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PostPosted: Tue Feb 27, 2007 9:14 pm 
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Joined: Tue Nov 29, 2005 4:04 pm
Posts: 2044
Location: Gatineau, Quebec
In Nov. 2005, a mom named Lisa Turner, whose children do not have food allergies, posted the letter below on the Kids with Food Allergies (KWFA) forum. She gave permission for anyone to use it should they need it, and I have gotten permission from the head moderator of KWFA to post it here.

I think it's an amazing letter that is all the more powerful because it's written by a parent who initially was very upset that her family would have to change its life a bit to accommodate others, and then -- because she educated herself -- came around to see why it was necessary.

Karen

==================================================================

I wrote this letter about a year ago because of an uproar in our community.

I freely give permission for anybody to use this should they need it. If you would like it in word format, email me and I will send it. [Note from Karen: the author is no longer a member of KWFA and I have no way of contacting her, but you can always cut and paste from this post.]

*******************************************

Dear Parents and Guardians:

I am writing this letter to you because your school has decided to implement a ban on peanuts, tree nuts, and/or other foods that have been associated with life-threatening allergies, and I know the initial reaction you may have regarding such a ban.

I am the mother of a little girl who started school this year. About two weeks before school started I read in a local newspaper that the school she will be attending has decided to put such a ban into effect.

My first reaction was one of shock, but it quickly turned into complete ANGER! I couldn’t believe that the school would actually do something that drastic because ONE child had an allergy. Since when did the misfortunes of one dictate the rule for the majority? I rallied support together, I wrote to the newspapers, I called television stations, and I put up posters expressing my outrage and encouraging parents who felt the same way to attend the next school board meeting and “let our voices be heard”. I even drafted up petitions to have the members of the school board removed so that a new school board could be elected, one that looked out for the needs of every child instead of just one. After all, nobody was going to tell me that I couldn’t send my picky eater to school with a peanut butter sandwich! Then I went online to get some ammunition.

What I got however, was something completely different. I got an education. I stumbled across a site for people with life-threatening allergies and the parents of children with life-threatening allergies. The first thing I found out was that, although rare, it is a lot more common than I had realized, but being angry I posted my question, "Do you really think that a ban is necessary?" I used all my arguments. If a child is allergic to bees, do you keep all the kids in at recess? If a child is in a wheel chair, do you build a ramp or tear out the stairs? I mean after all, there are other allergies out there, and there is no way to guarantee that the school will be completely free from these foods, so where do you draw the line?

At first I wasn’t open at all to hear their reply, I was just venting, but then I really started reading what they had to say, and it was then that I started learning. You see… I put my daughter on the bus for the first time in her life. I was afraid she wouldn’t find her classroom. I was afraid she would forget to raise her hand before she spoke. I was afraid she would get on the wrong bus coming home, but what I wasn’t afraid of was that I would get a call from the school saying that my daughter wouldn’t be coming home; she is being rushed to the hospital by ambulance because of a common, everyday peanut butter sandwich. It was then that I realized what these parents are going though. Some don’t have the luxury of worrying about little things.

These parents aren’t trying to take anything away from our kids; they are trying to keep their kids safe. I looked back at my initial reaction so I could figure out what had made me so mad, and when I was completely honest with myself, I found the answer. I was mad because I was going to be inconvenienced. I was willing to put a child’s life in danger so my daughter could eat a sandwich, and what did that say about me? I mean, if I saw a dog attacking any child wouldn’t I do whatever I could to protect that child? And if that is the case, why am I so opposed to eliminating peanut butter from 5 meals out of the 21 she will have in the course of a week?

The fact of the matter is you don’t keep all the kids in at recess, but you don’t put a child with a bee sting allergy in a lunchroom full of bees either.

The fact is EVERY child is entitled to a “free and appropriate public education in a least restrictive environment”, translated that means the school has a legal responsibility to provide a safe learning environment for ALL children, and where do you draw the line? You draw the line when the unique needs of the community served by the school have been met.

It’s not easy to put your child in the hands of strangers when you know that many of them may have just eaten, or are bringing to lunch, the same thing that is poison to your child, and many of these parents would home school if they could, but just like you and I, sometimes that is not an option.

