Oral immunotherapy was our fix for Maddy. Our chicken soup, if you will.
|Maddy can play sports without worry!|
Often when we talk to people about Madeline’s OIT, especially with non-food allergy folk, the discussion turns to food. Usually, they are very excited, as are we, by the idea of this new scientific development they have never heard about and like to hear about all the different things she can now enjoy. Due to the particular protocol that Dr. Mayer follows, his patients are able to eat any amount of peanuts, peanut butter or peanut products they’d like as long as specific rules are followed if they ingest peanuts – no exercise for 2-4 hours, no sleep for an hour, and keep that epinephrine around, “just in case” until who-knows-when at this point. We give Maddy her peanut butter toast or peanut M & M’s, her dose of choice, in the evening, about an hour before bed when we don’t plan any high impact activities, and the epi-pen continues to be a part of our routine. A small price to pay for such a feeling of freedom and security.
Maddy, even as much as everyone says to her, “I wish the doctor prescribed Peanut M & M’s to me,” and even as she eats them every day to stifle that peanut allergy, still doesn’t like the taste of peanuts or peanut butter too much, so isn’t one to choose either on her own. Due to OIT, however, she may eat any cross-contaminated foods with no restrictions, which has opened up a world of possibilities unknown to her before and somewhat forgotten to us! Our world has changed, for us, tremendously, but for parents with kids without allergies these are just simply normal activities. And somewhat mundane, I’m sure. To us, though, it is downright exciting!
|Restaurants out with friends? No worries!|
When living with food allergies, your day to day, minute to minute checks for your allergen become so normal, that when the threat of anaphylaxis is taken away it is an amazing relief! Not only the thrill of the idea that anaphylaxis is gone, but the knowledge that she will live real normal now. Not peanut allergy normal anymore… that is unreal!
Thanks to our “new” normal, Maddy can now attend a birthday party without us contacting the parent a week in advance, without having her own special cupcake, or her own peanut free ice cream and that has been just awesome! And thanks to our new normal lives the fact that we can walk into any restaurant and order off the menu without the peanut allergy proclamation makes me tear up almost every time! Our new normal grocery trips save me time and if I dare look at the label, she gives me the most evil eye any seven year old can give – she is simply over it! These small things may not seem big to the average person, but to us – HUGE!
These seemingly minor life experiences continue to allow Maddy to be the person Maddy wants to be and should be – a confident, independent, and now liberated little lady who continues to share her zest for life with the her family and friends! Rather than be separated from those people, she can build better and stronger relationships with them.
|Creating better bonds - thanks to OIT!|
As an ardent reader and researcher about food allergies and an educator as well, I am reminded often about the bigger picture, too and how kids are affected by food allergies as they age. Maddy is just going into 3rd grade and we have limited experience with bullying issues in general, let alone in relation to those specific to food allergies, though we had one incident that was scary. In first grade, Maddy was chased by a girl who repeatedly told her that she had peanut butter for lunch and was going to get her. Maddy was freaked, her best friend stepped in, helped her out and by the next day we had the situation well under control. Aside from that one incident, in these younger grades, Maddy had almost always been lifted up, cared for, and protected by her classmates. As a mom and a teacher, I know that times would change as the ages of the kids changed.
A friend recently sent an article to me concerning bullying related incidents and food allergies - it’s NOT a pretty picture. The group FARE, the largest food allergy research group, has been trying to bring some public attention this issue, publishing a public service announcement about food allergy bullying. OIT has at least allowed us to take this dynamic out of the picture – there are plenty of reasons for kids to tease each other, pressure one another, and to, heaven forbid, even bully each other – OIT has taken that smoking gun away from the bullies who would try with Maddy from now on! Maddy is over it; we are over it! We aren’t sweating the small stuff anymore and it is allowing us to not fret over the big stuff later!
In fact, oral immunotherapy has allowed Maddy to enjoy life so much she doesn’t have to sweat the small stuff anymore, she is continuing to build confidence in ways that I don’t think she would have been able to if she hadn’t had OIT, and she is enjoying things she for sure would not have been able to before. Rather, she is loving it - every last bit of it!