Happy Birthday, Maddy!

When Maddy turned seven, our family celebrated by beginning a new chapter that was be life changing, helped to raise awareness for those suffering from food allergy, and helped educate people about OIT. Now, as Maddy turns 8, and will begin the 3rd grade, so many possibilities are open to her as a child that doesn't have food allergies standing in her way!

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Check out my other blog, The Best Medicine, about my husband's battle against cancer.

Sunday, March 24, 2013

Where There is a Will, There is a Way

Consultation day - feeling good!
I will never forget the first time I read about Oral Immunotherapy. It was probably the only good thing that I can credit to our first allergist. Harsh, I know, but she did little to support us. She gave us an Epi-pen Jr., told us to stay away from peanuts, and pointed me to the Food Allergy & Anaphylactic Network (now FARE). Eventually, after sorting through a mess of other information, I remembered this tidbit of advice and I joined FAAN. Aside from this, our allergist did nothing – not even an Epi training. So, when a parent like me - desperate for information, anxious to keep her child safe, and frantic for a cure came across news of this possibility, this promise, this hope… my eyes lit up with excitement, eager to know when, when, when… when would my baby be rid of this terrible affliction that could take her life with a little bite? When would this research become reality?

The morning I read that first article - my first article anyway - in the FAAN Newsletter, I knew there would be something for Maddy someday. I put a number on it – within five years, by the time Maddy would turn eight, there would be something to take this Godforsaken allergy away, or lessen the severity of peanut allergies anyway. There were times I’d come across some information and become somewhat obsessed – articles led me to more articles, studies, clinical trials, and interesting tidbits of information – all suggesting that we could hope for a better future where peanut allergies would not threaten her very existence. Patience, and obviously the salty little thing served on every airplane, Asian cuisine, and Easter basket, was my greatest rival. 

My metaphorical toe impatiently tapped as I waited for that cure to hit headlines. Each time we had blood work completed, trained a new person on the Epi-pen, or started a new school year, I longed for a food allergy cure. An urgent feeling tightened in my gut and an ache swallowed my heart when my child said, “Mom, the substitute teacher said I had to have the snack today, but it wasn’t okay for me.” It was disheartening to hear that ‘responsible adults’ put her in danger so many times, but good to know that even as a kindergartner she worked to advocate for herself or asked if a food was okay for her throughout first grade. And though we’d educated parent after parent – this peanut allergy thing was getting more and more difficult for her, emotionally, even if it was something we’d lived with all of these years. This cure couldn’t come fast enough. 

No need to check these eggs!
At this point in my research, I’d advanced my studies to social media, as all respectable scholars might. Not only did I find a group, the Peanut Anaphylaxis Cure Facebook page, but I found a case, a person, a child who had completed a therapy that I could link some research to that made sense - and I wanted it! I wanted it so bad for Maddy I could taste it! I could taste it as well as a peanut butter and jelly sandwich with a cold glass of milk. As far as I was concerned, it would be hers someday – I would will it to happen (insert maniacal laugh here)!

A few things panicked me though – there weren’t doctors near us at the time and the cost seemed like it could break us. Without it being an FDA approved treatment, how could we afford it? We were simply not in a position to do anything but wait. On Facebook I’d begun to see a few people who were doing the unbelievable – traveling many miles to a doctor either by car or by airplane, and even more unbelievable – relocating to get their children to a doctor, university, or hospital to provide treatment for peanut desensitization. My jealousy set in a little, but reality pushed me down. That would never be our case – our jobs held us home, not to mention other realities – house, health & family.

Our first allergist was the first allergist I ever spoke to about peanut desensitization. She simply told me that it was not something available and left it at that. Our second allergist I’ve written about before – a highly recommended man who spoke to me as an educated person regarding food allergies, just didn’t believe in OIT as an option, especially in private practice. I spoke with him at length about it and respect his opinion. In fact it weighed heavily on our own decision, but so did my own instincts, my own education and what I had seen occurring with OIT in other people (http://maddys7yearitch.blogspot.com/2012/08/two-thumbs-up.html).

My family has had great luck with a few doctors; we have also had not so great luck with many – some that have changed our lives dramatically. We have been in enough offices to know that when it doesn’t feel right - get another opinion and don't feel bad about it. Doctors are human, not superhuman – they make mistakes, have opinions, and they can’t know it all. A doctor may or may not have even the same amount of information as you about a subject, believe me; we have learned this the hard way more than once. When I asked our first allergist about a new test that was gaining popularity in the allergy world at the time, the uKnow Peanut Mollecular Allergy Test, which assesses the blood for specific peanut proteins to test for anaphylaxis, she knew nothing about it and asked ME to send her information, rather than research it herself – didn’t even write down the name! It was ridiculous for us to think we should be taking the opinion from an allergist we had received no support from and then an allergist I’d only just met, no matter how highly recommended! A consultation with the man completing OIT was in order, even if it seemed scary. Losing Maddy to a cross-contaminated cupcake was terrifying, scarier even than a consultation. The time had come to make a decision – OIT was now within our reach, we had to check it out at the very least. 

Walking into Dr. Mayer’s office, we were anxious – that she wouldn’t qualify and maybe a little that she would. We also knew that OIT is not FDA approved. But the numbers – the amount of children it is helping - don’t lie. It is working and it is working well. Our visit with Dr. Mayer made me feel comfortable – it aligned with much of what I had already researched - from others, books & on-line - and it educated Madeline and Jason perfectly. Jason was especially reassured by the fact that she isn’t taking any kind of pill or something unnatural and if something did happen, which was unlikely – we were trained.  And as for the cost, we were more than happy to find out that the office worked with our insurance company. Another bonus in this journey! 

Panera! A new favorite! Not available to her before OIT!
Dr. Mayer had the will to treat food allergies, a passion for it, and he had the knowledge and the skill. We trusted him.  He had found the way by working with another in his field – an experienced doctor that shared his understanding of food allergies, Dr.Wasserman of Dallas Allergy Immunology.  Dr. Mayer had worked for years to find the perfect time to enter into food allergy treatment – he didn’t rush in to publish a paper, make a buck, or get in while the gettin’ was good. His passion felt true. We liked him, liked the office and liked what he had to say. Neither he, nor I entered into this without the necessary education and a lot of thought– his was the kind we needed in a doctor, mine was that needed in a mother making an informed decision. Both so very important in this partnership. Our family felt an immediate trust and bond with Dr. Mayer that no matter what, he was in it for the same cause - Madeline. We went in informed, though - we researched before hand - about the treatment and about the doctor. We didn't go into it with one opinion or one article source. We advocated for Maddy and ourselves by being informed patients and parents. Dr. Mayer has always treated us as such.

OIT was right for us and continues to work in this family. Much like any parent – we would do anything for our child, so we just had to know and make that trip across the state. We had the will, we found the way, and it just made the most sense. As you may well know, we are all so glad we did - just think of the possibilities it will bring for our family and for other food allergy families in the future!


  1. I'd recommend Drs. Wasserman and Sugerman at Dallas Allergy and Immunology any day. We've seen Dr. Sugerman since my son was first diagnosed and I can't wait to see if we can take part in OIT (you have to be five years old).

  2. Glad to hear! Dr. Mayer has great things to say about Dr. Wasserman and his staff. I've heard great things about them. It is so cool to see people connecting across the country in these different offices. Great luck to you, Jen!