Monday, December 19, 2011
Growing Out of a Peanut Allergy is a Christmas Miracle
Before I had kids, I have to admit that I was one of the millions of people out there who wondered whether people who claimed to have peanut allergies weren't just a little paranoid. I mean, not really, I knew they did have an allergy, but the question of severity is confusing. After all, it's just so hard for the world to understand why all of a sudden peanut allergies are such a big problem when they weren't an issue while we were growing up. Or when our parents were growing up.
However, my view changed one cold night in March 2009 when my daughter turned blue and had a seizure and was unresponsive for about five minutes. We rushed her to the hospital but by the time we got there she was fine, even waving to everyone and acting happy. They did try to get blood samples from her, but since she was only 9 months old they couldn't find a vein. For two exruciating hours, nurses filed in and out of the room, promising they were the expert and would be able to find a vein. She cried and squirmed and I helpless to do anything but hold her close and sing to her.
We never figured out what caused that seizure until several months later we had her tested for allergies and I remember saying, "I just hope she's not allergic to peanuts."
Sure enough, the doctor called and that was her only allergy. The doctor thought that possibly explained why she was so crabby when she was a baby, since I breastfed her and I ate a lot of peanut butter. The doctor explained that her allergy was extremely severe and we had to get all peanuts out of the house and make sure everyone around us knew that she had a severe peanut allergy.
I was devastated. Every time we had a playgroup we had to leave early because inevitably someone pulled out a PB&J and I didn't want to be that annoying Mom who requested that the event be peanut-free. It really did affect our lives and I constantly felt watchful for another seizure episode. We had about 10 Epi-Pens and had to carry them everywhere and keep track of the expiration dates and make sure that I NEVER changed diapers or purses without checking. It's hard for other people to know what it feels like to be a Mom and feel like any second, someone who ate peanut butter that morning could accidentally touch her and I could lose her.
I remember one plane ride...We flew Southwest and so we requested a peanut free flight. I felt guilty doing it, but I didn't have a choice. They got on the speakers and announced that the flight was going to be peanut-free and the people in front of us started huffing and puffing.
"That's so ridiculous," I heard the woman say. "Just because you're allergic to peanuts, you shouldn't punish the rest of us. How inconsiderate!!"
I wanted to lean forward and ask if she wanted to see my daughter turn blue and die, right on the plane, but I didn't have the heart to fight with her because honestly that's how I felt until I had a daughter with an allergy. You just don't get it until it's your reality.
When my daughter turned three, the doctor wanted to test her for peanut allergies again. A whopping 10% of children grow out of it eventually. I wasn't very hopeful, but the test came back and....IT WAS A MIRACLE!!! She only had a slight allergy now, not even enough to need an Epi-Pen!!
Now, this Christmas for the first time, we are finally able to have Christmas Cookies the way God intended...with peanut butter! We can have peanut butter balls, peanut fudge, peanut Cocoa Clusters, anything we want! We tried one year to make Peanut Butter Balls with imitation peanut butter...not recommended!
Even though we are now free of the dreaded peanut allergy, I still have a soft spot in my heart for any family who has to deal with the fear of a peanut allergy. It's real and it's scary, so if your kid's school asks you not to send a PB&J, just keep in mind that no one else is happy about it, least of all the parents of the poor kid with the peanut allergy.