, shellfish). Kids going into anaphylactic shock just by inhaling peanut dust on an airplane. Kids with peanut allergies as well as extreme eczema and extreme asthma (Grace has mild eczema on her legs). It’s all so much more drastic and extreme than what I have to deal with. As long as we keep nuts away from Grace, she doesn’t react.
The uncertainty of not knowing what will happent he next time she has peanuts drives me crazy. I don’t know whether she’ll simply swell up (like Will Smith’s character in Hitch), or whether she will be unable to breathe. I don’t know whether she’ll just itch for a few hours, or whether she will die.
But I do know what can happen. I have to carry an Epi-Pen with me at all times, for crying out loud, to inject her with in case she goes into anaphylactic shock. To save her life. To keep her alive until the paramedics can take her to the hospital.
The son of the old woman at the baseball game told me a sobering story. The girlfriend of a guy on his street was out to dinner with friends. One of her friends wanted to buy her dessert, but she said no. The friend kept pressing, and the dessert came to the table, but she didn’t eat it. However, as they were getting ready to leave, she stabbed her fork into the dessert and took a bite. It was a hazelnut cake, and she was allergic to nuts. Down she went like a rock. She’s been in a coma for a week, braindead. Sometime this week her family will pull the plug.
These are the horror stories I have to listen to. I have to be aware of this because it could happen to my child, no matter what her age. I could lose my first-born child, I could have to bury my baby, simply because she is allergic to something so innocuous.
And yet, people pooh-pooh my concerns. “Oh, it’s no big deal.” “I can still eat this around her, can’t I?” “You’re just freaking out too much.” “You worry too much.”
Each time I meet someone new, I judge them a little bit on how seriously they take Grace’s allergy. I really like this one lady I’ve gotten close to, but she is unaware of the severity of this issue. She has eaten nuts around Grace, and while she isn’t allergic to tree nuts, I’m still supposed to keep them away from her due to the possibility of cross-contamination. I asked her gently not to eat them, but she seemed to have blown me off. Another mother really takes me seriously, and makes sure her daughter doesn’t eat peanut butter for breakfast on the days we come over for a playdate. I feel much safer going to her house because I know I’m being taken seriously.
What I can be grateful for is the awareness of this problem in schools. Most elementary schools I have heard of have some kind of plan in place to keep the kids away from peanuts. Some have a strict no-peanut policy; you can’t even bring it to school. Some schools have specific tables that have to remain peanut-free. And for those of you who weren’t aware, peanut allergies are exactly why you cannot bake cupcakes at home anymore and bring them in, why you have to bring them in from a bakery. The parents of peanut-allergic children cannot be sure there is no peanut butter lurking on your kitchen counter when you prepare the muffins, or that you didn’t use peanut oil in their preparation. It’s a shame, since homemade goodies are always better than store-bought (unless Chaos is making them at her store!), but that’s the only way we parents can keep our kids safe.
Had Grace been diagnosed even ten years ago, I probably would be a much more paranoid mom than I am. Back then peanut allergies were so much less prevalent, so keeping a kid safe was so much more difficult to do. Now everyone is aware, and Grace’s preschool has always had at least one child per class with a nut allergy. They have loads of experience with it, which makes me far more comfortable leaving her there where I can’t monitor her.
I just wish everyone could understand how serious this can be. It’s not like being allergic to fish, like my brother-in-law. If he has fish accidentally, he’s miserable and throwing up. It’s no fun for him. But it’s not something that can kill him.
Grace’s allergy can kill her. I don’t know why is so hard for some people to understand that.