The parents of children with life-threatening allergies don’t expect us all to learn this overnight, and they don’t expect us to shop for our children as if they had this allergy, and while they know that the school will never be completely free from these foods, one less sandwich, or one less snack containing these foods being brought into the schools, will be one less risk to their child’s life.

I am not saying that it hasn’t been a struggle at times, but you have to ask yourselves… Is convenience really more important than life? In my book, that answer is no, so any small inconvenience I have is worth it.

Sincerely,

Lisa Turner

_________________
Karen, proud Mom of
- DS1 (12 yrs): allergic to cashews, pistachios, Brazil nuts, potatoes, some legumes, some fish, pumpkin seeds; OAS
- DS2 (1o yrs): ana. to dairy, eggs, peanuts; asthma


Last edited by KarenOASG on Wed Feb 28, 2007 11:11 pm, edited 1 time in total.

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PostPosted: Wed Feb 28, 2007 5:35 pm 
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Joined: Thu Mar 03, 2005 9:38 pm
Posts: 1643
Location: Toronto
Karen, the letter is from Lisa - not Linda. :)

fyi, she still sometimes posts at pa.com, though not as regularly.

_________________
self: allergy to sesame seeds and peanuts
3 sons each with at least one of the following allergies: peniciilin, sulfa-based antibiotic, latex, insect bites/stings


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PostPosted: Wed Feb 28, 2007 11:11 pm 
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Joined: Tue Nov 29, 2005 4:04 pm
Posts: 2044
Location: Gatineau, Quebec
Sorry - typo - I got it right at the bottom though! I've updated the post to correct my mistake.

K.

_________________
Karen, proud Mom of
- DS1 (12 yrs): allergic to cashews, pistachios, Brazil nuts, potatoes, some legumes, some fish, pumpkin seeds; OAS
- DS2 (1o yrs): ana. to dairy, eggs, peanuts; asthma


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PostPosted: Thu Mar 01, 2007 7:44 am 
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Joined: Sat Jul 29, 2006 10:49 am
Posts: 50
Location: Edmonton
that letter has me in tears. Amazing thanks for sharing.

_________________
ds 6: ana to peanuts and fish, cats, dogs, horses, rabbits, many environmental
dd 12: reacted to pork rinds
dh: brazil nuts
me: shrimp, mangos, environmental


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PostPosted: Thu Mar 01, 2007 10:59 am 
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Joined: Thu Aug 11, 2005 6:48 pm
Posts: 614
Location: Ontario, Canada / Cambridge, UK
Great letter! It should be sent to all those parents out there who feel the same way as Lisa originally did.

_________________
16-year-old son: peanuts, nuts, raw egg whites, asthmatic
Self: allergic rhinitis, fragrance/chemical sensitivities, oral allergy syndrome


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PostPosted: Sun Mar 04, 2007 12:07 pm 
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Joined: Sat Oct 01, 2005 8:55 pm
Posts: 412
Location: Vancouver, BC
I am in tears now too.

If anyone is able to, please let this Lisa know how much this means to us all. I am sure we have all been on the recieving edge of the initial reaction she describes. The hurt and pain of having to justify our kids lives leave scars that are deep. Lisa has gone a long way this morning in helping me to heal those scars.

I knew deep down that most parents of non-allergic kids, given time and education, rethink their reactions, but it really helps to have it written in a letter.

I am very grateful.


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PostPosted: Sun Mar 04, 2007 10:19 pm 
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Joined: Thu Mar 03, 2005 9:38 pm
Posts: 1643
Location: Toronto
Pamela, I've sent Lisa an e-mail with a link to this thread. i though she might like to read what people have to say. :)

_________________
self: allergy to sesame seeds and peanuts
3 sons each with at least one of the following allergies: peniciilin, sulfa-based antibiotic, latex, insect bites/stings


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PostPosted: Mon Apr 30, 2007 9:24 pm 
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Joined: Mon Apr 30, 2007 9:03 pm
Posts: 1
Thank you so much for your kind words. I am only glad to help out in anyway I can. I have since updated my original letter and written a blog and I will post it here for you. If it can be helpful to anybody, please feel free to use is as you see fit.

