Bee Sting

Most of my posts involve my son, Charlie, because he has such severed food allergies. I’m anaphylactic to shellfish, but that’s a food that’s easy to avoid – I just don’t eat at restaurants that serve it. I’m also allergic to wasps, and possibly bees. I had an ana reaction to a wasp sting when I was a kid, and haven’t been stung since, until today, when a bee stung me on the cheek. The four of us were at a local fun run, and Max and I were running along when the bee got me.

I had a huge welt, but no reaction. I don’t know if it’s thanks to the years of immunotherapy when I was a kid, or just because it was a bee instead of a wasp, or what. I was loaded with EpiPens and Auvi-Qs for me and for Charlie, so I as ready, but nothing happened. Go me.

Charlie’s First Smoothie

IMG_0231Charlie’s food allergies mean that making a smoothie with yogurt and milk is out of the question. But today I saw So Delicious coconut yogurt at the grocery store and the ingredients looked fine for him. I worried about the starter culture, though. Was it dairy-related? Each yogurt has the company’s 866 number right on it, so I called and in minutes was talking to a So Delicious person, who assured me that everything is plant-derived, and that the company knows its customers often have allergies and it takes that seriously.

How awesome.

IMG_0224

I tested Charlie on it, a little sip every ten minutes, and he was fine. “I want a smoothie. What’s a smoothie?” He said.

So, today we made smoothies and Charlie flipped. Some coconut yogurt, some coconut milk, a package of frozen fruit, and blender with the ice chopper mode, and suddenly Charlie was having his first smoothie. He loved it. He said “We need to show Mommy and let her have a taste. But I drink all of it.” And he drank all of his, most of Max’s (hey, you snooze you lose) and tried unsuccessfully to gank mine. I’m glad he gets this new, flavor-packed treat.

Scared Eggless

A couple nights ago, Charlie sat down at the table for dinner, looked at his plate, and pushed it away, saying, “Dis make me sick. I go to da hospital.” We told him that it wouldn’t make him sick, using that high-and-soft tone you use when you’re trying to reassure someone, but freaking out on the inside. I don’t want my kid to be afraid that the food he’s about to put in his mouth might turn out to be poison. But that’s the risk he’s taking every time. MK and I are vigilant and we cook meals that are as safe as mere mortals can verify, but allergens have gotten through our defenses a couple times, thanks to the cross-contamination crapshoot.

I’ve also had two nightmares this week about Charlie eating foods he’s allergic to. In one, he was well into an oversized bowl of vanilla ice cream. In another, he was just finishing off an entire glass of milk. In both, I realized that epinephrine probably wouldn’t save him now, and then I woke up.

October 4th is his next food challenge. If that is successful, it would go a long way towards making me worry less. Actually, probably not.

No Jersey Mike’s For You

A long time ago, MK and I went through our kitchen and tossed or donated every food that Charlie is allergic to. We also disposed of any foods that were made on shared equipment (or in the same facility as) his allergens. We donated any cookware that struck us as possibly having traces of allergens on them (the blender went, for example). Since then, our house has been Charlie-safe. We cook only foods that he can eat.

Once in a while, we’ll get take out when Charlie is asleep and eat it downstairs – often the garage. Then we clean it up, toss everything, wash our hands, etc. So there’s your backstory.

Today, we went to the Children’s Museum and parked a little farther away than usual. When we got back to the car, I realized we were right in front of Jersey Mike’s. I thought: Heck, I’ll just take the kids in, they won’t touch the sandwich, it’ll be in a bag, and I can eat it after they go down for a nap.

We got as far as the line when it occurred to me that I’d be holding Charlie’s hand with my left hand and a bag of poison with my right. And, of course, he was asking me if he could have a sandwich, too. And so was Max.  We turned around, went to the car, and when we got home I made us delicious sandwiches and salads. Now he’s sleeping, safe and sound.

For Crying Out Loud

Charlie had a severe reaction at dinner last night. His face started looking like ground beef, distinct hives popped up all over his body simultaneously, and he started to cough. We used the EpiPen and then drove him to the ER, where they kept him for a long time before sending us off with the usual steroid.

