I would like you you to imagine for a minute that every day, when your child went off to school, they had to travel over a bridge. And not just any bridge, this is a very narrow bridge, a bridge with no handrails to hold onto, and it is barely wide enough for one person. If your child were to fall off this bridge, they would land on the rocks below. IT would mean a certain and painful death.
For the first many years of your child’s life, you simply carried them across this bridge. It was too terrifying to do anything else, but eventually your child became too big and you had to let them walk. You always walked with them, you held their hand, you steadied them when necessary. As your child got even older, occasionally there were times when you had to let them cross the bridge alone. You waited, at the edge of the bridge, praying, waiting for them to cross to safety and you breathed a sigh of relief and sent up a prayer of praise every time they made it. You live in fear though, because you know there will come a day when your child will have to traverse this bridge alone, completely alone, without your input at all. You will not always be there to tell them where to step how fast or slow to walk, they will be on their own. You hope and pray that you have taught them how to do it safely.
This is the life of a family with fatal food allergies. Food cannot be avoided, it is required to sustain life, but for a child with an anaphylactic food allergy, every bite is potentially life threatening. Every time that child is out of your sight, you worry, are they going to eat something? Will they be able to read all the labels properly? Is today the day I get that call from a friend’s house?
The places that should be the safest for a child are often the most dangerous. Church for instance is one of the scariest places for our family. As a pre schooler and elementary student church has always been the most dangerous place for Ann. Everywhere you look there is food. It’s being served for snacks or being used as object lessons. It seemed for years she had to be removed from the classroom so often due to the presence of some type of dairy, that we simply stopped taking her. She came with us. It’s hard to explain to a child why God made them like this, and because of their allergy they cannot attend Sunday School like the other children. Or why every treat at church for doing well is a pizza party or an ice cream social, that she can not only, not imbibe in, but she cannot be in the room at all. Food allergies can be a very isolating illness.
Statistics have shown that the second most likely time for a child to die of anaphylaxis is the teen years (the first being the initial anaphylactic reaction) The reason for this is because the child is beginning to take responsibility for their own allergy and they are becoming more independent from mom. The child forgets to read a label, or decides to ‘risk it’ when out with friends at the hamburger joint, thinking surely the buns are dairy free…
We are told, in the Bible, not to worry. For the parents of a child with a fatal food allergy this is a tall order. It is something we must work at daily, trusting God daily, hourly, for our child’s safety.
This next week is Food Allergy Awareness Week. That is why I write this today. We don’t talk about Ann’s allergy a lot, because it is not all of who she is. She is so much more that ‘the girl with the diary allergy’ I don’t want it to define her. But it is just something that has become part of our family. It’s is interwoven in our daily lives. It dictates how we school, church, vacation, spend our free time. It is our life. But I understand it is not YOUR life. It is hard for someone who does not live with anaphylaxis to understand.
Over the next week, Food Allergy Awareness Week, I will write out a little bit of our daily lives. How we live this life. How we’ve succeeded and how we’ve failed. Because Ann’s not the only little kid out there with a potential ticking time bomb inside her and I’m not the only mommy trying to keep her child safe. There are a lot of us out there. Over this next week, I’m going to tell our story.