Our daughter Samantha is 11 years old and severely allergic to a long list of foods: peanuts, nuts, eggs, soy, shellfish, chickpeas, garlic, lentils, green peas, peaches, pumpkin seeds and chestnuts. She also was diagnosed at the age of 7 with celiac disease, and she is lactose intolerant. Food isn’t her only issue: Samantha has asthma and is allergic to many pollens and animal dander (dogs, cats, rabbits and horses). Plus, she has eczema.
It’s a lot to manage, but Samantha usually does it extremely well. She truly is an amazing girl – an “A” student and a competitive soccer player, who doesn’t let the challenges of these conditions hold her back.
With the numerous food allergies and celiac disease, we are, of course, extremely limited in the choice of foods we can purchase for her. Unfortunately a lot of gluten-free products on the market contain her allergens, so they are off-limits. Samantha’s diet consists mainly of whole foods, and we prepare most of her meals and snacks – to ensure that there is no cross-contamination with gluten or her allergens. It is the norm for our family to carry along food no matter where we go.
We have always educated Samantha, family, friends and her school on the severity of her allergies. We have shown them how to use the epinephrine auto-injector, and we taught Samantha to read food label ingredients from a very young age. She is a bright girl and has had to grow up much faster, given her circumstances.
We’re also most fortunate to have the medical support of Dr. Susan Waserman, our daughter’s allergist, and her nurse, Jan Falcone. The care they provide has been outstanding, and we honestly don’t know what we would have done without them.
Yet even for the most well-prepared allergy family, a mistake can happen. On September 16, 2013, Samantha was with a group of her best friends and had walked to the corner store. She purchased a candy called Laffy Taffy and unfortunately made the uncharacteristic error of not reading the ingredients.
As well, she forgot her EpiPen at her friend’s house, which was about 10 minutes away. She began to eat the candy once they left the store and noticed shortly after that her voice began to change. She had difficulty speaking and her throat became very dry.
She immediately wanted to get back to her friend’s house to get a glass of water. That friend thought to read the ingredients on the candy wrapper and told her that the candy contained egg.
Next: The reaction & response