_________________________________________________
I am the mother of 3 wonderful kids. The oldest of the three is in second grade this year. Thankfully none of them have food allergies. My oldest is a very picky eater; I can’t get her to eat any meat at all, with the exception of chicken nuggets and salami. Something she does love though is peanut butter and jelly. In fact its one of the only things I can get her to eat in sandwich form.

About 2 weeks before she started Kindergarten, I received a letter stating that peanuts and peanut products would not be allowed at the school due to a child who had a severe peanut allergy. Was I annoyed? Oh, you bet I was. I even decided to fight the ban. I called newspapers, wrote letters to the editor, called television stations and rallied other parents together who felt the same way I did and asked them to attend the school board meeting and “make our voices heard”.

Then I went online to find ammunition. I wanted to read everything I could to be prepared at that meeting. What I wasn’t prepared for though was getting an education along the way.

You started reading this thinking that I was going to be another ticked off mom that opposed a peanut ban. Surprise… I whole heartedly support a ban in elementary schools.


You see, I found a site for people with life threatening allergies and I wanted to hear what they had to say so I posed my question. “Do you really think a ban is necessary?” I didn’t really care what they had to say, I was skimming through the posts looking for people who supported my argument, and surprisingly some did. But then I really looked at what everybody had to say, and they all had one thing in common. They just wanted their kids to be safe and they wanted them to be able to be kids, if only for a little while.

The word allergy is misleading. I know when I hear the word allergy my first thought was sneezing, itchy watery eyes, maybe a few hives. You take a benadryl and there you go. Well peanut allergies are not that simple.


Picture this, a child in the lunch room has a pb&j sandwich, that child does not wash their hands after lunch and goes out to recess where they proceed to play on the equipment. That child climbs up the slide ladder and slides down. Right behind him (her) is another child; only this one has a peanut allergy. They climb the ladder and by the time they reach the top they already have hives and itching, they know they have come in contact with peanuts. They slide down the slide and by the time they reach the bottom their airway is shut off and they cant breath, they cant run for help, they cant do anything but hope that somebody has noticed what is going on and reacts quickly enough with a shot of epinephrine. Luckily the teacher does notice and has the epi-pen on hand.

Great you are thinking right? WRONG, even though the teacher has reacted quickly and did everything she was supposed to do, that child is now waiting for an ambulance. You see, the epi-pen is not a “get out of allergy free” card. It only slows down the reaction enough to allow time for emergency medical help to arrive. The child is hanging on by a thread by the time they reach the hospital, but they make it and the doctors meet them at the door. Well here’s the other kick in the pants, there is no guarantee that they can stop anaphylaxis, and there is no guarantee that he will respond to anything they do. He could still die. All because some parent couldn’t be inconvenienced enough to remove peanut butter from one of the 5 meals their child would eat at school.


That’s right, your child will eat 21 meals in the course of a week, only 5 of them are in school, eliminating peanut butter and peanut products from those 5 are not going to put your child in danger, but not eliminating them will put another child in danger. I can’t say that the above scenario is the exact one that will happen, there are different degrees of reactions, but you never know when the big one is going to hit.


I know all the arguments that are going through your head, and let me go through them one by one.



1. What if a child is allergic to bee stings, do you ban recess?

Well, no you don't, but you don't put them in a room full of bees either. In elementary school a majority of the kids bring pb&j, for whatever reason, whether it be economical, convenient, or just because its something you don't have to fight with them to eat. Therefore the allergic child is put in a life or death situation daily. Residue is left everywhere and unless it is properly cleaned up, it can remain there for days, putting that child at risk everywhere he goes in that school.



2. What happens when they go out in the real world?

In the real world they do just fine. Their parents make sure to wipe things down that may be contaminated, but out in the real world they won’t be forced into a condensed area with the food that is most toxic to them. They go to parks, and beaches. They do practically everything our kids do. In a class room you wouldn’t be able to pick out which ones are allergic and which ones aren’t. They are normal everyday kids.



