This is my first post in almost a month, and I wanted you to know why.
In the last month or so, I’ve been challenged by two different people to face my fears and talk about them. I’ve re-written this post 20 times, and still it sat in my drafts never being published. FEAR.
I’m scared. I’ve been fearful for the last year, and I’ve let it affect my daily life.
Most of you know, my youngest daughter has a severe life-threatening food allergy, but I’ve never shared our story here on the blog before. Today, I’m going to punch fear in the face, and do just that. I may lose some of you when things start changing on this blog. That’s okay. I get it, but this is our life now…so here goes….
January 2012…Peanut butter had long been a staple at my house. It was a food that was consumed daily. My oldest loved peanut butter and jelly sandwiches and asked for one for her lunch. We had been slowly introducing new foods to my then 13-month-old. I figured peanut butter and jelly would be fine. My oldest began eating it at that age. No biggie. We’ll give it a try.
After the first bite, my baby started rubbing her face. I figured it might be irritating the eczema around her mouth, so I pulled the rest away. She started crying and wouldn’t eat the rest of her food. I thought she was just cranky, so I grabbed her milk bottle and carried her into the living room to calm her.
I sat her down, and she rolled on her back to drink her milk. Two minutes later, I noticed she was gargling her milk in the back of her throat. Still, at this point, I was not concerned. Another few minutes passed, and she started scratching at her neck. This was the first time I thought something might be wrong. I called her doctor and was told to give her some Benadryl because she may be allergic to something she had come in contact with. The doctor’s office hung up and would call back in a few minutes to see how she was handling the medicine. We were not there when they called back.
She could barely swallow the Benadryl, and her breathing started to become more labored. I was scared. Petrified beyond belief was a better way to describe my state at that moment. We live less than 3 miles from a mediocre hospital, but I figured we could get there faster than an ambulance could get to us, so away we went. In those moments on the way to the hospital, she could hardly breathe at all. Thinking back now, I still get emotional. I don’t know a time in my life that I have been that scared. It was horrifying watching her get worse, and I could not do an earthly thing to help her, my baby. I prayed and prayed and prayed and prayed.
God saved her with only precious minutes to spare. Had we waited one more second, things could have been extremely worse. She may not be with us today. I don’t even want to think about it now. It is still too hard.
After that incident, it was still several months before she was officially diagnosed with a severe life-threatening food allergy to peanuts and a milder allergy to eggs. Oh, how our lives have changed.
We come across people daily who don’t get it. I know. I was one of those people who thought the word “food allergy” was way overused, and overly protective parents were just going psycho over nothing. I’ve learned first-hand over the last year how wrong I was.
Life-threatening food allergies are real and there is no cure. Over 15 million Americans suffer from food allergies, and the numbers are increasingly becoming an epidemic. One in thirteen children under the age of 18 has a food allergy. Every 3 minutes, a food allergy sends someone to the emergency room.* In the last few months, food allergies have been responsible for the deaths of children and teens like Adrian (8), Cameron (19), BJ (18), and just recently, Tanner (11).
I’ve been paralyzed with fear. Fear over losing my child. Fear to leave the house and enter the allergy-clad world. Fear to go on vacation where I’d have no control over our food. Fear of going to family holiday parties where nuts abound. Fear of even family members not “getting it”. Fear of sending my allergy child to school where too many people just don’t care. Fear of even trying new foods because food labels can’t be trusted. Fear over losing my audience because I’ve posted another “egg and peanut allergy-safe” recipe. FEAR.
My daughter’s doctor even pointed out that I was letting fear cripple me. I thought he was horrible when he said, “I think you need another incident to occur, so you can see that you ARE prepared with your EpiPen and emergency action plan. Yes, it is scary, but you ARE equipped to deal with it. You CAN do it. Don’t let fear lead every decision you make.”
Not one month later, we were sitting in an emergency room with a reaction. Although I WAS SCARED, we’d had precautions in place for months. We had our EpiPens readily available, and we’d practiced using them for months. We had 911 on speed dial. We were prepared, and she is okay. The doctor was right…this time.
Fear can be crippling especially when your child’s life is at risk. I can pray and ask God to take care of her, but in my OCD/control freak nature, I want to still be the one in charge. I feel weak. It is hard. I let my fear keep me from handing it completely over to the Lord which leads to worry and stress and me spending the night in the hospital undergoing tests because I think I’m having a heart attack (but that’s a whole other story).
Yes. This new life of ours is extremely scary at times, but I don’t want that to be the case ALL the time. I want to help other families who have recently been diagnosed or who need recipes that are safe. I want to help spread awareness. I want to remove peanuts from airplanes and sporting events, so kids can have a normal life. I want to stop others from making fun of children dying from food allergies. I want to scream at the top of my lungs how important epinephrine is and that it needs to be carried 24/7. I want it to be a standard for schools to stock Epi-Pens and USE THEM! I want all public places to stock Epi-Pens along with their AEDs. I want to help find a cure, so other children don’t have to die or live in fear of dying.
I don’t want to be led by fear anymore. Yes, food allergies will always be on my mind. I know that I can never let my guard down. It is our life now, but I will not let fear keep us from living life and helping others.
*Source – FARE
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