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Story of the Month

A Dairy-Allergic Child Learns to Fly Solo

My 20-year-old daughter, Arielle, who was spending a semester in Australia and taking a side trip, sent me the link to her itinerary for New Zealand.

“Extreme Adventures” appeared at the top of the page, followed by a list of activities on the tour. I held my breath as I read the descriptions, to the effect of: “Travel through river canyons at 100 kilometers per hour in a jet boat!” “Bring your courage along as we bungee jump over Queenstown!” “Fall out of a plane from 14,000 feet over magnificent scenery.”

I stopped there. “Are you crazy?” I e-mailed back. “I hope these activities cost extra, and you can’t afford them.”

“Everything is included except for skydiving,” she replied, inserting a smiley emoticon.

Not only did I think she was nuts for considering jumping off a mountaintop attached to a rubber band or parachuting from a plane, but also for sharing this information with me. Having grown up watching me deal with her severe milk allergy, she knew I was wired to worry.

When dining out, I’d interrupt while she was ordering, urging the waiter to check the dish’s ingredients before she had a chance to ask herself. Once the meal arrived, I’d lean over her plate to inspect the food for any trace of butter or cheese.

But that anxiety was nothing compared to what I felt after Arielle, at age 16, had an anaphylactic reaction requiring three doses of epinephrine and hours of monitoring in the emergency room.

From that day on, whenever she was headed out to meet friends, I’d stop her at the door and ask where she’d be eating and if she had her medications with her.

She’d glare back at me. “You can’t keep me in a bubble for the rest of my life.”

***

She was right. Ultimately, I wanted what she wanted – for her to enjoy the same activities and freedoms as any teen. I worked on backing off, and reminded myself that she had always been careful: checking labels, alerting servers and managers to her allergy and passing up a food when she couldn’t be certain whether it contained dairy.

With planning and proper precautions, she spent two weeks without incident in Provence through a high school exchange program. (Full disclosure: my husband and I followed her to France. We stayed approximately 30 miles from her home base and never saw her, but felt reassured that we were only a car ride away in case of an emergency.)

Next page: The trip of a lifetime

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