Like last time, we don’t know what caused the reaction. We don’t keep any foods in the house that he’s allergic too, and all of the things he ate for dinner were seemingly safe. The peaches and veggies he eats all the time. The chicken nuggets are processed, but he’s eaten nuggets from that bag before. I know that doesn’t rule out cross-contamination, but still, geez.

As usual, the day after an anaphylaxis incident is tough on the whole family. Charlie is wild and disobedient. MK and I are exhausted from both the emotional drain and the lack of sleep that comes with getting up all night to check on him – not to mention the time spent analyzing what went wrong, and worrying.

The last reaction needing the EpiPen was in late April. We almost made it 4 months. Sigh.

Thank You for Your Cooperation

Charlie and Max

Charlie (peanuts, tree nuts, milk, egg) and Max, just outside the Lincoln Children’s Museum.

Being food allergy parents has made us particularly self-conscious when we’re out with the kids. When food unexpectedly enters the scene, we’re simultaneously guiding Charlie away from the food while politely pointing out that he has food allergies. I’d say that the statement “He has food allergies” makes sense to maybe half of the people in this scenario. They nod, apologize for bringing the food in (though we don’t expect or want an apology) and generally make us feel as comfortable as we can while we create (or move to) a safe place for Charlie. 

The rest have no idea what we’re talking about, or look irritated or embarrassed. Those people don’t understand where I’m coming from (and what I’m trying to tell them), but I don’t mind because I used to be exactly like them. Even though I have shellfish and insect sting allergies, I just plain did not realize what life is like for families that have members who are allergic to common foods. Things that are ordinary to you are poison – deadly and fast-acting poison – to a food allergy person. It’s hard to explain that to strangers, so I don’t blame them when they don’t understand. I usually don’t blame them when they’re hostile.

So, when a family took Goldfish crackers into the Lincoln Children’s Museum and set up an impromptu picnic at the toy train area, I decided not to explain to the dad, who looked like he had his hands full with the kids, that Charlie would be better off if the family moved to the cafeteria. I opted for the front desk, where the lady I spoke to (I wish I remembered her name!) immediately said something to the effect of “Oh, yes, we understand how serious food allergies are and we only allow people to eat in the cafeteria. I’ll have someone talk to them right now.”

Awesome.

Every day, I read stories from food allergy parents that end with the opposite outcome. So, I thought I’d share my bright, gleaming ray of sunshine for today.

Food Allergy: One Year In

It’s been a heck of a year, but things are finally starting to line up for old Liz Lemon.

This time last year, Charlie’s allergy doctor told us to pull him from daycare and described the ideal environment for a kid with such wildly severe food allergies (and such a young age): home. We looked at Charlie’s track record – four anaphylactic reactions in nine months – and thought the doc was making a lot of sense. A week later, MK went to work with the added responsibility of being the sole breadwinner, and the boys and I stared at each other over our cereal bowls.

And I had no idea what to do.

My biggest challenge was learning to cook. My mom tried to teach me when I was in high school, but I got through college on fast food and then married MK, who loves to cook and makes great meals. I had to learn, and I had to do it within the confines of Charlie’s allergies: no milk, egg, peanuts, tree nuts, beans/peas/any legumes except soy and no bananas or strawberry. And, of course, already-made meals were generally off limits – too much risk of cross contamination, and that’s if you could find one that didn’t have an allergen already in the ingredients. I stressed.

But, over time, I learned, and Charlie outgrew his allergies to bananas, beans, and strawberries. I make great, Charlie-friendly baked beans. I have chicken covered. My meatloaf is “the best in the universe,” according to the kids. These days, I don’t stress – as much – about cooking.

And that’s really the story of the other aspects of this new world: I’m more comfortable with everything about being a stay-at-home dad now that I’ve had some time to grow into it. MK is supportive and great and we’ve had fun trading tips and working together. Even the scary part of this is easier. Charlie “popped” (as we call it when he has an ana attack) a couple months ago and we were calm. Our system for keeping Epi-pens nearby worked and the injection (administered by MK this time) went smoothly. Charlie was in deep trouble, but we got him out of it.

So, onward. We’ve taken a trip to Chicago to see family without any trouble. Next up,a food challenge for Charlie in the fall. There are still things to work on – MK and I don’t get to get out together nearly as often as we’d like, for one thing – but things are improving, and Chuck is as safe as he can be.

Charlie and Max

Charlie and Max