Monday, June 30, 2014

Guest Post {Lindsey Bush}

Well, long time no post!  I had planned to have several guests on my blog while I was on my recent trip to China, however, once I arrived I found out that the government there regulated access to sites like Google (which affected my Gmail and blogger accounts) as well as Facebook.  You literally CANNOT access certain social media sites unless you have a VPN (Virtual Private Network) in China, oh and you can't get one of those once there, you have to pre-purchase it in the US before traveling.  So to say I was a little frustrated was a bit of an understatement.  But in light of the reason I was on the trip, it was clearly a First World problem!  I'll have many blog posts about the trip in the next week or so once I get over the jet lag and reconnect with my family.  So, without further adieu…

Lindsey Bush is a self-employed editor, writer, and stay-at-home mom. She and her husband, Mitchell, and their kiddos live in a suburb of Nashville, Tenn.  Lindsey also happens to be my cousin.  She is loving and strong and I'm so grateful to call her my friend.   When you see her picture you will be able to see the family resemblance, we look a lot like sisters! I am so glad she was willing to share a little bit of the journey God has had her sweet family on specifically with their little boy.

Perhaps it was mother’s intuition. When our son, Aiden, developed eczema at four months, I remember thinking then that he was going to have food allergies. His father had asthma as a child, and I had a mild childhood dairy allergy that I quickly outgrew. Yet once I learned that eczema, asthma, and food allergies are likely to appear together—and that 1 in 13 children now have food allergies in the U.S.—my gut just said to avoid nuts.

Fast-forward to Aiden at 2 years old. Finally finding the courage to make the attempt, one small lick of peanut butter caused immediate facial swelling and hives. We rushed him to the E.R., giving Benadryl along the way and praying that his airways would stay open. The doctors stabilized him with large doses of steroids and referred us to a pediatric allergist, where we got an official diagnosis of allergies to peanuts, tree nuts, molds, and cat dander.

Becoming a food allergy mom changed everything. I cried myself to sleep for several weeks wondering how I could possibly keep my child safe in a world of PB&J sandwiches, Honey Nut Cheerios, Nutter Butters, pecan pie, and banana nut muffins. Cross-contaminated foods are literally everywhere. Baseball games became too risky. The grocery store turned into a minefield. Restaurants were virtually inaccessible. And forget ever having a birthday cake from a bakery.

Yet with tons of prayer, research, and discussions among other food allergy parents, today things have gotten easier. We see Aiden’s allergist annually for skin and blood tests to gauge whether he might outgrow the allergies—1 in 5 outgrow peanuts, and only 1 in 9 outgrow tree nut allergies. We carry Epi Pens (epinephrine) everywhere we go—the only way to treat life-threatening anaphylaxis. We’ve trained babysitters, family members, and parents of our son’s friends how to both recognize and respond to an allergic reaction. Aiden’s medical I.D. bracelet has become a permanent part of his daily attire. We know what foods to avoid and how to carefully plan every meal and snack. We’ve even found several restaurants where he can safely eat out. But for this food allergy mom, the work feels like it’s just beginning.

Recently Aiden graduated from Pre-K, so this August he’ll begin Kindergarten. Not only are we concerned about our child’s acceptance, if he’ll fall while hanging from the monkey bars, and how he’ll adapt to formal instruction; there are now class parties, field trips, and a lunchroom to navigate. Will his teachers understand his needs? Will other kids and their parents be sympathetic? Will he be overcome with anxiety? Will he be left out of birthday parties and sleepovers? Or worse, what if he doesn’t take his allergy seriously?

Just recently, formal testing with the allergist revealed that our 3-year-old daughter, Bailey, is allergy free. Praise the Lord! She hasn’t had the same symptoms her brother exhibited, but it was nonetheless a relief. Bailey got to pick out her own celebratory donuts at Krispy Kreme. Hopefully one day soon we’ll do the same for our son.

In the meantime, we’ll keep raising awareness about food allergies. So from a mom who has helped navigate several allergies the last few years—celiac disease/gluten, dairy, egg, soy, pineapple, and nuts just from our circle of friends—here’s how you can help the people in your life who are or may become food allergic.

Pray for them. Nothing could help us more than knowing others are lifting up in prayer our children’s safety. We daily petition God that Aiden will be safe wherever he goes. And we dare to dream that one day a cure will come. Send safe food. If your child is friends with an allergic child, talk with his or her parent about what you can safely pack in your child’s lunch. Many allergic kids are secluded in the cafeteria. I can guarantee you they’ll appreciate having a friend’s companionship while they eat. Additionally, classroom snacks and birthday celebrations should be fun and safe for everyone involved—especially those children with allergies or other struggles like diabetes.
Educate yourself and your kids. Simple things like handwashing post-meals, learning how to read a food label, and using separate food preparation areas will make major strides in protecting the allergic. Want to take it a step further? People who genuinely care about cooking safe food for allergic kids are few-and-far between and a true blessing.
Remember the Golden Rule. Food allergic kids and parents need compassion. Teach and model for your own kids a loving attitude toward the hardships of others. You might be surprised to know how much it truly means—and how much you may need it in return someday.

So, what’s been your experience with food allergies? Do you have other ideas you can share to help keep allergic friends safe?

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