Food Allergies in Schools–have a little grace
The very first time it happened we got the call the day we brought our younger son home from the hospital, 3 weeks shy of our oldest turning 2. “Kadyn is struggling to breathe. We think he might have put something up his nose that is now obstructing his airway. We’re going to take him to Urgent Care (closer than the ER).”
My husband raced to the Urgent Care to meet them while I stayed home with our newborn son. After a series of tests determining there wasn’t an object obstructing his breathing, yet having an O2 level of 61% and the inability to get a reading on my son’s lungs, the Dr determined it must be pneumonia.
My husband called me with the news.
I was screaming in to the phone. NO! He isn’t sick. He wasn’t sick. It is NOT pneumonia. Despite my plea, they were prepping him for x-rays to confirm pneumonia all the while wasting precious seconds of my son’s life.
My little boy clung to my husband’s neck, desperately, pleading with his eyes as if to say Daddy, please help me breathe. His breathing quick, shallow, and gasping all at the same time. His nose had ceased to function…there was no air coming or going. When he tried to talk, his voice was unrecognizable as his own. As time passed he limply lay in my husband’s lap, his face ghost-like in whiteness, the normal exuberance g.o.n.e. He had an O2 level somewhere in the 60s.
Fortunately (praise God!) he had a button up shirt on…the only reason the x-ray tech asked my husband to take my son’s shirt off. And what possibly could be what saved his life.
As soon as my son’s shirt came off, my husband was clearly able to diagnose him himself. IT’S AN ALLERGIC REACTION! He screamed. The blistering hives covered his little body. In some parts it was so severe the lumps were purple, the size of raised quarters. How this was missed during intake and initial assessment is beyond me.
What happened next is all a blur of quick reaction and life-saving efforts.
Until that point we had no idea our son had a life threatening allergy to most tree nuts. We are so grateful it happened when it did and not out in the middle of nowhere camping; no medical support in sight. So grateful he was with people that loved him, for the quick response of those caring for him to take him right to Urgent Care, and that he had a button up shirt on. We are so thankful he’s beginning to recognize his allergy for what it is, knows the seriousness of it, and understands that it’s okay to be different. So thankful that foods are labeled as safe or unsafe so we can begin to teach him. So unbelievably thankful that he’s alive. And we are so grateful that schools have been willing to work with us on this.
I know that unless you have a child with severe food allergies I couldn’t possibly expect you to understand how truly scary and difficult food allergies are, especially in children. Parents with children that have food allergies are not trying to make life difficult, or any less fun, for other students or their parents by sending our children to school. Rather, we too are striving to do our best and give our children the best. I am aware that it is difficult, frustrating, or maybe even a little scary having a child with a severe food allergy in the classroom with your sons and daughters. So I want to offer a heartfelt thank you for your sacrifice. I truly appreciate your grace. The next time my son has a reaction he may have even less time, will require an epipen, and e.v.e.r.y second will count. Regardless, I can’t keep my son in a bubble. For better or worse my son recognizes he is ‘different’ and what a great learning opportunity to teach love and acceptance of everyone.