My Vigilant Advocate
“Thank you to my mother for her many years of working to help keep me safe in the face of food allergies.”
Guest post by Teen Advisory Group (TAG) member Hadley Husisian
Saying that my mother is a worrier is an understatement. Our home security system, which she had installed, rivals that of Fort Knox. Each day, she leaves twenty minutes early for appointments because she may get caught driving behind a garbage truck, or even worse, a dreaded school bus. And you don’t even want to know how many times she checks the oven, front door and iron before leaving for vacation.
However, when I was 4 years old and had my first allergic reaction making peanut butter birdfeeders at school, my mother found out that she really had something to worry about. Since no one in our family had ever been diagnosed with food allergies, she set out to arm herself with tons of information about a condition that could potentially prove fatal to me or include me among the 200,000 Americans who require emergency medical care each year for allergic reactions to food.
Since my diagnosis, my mother has spent hundreds of hours reading books, pouring through food allergy websites, and stressing the significance of my food allergy to teachers, coaches, camp counselors and other adults in my life. And she rode in the ambulance with me when I went into anaphylactic shock after my second-grade teacher assured me that the cookies at our class party were allergy-friendly when in reality, they were very much not.
When I was very young and not as skilled at advocating for myself, my mother always worried about leaving me in the care of adults who were not as well versed in what foods might contain nuts or how to respond to an anaphylactic reaction. As I grew older, she constantly drilled into me the importance of always checking the labels (“Just because you ate the food before DOESN’T MEAN that the company hasn’t changed the ingredients!”) and the necessity of speaking to both the waiter and the chef at restaurants about my food allergies (“Make sure you tell them it is LIFE-THREATENING!”). And I have seldom left for school, fencing class or a friend’s house without her shouting after me (“DO YOU HAVE YOUR EPIPENS? ARE YOU SURE?”).
My mother has become a font of knowledge about the places where nut ingredients may be hidden (“MARZIPAN? Did you know that marzipan is made out of ALMONDS?”). And who knew that spaghetti sauce could sometimes contain peanuts? It’s gotten to the point where I merely need to open the refrigerator or pantry door, and she’ll come careening around a corner asking me if I have double-checked the ingredients in a Hot Pocket or a can of clam chowder.
While my family and I like to tease my mother about her constant vigilance about my food allergy, I do recognize that she has my best interests at heart and understands how serious food allergies can be. Without her, I would not know half as much about my food allergy. Her voice has become the voice in my head that reminds me to triple-check ingredients, to tell others about the severity of my food allergies, and to always remember my EpiPens.
So, on this Mother’s Day, I would like to say thank you to my mother for her many years of working to help keep me safe in the face of food allergies. While I may roll my eyes, I feel more secure knowing that she is in my corner.
And yes, Mom, I have my EpiPens.