A little about us…

As there are so many new faces amongst us and with so much going on, we thought that we would give you a quick background and update into why we started our ‘Oliver’s Choice’ FB page

We are an Australian family… well actually Oliver’s father is Swiss and our boys were born in Cyprus… but I am Australian and we now live in Australia… well sort of… we are currently living in Utah but our home is in Australia… but more about all that later… as you can see our life is a little complicated 😉

We have 2 sons. Our oldest has no allergies and our youngest, Oliver, has had anaphylactic reactions to dairy x2, wheat, egg, rye, and x1 to unknown airborne allergens. He is also severely allergic to peanuts and some tree nuts.

When Oliver turned 8 yo (he’s now 11 yo) he really wanted us to share our journey of all things food allergy related to help make other people’s journey in this just that little bit easier than ours was… hence the name Oliver’s CHOICE… Oliver, after our son Oliver and CHOICE… after all the choices Oliver makes day to day living a happy and safe life with severe allergies.

Our hope is that in sharing our journey we can in turn increase awareness, create knowledge, foster hope and through all of this save lives.

We have a ‘free-of’ dairy, wheat, egg, rye, peanuts and tree nuts household and have been living this way for almost 11 years. This is a personal choice and after Oliver’s first near fatal anaphylactic reaction at only 7 months and having 2 children under 2 living in a non English speaking country at the time, it was soon proven that this was the only safe option for us.

When living with severe food allergies to more than 4 allergens, although we make it work, life is extremely difficult and it is somewhat like a ticking time bomb. When the only option you are given is ‘to avoid’ you know in your heart that although this is the obvious, ‘avoiding only works until it doesn’t…’

Your world slowly shrinks smaller and smaller within the safety of the walls that you have created and built up to protect your child and eventually it becomes very isolating. Or… where the very time consuming, in depth planning, of every single outing or excursion or holiday causes so much stress that it all becomes too much and you question whether it is all worth it… it always is of course and we have amazing times creating wonderful memories but it comes with a toll…

Our page has changed and evolved over the years from sharing our ‘recreated’ food favourites, to tips on how to stay safe while doing everything that you want to do that everyone else is so freely and unconsciously doing… We campaign through our page for things that we believe in from increasing allergy awareness, to our latest petition for EpiPens in Public Places, to increasing the awareness of “NO EpiPen NO EAT’, to informing others that there are adrenaline auto injectors in the rest of the world that are more ‘carry-friendly’ that we should also have the choice of here in Australia, to our latest life changing journey towards food allergy freedom through the treatment of Oral Immunotherapy (OIT).

OIT was introduced to us after watching a 60 Minutes report in Sept 2013. A fire was lit within us to research, investigate, ask questions, make contact, create connections and build a rapport with any specialist in the world that was practising this treatment and was willing to take on Oliver’s case. And through all of these actions we are where we are today…

We are currently in Utah (Layton) in the USA in our 12th week of OIT. Going from not having a single allergen in our home to actually feeding Oliver microscopic amounts of all four of his most severe allergens under the strict guidance of his amazing specialist and allergist Dr Jones at Rocky Mountain Allergy Asthma Immunology, has been nothing short of mind blowing…

Our allergy journey has not been an easy one to date and with IgE levels through the roof… were we that wrong to believe that this might also be a difficult road? But with the quality of life that Oliver was living and the continual stress and anxiety that we all were experiencing we thought that it was worth a try no matter how difficult the road might be… That became especially obvious when Oliver asked one day, if he saved all of his Christmas, birthday and chore money, would he have enough money to go to America to get rid of his severe food allergies… We knew then that we had to give OIT at least a chance… Oliver was ready, we were ready and the time was right…

The OIT protocol has been practised in the USA for more than 10 years. Currently the USA has over 100 board certified allergy specialists offering this treatment and that number is growing fast. This treatment is life changing not only physically but also psychologically for the allergic individual and their whole family. It is currently the only option for a safer life other than avoidance. So if this is all we have to choose from at this exact point in time, it didn’t sound like a bad option especially as our specialist currently has a 98% success rate with over 400 OIT graduates! Two of these graduates are families that have taken this journey successfully before us from Australia and are now living a life free of severe food allergies back home.

