Yes, I realize that linking to this news story completely the negates the entire purpose of leaving names out of my blog. But there is so much that I want to say that I couldn't NOT post it! Perhaps I could have shared my thoughts anyway. Maybe no one would have noticed the overlap of my first name with that of the woman in the story. Or the age and similarity of that boy to my Overachiever #1. But even if somehow no one ever made the connection, I would have known of the deception and that just wasn't going to sit right! There are many words that can be used to describe me - including, I am certain, some that are less than flattering - but disingenuous is not one of them. So I am temporarily breaking from tradition, with the hope that you will allow me to resume use of the usual moniker with my next entry.
Okay. Now really. Go watch the video!
As a reporter, Mr. Reitz had 2 minutes to paint the overall picture of what we deal with as a family impacted by severe food allergies. It is my job, as Paul's mother and a member of this overachieving family, to fill in the details that could not be addressed in that period of time. Let's be real here! I can't list all of Paul's food and environmental allergies, the other allergic conditions that are intertwined, their impact on our family and his treatment plan in 2 minutes. (Give me an hour and I might come close!) If I can't do it, then how can I expect someone else to magically arrive at and deliver such clarity? Beyond that, no one to date has given me any flak for our approach to meeting Paul's needs based on this video. (No, that was not an invitation to criticize, but if you must then please at least stop shy of personal attacks!)
What this 2-minute story has done is to give you a little peek into the reality of our overachieving family. Now it is my responsibility to answer the additional questions that were and will be raised.
Question: What is so unique about Paul that one should regard his case as severe?Paul is allergic to every food that he has ever eaten. Some foods have caused him to experience life-threatening anaphylactic reactions upon ingestion. A few foods have caused him to have rashes and trouble breathing in the proteins that were thrown into the air from cooking or as we have walked past bulk bins of nuts. Others cause only rashes with moderate to severe itching, and no other symptoms. But in his 8 years, he has developed allergies to nearly every food that he has ever ingested. The only "foods" that he has been able to tolerate are his medical formula, granulated white sugar, artificial colors and artificial flavors.
Question: Why does an outing to the park require advanced planning?Food protein is everywhere! Shortly after we arrived at the park for our interview, I found half of a sandwich that had been discarded in the middle of the sidewalk. I also retrieved and discarded a used straw and various food wrappers that were lying on the ground under the equipment. Paul understands enough about his allergies now that he typically leaves those things alone. However, just a few years ago he would have picked them up and potentially even tried to eat them.
There were several families having picnics that day, and some children were even carrying snacks around with them as they played. (I cringed inside, but I did manage to refrain from following them around with wet wipes!) Those without food allergies will eat a sandwich and simply brush away the crumbs. Their hands look and feel clean, so they are comfortable foregoing a wash with soap and running water. But food proteins are like germs. They remain on hands and surfaces until they are cleaned away. Every hand rail or other piece of equipment touched by a child who has not washed their hands since their last meal has the potential to unknowingly contaminate the surfaces of playground equipment. Allergic individuals do not even need to eat while at the playground to accidentally ingest those invisible food proteins. All that is necessary is for Paul to grab onto a hand rail that was recently touched by a child with an allergenic food protein on her hands, and then to rub his eyes. That action alone is enough for the offending food protein to gain access to his bloodstream, potentially leading to a severe allergic reaction.
In addition, those with food allergies may not have the option to order safe food from a restaurant if they stay out longer than intended. We cannot go anywhere without having Neocate that has been pre-mixed and kept chilled.
Question: Why must Paul be separated from his peers during lunch at school?Paul sits at a nut free lunch table. He is allowed to have a friend sit with him. That friend must only avoid eating peanuts and tree nuts to be able to join him. There is also close adult supervision due to his history of reactions to airborne food proteins, and also because he is sometimes overcome by the temptation to taste foods that he knows he is allergic to. Why would he knowingly consume an allergen, you ask? The answer is simple. Because he is an 8-year-old boy who sometimes gets carried away by his impulses. One of those impulses is to take just one bite so he can know what real food tastes like!
So! What questions would you like to see answered?
Pssst! I would really love to embed the video rather than linking to it, but I have no idea what I'm doing here. See? I really do just need someone to take all of my stories and put them up on the blog for me. Who wants to help me figure this out?