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Story of the Month

My Hero Has 31 Food Allergies, a Speech Issue, Hives – and She Thrives

Lisa Nackan story 2My hero is 15 years old, wiser than her years, and stronger than a girl her age should be. She is beautiful, brilliant, kind, empathetic, sarcastic, and comes with an excess of attitude. I think it is this attitude and strength of will that I cherish the most. This 15-year old is my daughter, Jaimie.

Jaimie is highly allergic to 31 foods, including milk, eggs, fish, shellfish, peanuts and other legumes (including soy and peas), kiwi, sesame and sunflower seeds, banana, avocado, mustard and more. She has had anaphylactic reactions, and we remember them well. She has eczema and asthma, and is so allergic to cats that she may require epinephrine during a reaction.

Five years ago, she also developed cold-induced urticaria, a form of hives that are a response to drops in temperature. It’s heartbreaking to witness as her body reacts to what she loves the most – the winter. She was prescribed antihistamines to take daily to control the cold urticaria, but in Jaimie’s case, they weren’t effective.

Still, my child won’t let this condition stop her. On a day when she knows there will be time to recover, Jaimie will bundle up and head outside with her brother, then they will immerse themselves in the icy wonderland. When she comes back inside, I ache to see her swollen, hive-covered, distorted face and hands. Yet there is always a smile.

Jaimie was also diagnosed with selective mutism at 3 years old. This is an anxiety disorder, linked to social anxiety, which renders an individual unable to speak in certain situations. That means from pre-nursery to about Grade 6, she was wordless in the classroom. In kindergarten, when she dislocated her elbow on a slide, nobody knew until I picked her up from school, and she told me. When she caught her fingers between two chairs, no sound came out of her mouth.

Frankly, it has been petrifying as a parent, knowing that you are sending your child to school, with a long list of allergies, two epinephrine shots, some puffers, and the knowledge that should an emergency arise, she would probably be unable to tell anyone.

Next: Finding her voice

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Allergic Living acknowledges the assistance of the OMDC Magazine Fund, an initative of the Ontario Media Development Cooperation.