We would love for others in Australia to be aware that this treatment is actually available and safely offered not only in the USA but in other parts of the world and that there are 1000’s of severe food allergy children’s lives being changed through this treatment. In the passionate words of our amazing specialist we are not only ‘saving lives but giving life back’…

So with that we hope that our page also gives you positive hope on your journey living with severe allergies in whichever road you choose to travel…

Protect Your Child from Bullying

Sadly, it seems that bullying is almost inevitable in children’s lives today…
Bullying is generally “directed towards a less powerful person that is intended to cause harm, distress or fear”…
Living with severe food allergies creates a situation where one is by no fault of their own less powerful…
It creates a higher probability of being bullied for one reason or another… but of course doesn’t mean that this will automatically be the case…
The very best thing that we can do as parents of children with severe food allergies is to foster a kind heart in our children…
Most children living with severe food allergies know what it is like to miss out, to be isolated, to be rejected, to feel different…
They have experienced this all first hand too often from a very young age…
To know empathy, to feel sympathy, to have a kind heart are all emotions that they have most likely learnt first hand…
To foster these emotions and to teach our children mutual respect, and resilience are the greatest gifts that we can nurture in our children to help eradicate the terrible behaviour of bullying towards our children…
I hate that my child has to live with the threat of death on his shoulders each and every day…
No child should have to live with such a scary burden and to then have kids acting as cowards around him and towards him is an added unnecessary blow…
All we can do is hope that all the resilience that they have created for themselves through navigating this difficult road to this point helps and guides them through it all…
Resilience is the “capacity to recover quickly from difficulties”…
Resilience is the “process of adapting well in the face of adversity, trauma, tragedy, threats or significant sources of stress”…
I believe that every difficult situation that Oliver has had to deal with up until this point has led to this day….
We are so very proud of how Oliver recently reacted to his latest “attack”…
A callous, premeditated assault…
It’s not the fist time threats have been made towards Oliver in relation to his life-threatening allergies but it is the first time that someone has physically and intentionally gone out of their way to try and harm him… or at the very least scare the living daylights out of him… who actually knows what the bully is thinking???
Oliver’s locker lock was smeared with food… the bully obviously wanted to scare Oliver… to harm Oliver… or probably just make themselves feel better by making someone else feel bad…
They were obviously wanting Oliver to touch the lock and have a reaction…
Or maybe they have no real idea of the REACTION of their ACTION…
We are so thankful that Oliver took every previous experience that he has had, everything that he has learnt to date and took this act in his stride…
Firstly, and most importantly, Oliver was able to identify that there was something wrong with his lock before he touched it…
He then had the courage to go to someone of authority to tell them of the situation…
Oliver was calm, cool and collected… Although he did describe the situation to his teacher as “my locker has been sabotaged”…
We were thankful that previous knowledge and education to Oliver’s teachers enabled them to see the extreme dangers of this situation and how they should handle the outcomes of this behaviour as extremely serious…
Most of all we were very, very proud that Oliver was able to regulate his emotions which must have been a multitude of any number of emotions from anger to fear to bewilderment…
He was diplomatic in how he handled the situation…
When I asked Oliver that day after school how his day had gone… He started proudly with… “I avoided having a major anaphylactic reaction today Mum!”
Well, I too, learnt something from Oliver that day… how to remain calm in a situation where I very much felt very angry and out of control…
Oliver actually felt sorry for the person that attempted to harm him…
He forgave and he moved on…
Such a brave, brave, resilient boy for all that he has to go through on a day to day basis…
We are very proud of you Oliver… and all the severe food allergy children that have to live with this disease and all that it brings with it…

You are bringing something very special into this world that is bigger than any of us can possibly imagine…

You are our SUPERHEROES!!
Written by: Simone Albert

Always Read Labels

Avoidance is key to staying safe when living with food allergies. It is therefore so important to always read labels. If you have food allergies or if you are buying a food for an allergy friend, you must ALWAYS read and understand what is in the product. Even if it is a product that you have bought and eaten before. Ingredients in a product can sometimes change without warning. We have been caught out by reading the ingredients of one packet and just grabbing a second packet that looks like the same product behind it without reading the second ingredient label properly. We try to not be in a hurry or stressed when we go grocery shopping. And Oliver helps now with reading labels. Teaching your child how to read labels over time leading by example is a wonderful gift to give an allergy child. We read labels as we are buying the product and then when we are putting it in the pantry. We also try to read the label when we use the product. If  you don’t understand the name of an ingredient look it up or don’t use it. Ingredients have many different names. For example in a product containing dairy, the dairy ingredient might be listed as: Ammonium caseinate, butter, calcium caseinate, casein delactosed whey, lactoalbumin, hydrolysed casein and many other names. And… if it doesn’t have a label on it don’t eat it! Never eat without your EpiPen.

