On August 17, 2014 our lives changed in an instant. We introduced our then 2-year old son, Wyatt, to peanut butter and he went into anaphylactic shock. Without having any history of food allergies in our family, including our other children, this was not something we would have ever anticipated. After only a small bite of a cookie bar Wyatt’s nose began running, his eyes started watering and he developed a repetitive cough. He then swelled up and broke out into hives all over his tiny body.
From that bite on, our lives were different. Every time we leave the house we need to be prepared and aware. We need to read the labels on everything that he consumes to ensure it does not contain peanut and was not produced on shared equipment with something that contains peanut. If we aren’t in a position read labels or confirm that food preparation surfaces and utensils were properly sanitized to avoid cross contamination, we need to bring our own “safe” things to eat. We have to run through a list of questions at every restaurant before sitting down. We have to be sure his hands are properly washed with soap and water before he eats (because sanitizing gel is not sufficient in removing peanut protein). Even despite monitoring all food that he knowingly consumes, we still need to be on alert and watch for symptoms of a reaction in case he somehow gets peanut residue on his hands from a grocery cart, shared toy, park equipment, table top, etc, or kisses someone who has eaten it and inadvertently ingests it. We have to carry multiple epi pens and antihistamine with us everywhere we go. Our medical bag needs to be on us, not just in the car, because in the case of a life threatening reaction every minute matters. We invest in schools we feel he will be safest and most comfortable attending. We worry. We worry about his safety. We worry about his quality of life. We worry about how he internalizes all of the aforementioned. It is life consuming.
As anxiety ridden as this can all be, it is also empowering and has inspired us to take action. We know food allergies are manageable and there are far worse things to endure. We are hopeful that they are on the brink of improved treatment and desensitization options. We are choosing to live our lives in a way that will teach Wyatt the importance and necessity of being vigilant, but also that he can and should do anything he wants in life. It has taught us all to be more mindful of others and any unique circumstances they may have. It has made us realize what an incredibly special, perceptive, smart, brave, understanding and resilient little man we have. It has shown us how much our other children care for, protect, support and are willing to sacrifice for their brother. It has unified our family on a new level, and illustrated the unwavering support from our loved ones. For those things we are extremely grateful and blessed.
As Wyatt’s advocates, we are determined to do everything in our power to make a difference for him. We hope that you will join us in helping to fund research and education that will bring our son, your children, yourselves, friends, family members and/or all of the 15 Million Americans (1 out of 13 children) with potentially life threatening allergies closer to a cure!