Thursday, December 4, 2008

Worrying Woes

First--no, no China news! 92 days and counting...but hey--the days not over yet!

This post is simply to vent a little. For those who don't know, my little Ella is one of approximately 12 million people who suffer from food allergies. While I am fully aware that she could be afflicted with far worse things, the truth of the matter is, food allergies are responsible for about 30,000 Emergency Room visits and claim the lives of about 200 people each year. In relation to other conditions, that number may be small---unless one of those 200 was someone you loved. For no explainable reason, food allergies have doubled in the past 10 years. Ella is one of about 1.8 million people with allergies to Peanuts and Treenuts. Unfortunately, her allergy is life threatening. Her very first reaction was an anaphylactic reaction in which her throat was closing. At 2 years old she had put a cashew in her mouth, spit it out, and within minutes had no voice--her larynx was swelling. Luckily, while we all had no idea what was occurring, someone was watching over her and her condition did not progress to the point that she couldn't breath. The thought of what could have happened that day is unbearable. Although the hives and fiery red rash she was covered in for several days following that incident were a reminded of what could have happened, we were blessed with just "a warning". Now, armed with an Epipen, my search for any and all information food allergy related began. Sadly, I would find little comfort in what I read. Somehow food was now a potential enemy, but not only food. There would be many other hidden hazards---in soaps, in lotions, in hair products, in makeup and in cleaning products. The thought that my little girl could accidentally ingest something and her throat could close in 1-2 minutes became my most haunting thought. I struggled, and still struggle, to find a balance between stressing the importance of being careful with what she eats, and scaring the hell out of her.

So here we are today. I have learned everything I possibly can in order to understand her allergies and protect her. This knowledge however is not enough to comfort my constant worries. There is a part of me that worries everyday about her. Aside from the obvious, I worry most about her feeling different. I hate that she has to have "her own" food and "her own" cupcake at parties. I hate that she is restricted in the restaurants she can go to and the foods she can eat there. I hate that her allergies have the potential to disclude her from certain activities at school where food is involved--which was an issue just today and what initiated this post. All the while I hide from her how my heart breaks for her every time she can't be just like her three year old friends and I make a constant effort to make her feel like its "no big deal". I try to find the right way to teach her how to protect herself without making her allergy a handicap. We got through Halloween, which is by far the most challenging day of the year, but now there are new worries as we approach the Holiday season. Can she eat the food at the parties we go to? What safe dessert will I pack for her? Will there be nuts out at the party? Will someone enjoy their delicious nut filled cake or brownie and then leave residue in a place where she'll come in contact with it? Will a kind well intentioned person offer her food she can't have while I'm not looking? While other people just don't understand the severity of the situation, I wonder if I'm looked at as the "neurotic mother". That however is not something I worry about. I have to be the neurotic mother. I have to be vigilant. I have to protect her.

So today my thoughts are with all the other moms who struggle everyday to keep their children safe from something others look at as just a basic necessity--food. To those who know all too well that most people "just don't understand". Those who are fellow "master label readers" of everything, not just food. Those of you who, once again, told their child that they couldn't eat something they wanted because it could make them sick. Those of you who spend the school day praying your child will be safe in someone else's care. Those whose daily accessories are a bottle of an antihistamine and an Epipen. Those of you who pray that you'll know when to use that Epipen and you'll administer it before it's too late. Those of you who have, or will have to look into your child's eyes when they first come to the realization that the food they're allergic to will not only make them sick---it can kill them. Those of you who pray daily that the reason for this rise in food allergies will be discovered and one day there will be a way to prevent or cure them. Those who know that no one ever intentionally eats a food that can trigger a fatal reaction----it's ALWAYS an accident, and therefore everyday try to prevent that accident from occurring--try to predict if there is any way possible that the food your child is about to eat may have be cross-contaminated.

While I wish that a life threatening food allergy was not a part of Ella's life, I am also so very grateful. Grateful that her allergy is just to peanuts and treenuts, unlike those with multiple food allergies which make the normal task of eating a nearly impossible task. I am grateful that she is otherwise healthy and that although she has something that is a bit of a disability, she is not handicapped by it and does not have a condition that causes her constant suffering. I know that there are worse things, and I thank God that it is not one of those things we are dealing with.


Joanne said...

Well said! Ella is so very blessed to have such a wonderful mommy :)

Michelle said...

A beautiful post, Melissa. Ella is lucky to have you -- I know personally all that you struggle with daily. It cannot be easy. I never put a "may contain traces of" product in my mouth without thinking about whether or not I will see you that day. You are a wonderful mother - every minute, every day! Continue to keep Ella safe and will put Erin to work on the research end....We love you!!

Rebecca of "China, Baby!" said...

Oh my goodness. As my kids don't have food allergies, I cannot even imagine what it must be like to have to think about this constantly. Especially when the consequences could be so serious!!! You are such a good mommy to your Ella...

And hey, you need to get your LOA this week. I've been praying you will hear something by Friday!!!!

Ricki Cenci said...

Hey Melissa... this is Ricki (Dana's sister).
I read your blog from time to time and your most recent post brought me to tears. I just found out last week that my son (who just turned one) is allergic to milk, eggs, wheat, peanuts and peas.
Although this is new to me my FIRST reaction was fear of when he goes to school where I will not be there to watch over what he eats and drinks... followed by my heart breaking thinking that there is going to come a day when he is going to realize that he is 'different' from other kids his age. I just wanted to let you know that what you wrote touched me. Also, I have a question... I have been doing research everyday online but since you have been dealing with this for much longer... do you have any websites that you can share with me so I can read up further? Let me know..
My email address is

Kathy said...

You are one on the ball mom! You are doing a great job.
PS: Thanks for posting on my blog. I almost posted why that devotional spoke to me that day, but opted to simply post the devotional. One day I might share more. Blessings to you and your family. I look forward to seeing pics of you in China!

heather said...

My son (who happens to be adopted and of a different race than me ;-) is allergic to soy, peanuts, eggs, wheat and dairy. I started a website to help others who suffer from food allergies. SPEWD Free has lots of allergy friendly recipes and a food allergy blog.
I hope this helps!

Anonymous said...

Hi Melissa, we are with the same agency and logged-in a few weeks after you. Waiting for you to post LSC news so that we know ours will be next in line.... any news yet??