Monday, September 17, 2007

Support Groups, Kim, & Other Godsends

We had our planning/kick-off meeting for the new Davis County chapter of the Utah Food Allergy Network last week. Yea! We’re off and running!

Boy, do I wish there had been a support group for food allergies when The Human Whirlwind was diagnosed with peanut and nut allergies 7 years ago. I was completely clueless. After a brief encounter with his first peanut butter sandwich raised hives on his face and made him go hoarse, I took my toddler to an allergist who said simply, “Yep, looks like he’s allergic to peanuts. He might outgrow it, but stay away from peanut butter in the meantime.”

That was it. That was the sum total of this doctor’s sage advice. I had no idea what I was in for. No idea how dangerous cross-contamination could be. No idea that a peanut allergy gives you a 35% chance that you’ll be allergic to tree nuts, too. No idea that skin contact could cause a reaction. No idea that I should be carrying an EpiPen, or even Benadryl. No idea my son could die.

What I did have was a brand-new acquaintance named Kim. She’d also just found out her kid was allergic – to far more foods than my son, in fact. And she, fortunately, had visited a better allergist, who took the time to tell her more information. Kim sat with me at play-dates over the next few weeks, and while we watched our kids take random stabs at learning concepts like “sharing” and “waiting turns” and “not eating electrical cords,” she told me what she’d learned about food allergies from the internet, books, and her doctor.

Slowly, it began to sink in, and I realized that I had to research this condition myself and not rely on one doctor’s off-the-cuff “I’m-too-busy-to-talk-to-a-silly-mom” pat answers. After an accidental exposure to peanut-flavored chocolate on an ice cream cone sent us flying to the ER (with Kim and her kids following behind me with her EipPen, just in case), I found a new doctor and new determination to learn everything I could to keep my boy safe.

Kim was my one-person support group, at a time when I desperately needed one. Between us, we’ve spent 7 years learning, sharing, exploring, baking, and teaching our way to a safer world for our kids.

I can’t even imagine how hard those years would have been if I’d been the only parent I knew with a food-allergic kid. As silly as it sounds, just having someone to get giddy with over the discovery of allergen-free chocolate chips is a godsend.

So that’s why Kim and I are starting up our group here in Layton – because I know there are a whole lot of parents out there who are dealing with this, too. Some have just learned that their kids are allergic, and they’re going through the angry, shocked, despairing, disbelieving, overwhelmed stage of this. Other parents have been dealing with it for a few years now, and they have lots of great ideas, advice, and suggestions that they’d love to share with the newer parents.

So I am excited about starting up this new Davis County group. We’re going to have speakers, discussions, recipe exchanges, holiday tips – we’ve already got meeting topics lined up clear ‘til spring. So if you know anyone in the Davis County, Utah, area who could use a hand in the food allergy fight, let them know we’re out here, on the second Wednesday of every month. See our website ( for details.

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