Monday, January 12, 2015

Not Just Peanuts to Us

I vividly remember the day I served Elias West African soup in his booster seat.  In our tiny kitchen, I noticed bumps developing on his face as the toddler spit out the soup. I immediately called our pediatrician and they recommended a dose of Benadryl and a direct ride to our urgent care center. I'll never forget checking the rear view mirror as I raced him to urgent care hoping that his breathing would remain normal until we got there.  It did. We later scheduled an appointment with an allergist and learned that Elias had an anaphalytic peanut allergy.

At first we mourned the loss of peanuts.  Sounds funny, I know, but it was more about being around people and having to check foods all the time. It was more about asking them if they could put away the trail mix that might fall on the rug at playgroup and then be mistakenly popped in the mouth. And, it was about being conflict averse, for when a friend asked if I minded if she made pb& j at the same table where my child was seated, I had to speak up and say "yes." After all, we were told every exposure could be worse and to expect an anaphalytic reaction if he was accidentally exposed. We carried epi-pens in our diaper bag and "safe snacks" wherever we went. And, it was also about my love of East Africa and my hope to bring my family there someday.  How could we travel to a place where peanuts were ubiquitous and eating them was a part of the ritual of being a good guest?

Over time, the allergy became much easier. Elias didn't eat food off the floor and he learned to ask if something had peanuts in it. But, our house never had a jar of peanut butter sitting in the fridge for the past seven years. And, every single time Adelaide had a playdate, she would report like clockwork, that she had a peanut butter and jelly sandwich for lunch--or even an afterschool snack. So, when we were offered the good news that Elias qualified for the peanut challenge, we grabbed it.

You see, this year, Elias had also become a bit fixated on disabilities and various conditions. Having been diagnosed with a chronic tic disorder and symptoms of ADHD, he would ask why did he have all these disabilities. He would then throw in his peanut allergy as well.  Some nights, I would sit on his bed and he would ask, "What would you rather have...dyslexia or a tic disorder? (Of course, Elias would rather have the tic disorder because he devours books.) One time, he stopped eating because he was afraid of developing Type II diabetes.  (Elias is 62lbs soaking wet and 4 ft. 6 inches tall; he does not need to worry about his weight.) But, Elias was trying to figure out where he fit with regard to disabilities, their severity, and to what extent they defined him.  With great help from his therapist, he has learned how to externalize his tic disorder as something he has, but not something he is. So, we were hopeful that this peanut challenge might help Elias cross off one more oddity off his list of challenges.

So, when Elias began to develop spots after the first does around his face, my spirits plummeted--only to be told by the allergist that we should push on as long as he wasn't having any breathing trouble.  And, so he did. By the fourth dose, he still had spots but no other difficulties.  After another hour of monitoring, we were home free.  We were instructed to cut-off the peanut butter for 24 hours and then to insure he eats it regularly in the future so he does not develop an intolerance.  It sure felt strange bringing that jar of peanut butter back into the house. But, Addie has been happily making herself lunch for the past three days in a row--pb and j, of course.  And, Elias feels great about lifting a worry off his shoulders.  I'm wondering if he will ask, "What would you rather have: a peanut allergy or a tic disorder?" Only time will tell...



Thursday, January 8, 2015

Tuesday, December 30, 2014