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Celebrating 1 Year of Blogging, Educating and talking all things Food Allergy…

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…

Continue reading “Celebrating 1 Year of Blogging, Educating and talking all things Food Allergy…”

EGGstraordinary EGG day !~

Today is EGG DAY at school… it’s when you make just about everything that you can think of with eggs. There are so many things that you can actually make with eggs… it’s quite amazing… What does this day mean to me… because I am severely allergic to eggs it means that I get to stay home with my mum! But she is not letting me do just nothing, which is really annoying 🙁 but instead we are learning all about eggs and what eggs do in recipes so that when we are creating new recipes together we know what we need to do to substitute the egg. When we understand what the egg’s action is in the recipe we can better replace it. It’s been interesting finding out the many things that eggs are used for in cooking and baking and here are just a few that I would like to share with you…

Continue reading “EGGstraordinary EGG day !~”

What’s important …

We believe in knowing where our food comes from… Knowing and understanding what ingredients are in our food is important for everyone but especially important for children with food allergies. Choosing local produce or growing your own is a great start to understanding where our food comes from… Even helping in the kitchen and creating simple dishes helps in understanding what goes into making a finished product and why we use certain ingredients in particular dishes or baked goods… Making good decisions not only helps keep me safe but helps to look after our planet 🙂

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Heading to School with Food Allergies

The new school year is almost upon us here in Australia… this can be a highly anxious time for both parents and children with severe food allergies… whether you are just beginning school or going into a new year level. Risk minimising, planning and communication are key factors in making this transition a smooth one. We have also learnt, that with a few firm rules, school can be a safe place for all involved… including happy kids with severe food allergies.

All our precious children…

These are our precious children… Is there honestly anything worse than losing a child? I can’t think of anything… I couldn’t imagine if anything happened to our little men. We can NEVER be too vigilant in keeping severe food allergy kids safe! We can NEVER EVER let others make us feel that we are ‘over the top, helicopter parents’. This week another family’s world has been changed forever by the loss of another little person dying from severe food allergies. Here is Joseph DeNicola’s story. Although your life was cut way too short… R.I.P. little Joseph…

Don’t ever stop educating others and creating awareness around severe food allergies… Don’t ever stop learning about how to Risk Minimise, how to stay safe, signs and symptoms of a reaction and what the first line treatment is for a severe allergic reaction. Continually educate and continually review how to use an EpiPen. And share all of this with everyone that you know… and when in doubt… ALWAYS use the EpiPen. Adrenaline (epinephrine) cannot kill us but not responding and not giving first line medication where needed can…

Everyone is an individual which can sometimes make severe allergic reactions very different and difficult to recognise as reactions can sometimes be very individual. By sharing these stories and all of our personal experiences we can ALL LEARN from each other. From each of our experiences we can learn and hopefully save someone’s life.

Through education and awareness… understanding follows. Through understanding… consideration, empathy and compassion will come… and with all of this… hopefully the saving of lives!

Anaphylaxis… Know the Signs and Symptoms and Treatment

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You know what they say…. Education is knowledge… knowledge is power… It is so important in this day and age with allergies in Australia rising at such an epidemic rate… that we all do our part to raise awareness and educate others including not only those who live with food allergies and those that are within our direct circle but the wider community. This is our mission at Oliver’s Choice. Oliver wanted to let other kids around his age and younger know that it is ok to live with severe food allergies. That with good planning there is very little that you have to be afraid of or not experience. But another of our missions is to educate the wider public into truly understanding what it is like to live with severe food allergies on a daily basis and how best they are able to assist us in doing that in the most safe and empathetic way…

Continue reading “Anaphylaxis… Know the Signs and Symptoms and Treatment”