Our food allergy journey started on the 24th August 2006 when our world was turned upside down. I remember the day clearly for many reasons… Firstly, it was the day after Oliver’s older brother’s 2nd birthday. I remember this especially well as I think back often and wonder… if Oliver’s first anaphylactic reaction had of happened the day before at the remote zoo that we were visiting, as a birthday celebration, we may not have been as blessed as we are today enjoying every minute with Oliver now. Secondly, I remember that we had been living in Switzerland for only a few months, so I didn’t even know the emergency number!!! (it’s the first thing I memorise every new country that we visit now). Thirdly, Oliver’s grandparents were visiting from Australia (so thankful for their support every day but especially on that day). Fourthly, I remember it was cold, wet and muddy outside even though it was an August Summer’s day in Europe. And I remember that it was first thing in the morning as we were all still in our pyjamas…
Oliver was 7 months and 1 week old. I love this time in a baby’s life. When they really start to interact and become responsive to you. They definitely know who you are and they smile, laugh, interact, play, sit, reach, touch, babble, begin to crawl… they really start to become their own person 🙂 You can see where their precious future is heading… you have even probably already planned it out in your head for them 😉 Their developmental journey just explodes from this minute forward. I was so looking forward to the months ahead and the adventures of learning and developing that we were about to embark on together with Oliver growing into someone really special.
Oliver was an absolutely beautiful baby (don’t all mum’s say that. lol!). He didn’t have any eczema or asthma. He had beautiful soft, olive skin (he still does till this day). He was generally a very good and healthy baby. He had a little bit of reflux to which his paediatrician said that this can be normal for any baby. Oliver appeared to be a big eater. As I was soley breast feeding him at that time I felt that he was not getting enough milk from me and I wanted to try and compensate with top ups of formula milk… but Oliver really didn’t like the bottle.
The morning of the 24th of August we thought that we would try to give some formula milk to Oliver. We had probably given him no more than 1-2 ml with great difficulty as Oliver really was refusing to have any. Thinking that he was a fussy baby and nothing really more we tried to really push him to have more… maybe he was trying to tell us something?? Within seconds we knew that something was terribly wrong… Oliver immediately went red from head to toe, started to swell quickly, became a floppy doll, and dropped in and out of consciousness… My nursing instincts kicked in straight away… I knew exactly what was happening although I didn’t understand why but knew that we were in a lot of trouble if we didn’t do something fast. With no forewarnings… who as a mum carries adrenalin…??? Who as a mum carries anti-histamine?? Who as a mum carries cortisone or steroids for a baby? We had nothing that we needed.
I rushed to the sink holding him closely and tried to flush everything possible from Oliver’s mouth. I tried to force him to breast feed to try and dilute or flush out any residue. And I put him in cold water to try and narrow his blood vessels somewhat… all the time thinking that I have no idea what the emergency number was in Switzerland. The only number I knew off by heart at that time was my husband’s number. I knew that he would know the number of the clinic down the road as he had to go there just the week before. I knew that this was an emergency clinic as we had heard and seen an emergency helicopter land in the paddock at the end of our street not long before this. This would be our best option I was thinking… to get Oliver’s dad to ring the clinic and explain the emergency and get them down here as soon as possible. All these thoughts were rushing through my head all at the same time.
Oliver’s dad rang back and explained that we had to somehow get down to the clinic immediately as they have all the big emergency equipment down there and that there was no way that they could bring as much of what was needed to us. Without even thinking about how we were going to do this or how I was going to get this little baby that was in and out of consciousness, swelling to almost double in size and on the edge of losing him to the clinic down the road… I ran outside in my pyjama’s (non the wiser), in bare feet, holding onto Oliver tightly, still trying to force breast feed him and shouting at him constantly to try and make him remain conscious… and I drove down the street…
They were ready and waiting for us and within seconds of arriving at the clinic IV lines were inserted into Oliver, adrenaline administered, concoctions of medication and treatment given and slowly but surely our prayers were answered… to see life return to your baby’s face and body before your eyes is truly miraculous. And this is when I broke down from letting go of the nurses role I was playing to mum again and to the reality of all that was happening… it was very overwhelming and a feeling that will never leave me ever…
Since Oliver’s first anaphylactic reaction we have found out… sometimes via tests and sometimes via anaphylactic reactions… that Oliver is anaphylactic to dairy, wheat, egg, rye, peanuts and tree nuts. We started this blog as the journey from that day on was a difficult one… it was a journey of great change, of enormous learning, of great hurdles climbed and of enormous heartbreak and terror experienced. But also of wonderful adventures, great successes and amazing friendships formed. Here we are now 8 and half years on and we have learnt so much, gained so much, developed so much that we wanted to share it all with others that are going through what we have already experienced, what we have been through… so that we can maybe make their journey just that little bit easier, little bit less painful or maybe even save someone’s life! If we can help just one person, soften one person’s journey, educate just one person about food allergies from our experiences, from our learning… we have achieved our goal.
The reality is that food allergies are on the rise, but no one knows why… The percentage of children with a food allergy has increased by about 50% between 1997 and 2011 in our developed, westernised world. The statistics are now stating that 1 in 10 Australian babies (1 in 13 in the USA) will be born with a food allergy or develop a food allergy in their first year of life… it’s something that we will all come across in our daily lives if we haven’t already. We will know someone that has food allergies. It’s something we should all be aware of, educate ourselves about and learn how we can help each other.
This blog is to educate, share stories, support and grow together. We hope we have succeeded in doing this in our first year of being together and blogging as a food allergy community and we hope that we can offer so much more in the future… Share on our FB page, comment on our blog. Let us know what you are looking for. We love hearing from you! We love sharing your stories too. We can make what feels like a very isolating and scary journey… one travelled together and by many. Together we can learn so much and help so many….
This week is Food Allergy Week in the US and next week it is Food Allergy Week in Australia. It’s a week that has been created to devote a conscious week towards awareness in all things food allergy. We feel education about food allergies is key and encompasses so much. Education about all things food allergy whether it be… learning to live with food allergies, food allergy friendly recipes, food allergy support, how to use an EpiPen, how to make school a safe environment for your food allergy child and so much more… that we will be using this week ahead to filter even more education and support and ideas your way… Let us know if there is something in particular you want to hear about, a recipe that you want be able to make, anything….
Stay safe. And thank you so very much for helping us help educate and support so many by being a part of Oliver’s Choice in it’s first year!!
Yours in health and happiness. Simone & Oliver xo