I am not a writer. I really don’t like doing it. I would much rather show pictures on the blog or chat with you than actually have to write. ACK! So I will apologize in advance for the run on sentences and crazy stream of thoughts I am attempting to express!
Today was spent ordering prescriptions, talking to the pediatrician and school in preparation for my son, Gavin to start second grade. This time of year causes a lot of anxiety in our house. Starting school isn’t just buying school supplies, new shoes and a sweet new backpack. My kid has a peanut allergy. No, he doesn’t get sick to his stomach and get a rash. He goes into anaphylactic shock. Coupled with his asthma, it makes his reaction worse. Within minutes he can go into cardiac arrest and his throat can swell, cutting off oxygen. Without someone giving him a shot of Epinephrin right away, he will die. The reaction is painful and traumatic. Having seem him in a full attack, it is truly the worst thing I have ever experienced. Seeing him swell like he had been beaten and his eyes sealed shut, barely able to breathe. Poor baby. He really didn’t ingest it- he spit it out. *I* gave him some peanut butter. *I* did this to him. He was almost 2. They said this was a warning and the next time would be worse. WORSE? How is that even possible? We had no idea he was allergic and everyone else in the family ate it. The possibility that he could be allergic never even crossed my mind. Ever.
When he is with me, I know that I always have his Epi-pen and I check everything to be sure that he stays safe. But when school time rolls around, I am relying on his school to keep him safe. Will the new teacher be overwhelmed with this information? There are 20 other kids in the class she has to worry about. Will the parents make the effort to keep peanuts out of his class? Will the students be supportive or threaten and tease him? Everything is out of our hands and all I can do is pray he is safe. It is a really a helpless feeling. Most parents feel confident their child is safe at school. Most parents heart doesn’t sink when their cell phone rings and the caller id is the school. I feel sick answering only to find out it’s a bumped knee or tummy ache. Yes, a wave of relief washes over me when my kid is just hurt or sick! We have been so fortunate and have never had a problem at school. A report in the New England Journal of Medicine titled “Fatal and Near-Fatal Anaphylactic Reactions to Food in Children and Adolescents” indicated that four of the six deaths from food allergy examined in the report occurred in school, and were associated with significant delays in treating the reactions with epinephrine. 4 out of 6 DEATHS happen in SCHOOL.
And then there is bullying. In a recent study published in the journal Pediatrics, of those surveyed, 45.4 percent of the children and 36.3 percent of their parents indicated that the child had been bullied or harassed. As a result of the finding, the researchers recommend that both parents and pediatricians routinely ask those with food allergies about bullying, to reduce additional stress and improve life quality. Stress and quality of life? For a kiddo? Aren’t kids supposed to feel invicible and carefree? I thought my son is pretty well adjusted. Except for the time a kid in kindergarten when a boy threatened to throw peanut butter on him (turns out it wasn’t, but that that is beside the point!) we have been lucky there, too. WRONG! I found out a few weeks ago that some of his friends in school, had been making statements to him. Telling him they were going to put peanut butter on him at recess. He said they were mean and it was scary. He thought they were his friends. It broke my heart. How could I have not known? Why didn’t he tell me so I could help??? He worried and carried his fear alone for months. From the study “nearly half of parents surveyed (47.9 percent) were not aware of the bullying — although both the bullied children and their parents reported experiencing higher stress levels and lower quality of life.” An older study published in 2010 in the Annals of Allergy, Asthma and Immunology, said that classmates were the most common perpetrators, but more than one-fifth of the harassment came from teachers and other school staff. Seriously?!?! That floored me. But then again, I have dealt with parents who think allergy moms are over reacting and the kids just need to deal with it. Right. Deal with it. My kid now panics if something has peanuts. This is new and scary. Of course I want him to avoid it and not be near it, but his eyes looked like someone was holding a gun to him. Which, I guess it is like that for him. I just don’t like seeing him so scared and frantic. I always stay calm in these situations, I don’t want him reading fear from me. But to see this new reaction from him was really eye opening. I don’t know what it is like to be afraid if you eat something you will die. To be told that all your life and then be expected to remain calm when someone in the cafeteria next to you opens a peanut butter sandwich. Food allergies have been shown to cause issues like anxiety, depression and stress for the children who have them. The increase in food bullying prompted the Food Allergy Research and Education (FARE) to put out a public service announcement.
So why am I writing all this? It isn’t for a “Oh, poor you..” I know that we are lucky and so many people deal with so much more with their children. I am truly thankful for the teachers, staff and admin at our school that work with us to keep Gavin safe. I am grateful for friends, family and classmate’s parents who check labels and and avoid peanut products. I truly am. We are blessed and fortunate. I guess I am writing this so people will be compassionate and teach their children compassion. Kids don’t know a “harmless” prank can actually cause a lot of damage unless parents teach them. I HATE being “THAT” mom. The one who has to check the restaurant ahead or ask about the food. The one who tells her kid we can’t go to an event because it is at an ice cream shop. The one who is dreading back to school time a little bit.
I am not trying to be high maintenance. I hate feeling like I am inconveniencing anyone. I am not overreacting. I am not all drama. I have to keep my kid safe. Please don’t roll your eyes at us. Please help us out.
This is what it all about! Thank you.