3. What about all the other food allergies?

Yes, there are other food allergies that are just as severe as peanut allergies. Some of the most common are milk, wheat, seafood, soy, sesame, and egg. However with these other allergies it is rare for them to cause an airborne reaction, or a severe contact reaction. I’m not saying that it doesn’t happen, but not as often as it does with peanut allergies.



4. With an allergy so severe you should home school.

I don't know about you, but I couldn’t home school. I am not that patient. Some states require that the parent that is home schooling to be a college grad. There are single moms and dads who need to work so they can’t home school. There are many reasons why home schooling isn’t for everyone. Just because you have a child with a food allergy doesn’t make you automatically equipped to be their teacher.



5. What about before school? What if my kid has peanut butter toast?

Truth is, you don't have to stop your child from having peanut butter at home. You can, if you choose, be considerate enough to not to serve your child peanut butter before school, but if you do, the risk of causing a reaction in an allergic child is still smaller than a lunchroom full of the stuff. The risk is smaller still if you make sure they wash their face and hands and brush their teeth after eating it.



6. Where do you draw the line?

That is a very good question, because you are right, there are other food allergies. So should the school ban milk and eggs and everything else that can cause anaphylactic shock? If there are kids in the school that are allergic to them, well the answer is yes. You see the school has to provide a free and appropriate public education in the least restrictive environment. Translated that means that public schools have a LEGAL obligation to provide a safe learning environment for ALL students, not just the majority. The answer to the above question is that the line is drawn when the unique needs of the community served by that school have been met.



Look, it’s not easy to put your child in the hands of strangers when you know that some of them may have just eaten or are bringing to lunch the thing that is poison to your child, and they would home school if they could, but just like you and I, sometimes that is not an option.



Contrary to what some of you believe; these parents are not trying to take anything away from our kids. They just want their kids to be safe and maybe a little carefree for a short time in their lives. Let’s face it. Asking kids this age to be responsible for life and death on a daily basis is just crazy, they are after all kids, and they don't always think before they act.



These parents know that the school will never be completely free from these products, they are not stupid; and they don't expect us to shop for our children like they are the ones with this deadly allergy; but one less sandwich, one less snack containing these foods being brought to school is one less risk to their child’s life.



All parents dealing with peanut allergies have different comfort zones. Most of them do not allow their children to eat anything other than what they (the parents) provide. When shopping for your child however, the only things that most (some) pa parents want is actual peanuts (tree nuts) and products containing peanuts to be omitted from the schools. Products that may contain or are packaged in a facility that processes peanuts are of minimal risk to their children. Their child would actually have to ingest them to have a reaction. Now there are exceptions to this rule, for instance, Granola bars are may contain (most do contain) and tend to be very sticky, if it is indeed peanut containing and the sticky residue isn’t cleaned properly, it can cause a reaction in the allergic child. I do repeat, parents have different comfort zones, some are stricter than others.



Thinking back to kindergarten, I put my daughter on the bus for the first time in her life and I was afraid that she wouldn’t know where to go once she got to school, and I was afraid that she would forget to raise her hand before she spoke. I was really afraid that she would get on the wrong bus coming home; of course through the year I didn’t worry about these things anymore. But the parents of children with life-threatening allergies are scared every day that this will be the day they get the dreaded call that their child is en route to the hospital because of a common everyday peanut product. They have to worry whether or not their child will ever come home again. I don't know about you, but I thank God that I don't have to send my daughter off to school everyday in fear that I will never see her alive again. These parents would love to worry about the little things.



When I looked back at my initial reaction of being opposed to the ban, I am ashamed. When I was honest with myself, I mean completely honest, I was mad because I was going to be inconvenienced. I was willing to put a little boy’s life in danger so my daughter could eat a sandwich she liked. What does that say about me?


I was mad because I felt like my daughter was being deprived of something she wanted, funny thing is, when I told my daughter what was going on, she was absolutely fine with not being able to take pb&j for lunch, in fact, she said she didn’t want to take it if it could hurt an other child.


Maybe we should all take a lesson from our kids.


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