Thursday, July 29, 2010

Some Questions are Hard to Answer…Especially When They are About an Elephant.

So we’re in the van yesterday on our way to my parents house when Aaron asks, “Mom, if I was feeding an elephant, and he was eating peanuts, you wouldn’t let me do it would you?” Before you say, “Um, come again,” Aaron has a peanut allergy and it seems to really be on his mind a lot lately because he keeps coming up with these insane ways to bring peanuts into the conversation. I told him that no, if he wanted to feed an elephant peanuts, I would have to say that he could not partake in the pachyderm peanut-feeding process. Then he went on to say how much he wishes that he didn’t have a peanut allergy and I tried to explain to him that he might not always have it. There’s a new study out where doctors are giving children with peanut allergies very small doses of peanuts and after time, they begin to build up a tolerance and viola, no more allergy. “Well, do they shoot it into you,” Aaron asked. Yeah Honey, they load up a pistol with a peanut, stand across the room, and ready, aim, fire there’s your peanut dose for the week.

The night before the elephant conversation, I was putting him to bed and he started saying how much he wished he wasn’t allergic to peanuts and then he asked what I was allergic to when I was a kid. When I told him that I wasn’t allergic to anything, he looked absolutely shocked and with his eyes about as wide as I’ve ever seen them he asked, “So Grandma gave you peanuts when you were a kid?” “Yes,” I said. Then he was like, “Did she even make you peanut butter and jelly sandwiches?” “Yes, Honey, she did,” I said. He sat there in his bed for a long while trying to absorb this new information like I had just told him that I was the Tooth Fairy.

The fact that this seems to be weighing on him so much absolutely breaks my heart. I’m sure that at five years old it makes no sense that there is this food that he can’t eat, but it seems like everyone else around him can. When he is at school, the teachers always make sure that he sits in a group with kids who don’t have peanut butter for lunch and while he has never said anything about it before, I wonder if that bothers him or if it makes him feel out of place. Although it’s really not an option; he just can’t sit with kids that bring it for lunch. One time this year when I went to pick him up from school, he had just finished gym class and was walking down the hallway toward Elyse and me. His face was beet red, but I didn’t think anything about it because he is always red when he gets overheated. Then, as he got closer, I realized that his face was covered in welts and they were starting to form down his neck and back. Apparently a kid from the other pre-K class had peanut butter on his hands after lunch, played at gym, and then Aaron came in and played with that same toy, and bam…instant peanut reaction.

I have to hand it to him though, Aaron is very aware of the peanut thing and is super cautious in situations where he isn’t sure that he should be eating something. We were at a birthday party for one of his best buddies a few weeks ago and along with the cake, the kids were allowed to make ice cream sundaes. When it was Aaron’s turn, the first thing that he asked the guy dishing out the toppings was whether or not the stuff was peanut safe.

When I was pregnant with Aaron I remember briefly skimming over the parts in the baby books that talked about the precautions you should take when eating certain foods if there’s an allergy that runs in your family, but no one is allergic to anything and I didn’t pay a whole lot of attention to that stuff. I was very careful to not give him any questionable foods until he was well passed his first birthday; no strawberries, no cow’s milk, no peanut butter. Then, when he was around fifteen months old, I was eating a peanut butter sandwich and he wanted a bite. He took a tiny little nibble and went on his way. A little while later I noticed his face looked a little splotchy, but it didn’t seem to bother him and he was otherwise fine. It went away pretty quick and so I didn’t give it much thought. Then, when he was about eighteen months old, I had been eating apple slices with peanut butter and there was a small amount left in the bowl. He had gotten a hold of the bowl and put it up to his face and a tiny bit of peanut butter got on his eyebrow. I wiped it off and then took him to change his diaper for nap time. I changed him and then looked at his face and he looked like someone had just punched him in the eye; it was huge, red, and swollen. I immediately called the doctor who said to give him Benadryll and then he wanted to schedule an appointment to test for a peanut allergy. Sure enough, the blood work came back showing that Aaron was definitely allergic to peanuts and we had to start carrying Benadryll and an Epi-pen everywhere we went.

When he was three and a half, his pediatrician decided that he should be seen by an allergist to determine if he was allergic to anything else. I remember he was such a trooper the day that we took him for the testing. These two nurses walked into the room each carrying a plastic square thing with spikes all over them. Each spike had been dipped into a specific allergen. Then, the squares were pressed into his back for a few seconds and then removed. We had to wait for a half an hour to see which ones reacted. His back looked awful. It was bright, bright red and just about everywhere that there had been a spike, he had a welt. He was really itchy, but he hung in until the nurse came back to read the results. In the end, the only things that reacted were of course peanut, but also shellfish and a certain type of grass. They wiped him down with Benadryll wipes and sent us on our way.

Since we have known about the peanut allergy he has only had a handful of reactions and thank God those reactions have only been welts. He has never had an anaphylactic reaction which required the Epi-pen, but we never leave the house without it. We still don’t know if Elyse has a peanut allergy or not because she can’t be tested until she is three, but I am pretty confident that she does not have it.

I wish that I could make this go away for him. Can you imagine living your whole life without ever experiencing a Reese’s Peanut Butter Cup, or peanut butter crackers, or good Lord peanut butter and jelly sandwiches? I am hopeful that because he is still so young that there will come a day in the near future where there is a cure for this and he will be able to start freely enjoying things like Halloween, or eating with whoever he wants a lunch time, or good Lord peanut butter and jelly sandwiches. Can you tell I love me some peanut butter and jelly? But until that day comes, I’m afraid that he will just have to steer clear of any peanut-eating elephants, no matter how much fun it would be to feed them.


Tina said...

Have you tried soy butter? My friend's daughter can not eat peanut butter but can eat this. It is a treat for her.

Amy said...

Yeah, we've done soy butter and sun butter. The soy butter is pretty bad. The sun butter is made with sun flower seeds and tastes a little better. I used it to replace the peanut butter in peanut butter cookies.