Day 2 in a Series on Cross-Contamination and Food Allergies: Grade 8 Graduation Trip to Camp Muskoka 2010 and 2012

This morning, I waved good bye to Matthew as he headed off with his fellow classmates for their Grade 8 Graduation Trip to Camp Muskoka in beautiful Bracebridge, Ontario.

matthew off to camp muskoka by bus

All aboard!

matthew boarding the bus to camp muskoka

The teachers look super excited!

teachers on the camp muskoka trip

Yes, a few tears were shed…I know I was not alone!

The Grade 8 Graduation Trip is an exciting new adventure for the students to embark on…a perfect way to celebrate finishing their grade school years!

An experience of a lifetime!

I know it is Matthew’s first trip away from home without family…made a little more nerve racking when food allergies and asthma are involved. (peanut/tree nut)

I can assure you, I am feeling quite confident that all the safety measures have been put in place to ensure a successful Camp Muskoka adventure.

My eldest son, Michael (dairy,egg,beef,sesame,fish,shellfish,peanut/tree nuts,mustard and raspberry, asthma and eczema) enjoyed his Camp Muskoka adventure 2 years ago with his Grade 8 Graduation Class.

Many safety measures were established to prevent any cross-contamination with Michael’s food…our experience with Michael at Camp Muskoka gives me the confidence for Matthew’s trip.

Recap of Michael’s Camp Muskoka Graduation Trip of 2010

Camp Muskoka focuses on ‘good nutrition’ following Health Canada’s Food Guide and is a ‘Nut Safe’ environment following Anaphylaxis Canada’s Prevention Policy. (all staff are trained in the knowledge of food allergies, the prevention of cross-contamination, and the administration of an epi pen)

Camp Muskoka’s brochure states: “If your child has any special dietary needs (.i.e. vegetarian, diabetic, allergy specific) please detail these needs on your Camp Muskoka registration application and contact the Camp Muskoka Registrar to discuss arrangements.”

Planning Stages:

Stage 1: The year before the trip

Planning for Michael’s Graduation Trip started while he was in Grade 7. Anticipating his participation the following year, I discussed his food allergies, asthma and eczema with the Grade 8 teacher, Mr. G. (Mr. G. is currently Matthew’s Grade 8 teacher and was Michael’s. Matthew also had Mr. G. for Grade 7.)

Mr. G. is well versed in my boys’ food allergy emergency plans!

Mr. G. suggested that he would discuss Michael’s food allergies with the staff at Camp Muskoka on the 2009 Graduation Trip. Upon his return, I was assured that Camp Muskoka would be able to accomodate Michael’s mulitple food allergies. Sigh of relief!

Stage 2:  Parent Information Night

At the start of the Grade 8 school year, a representative from Camp Muskoka held a Parent Information Night. It was at this time, I bombarded the representative with questions and presented him with an outline of Michael’s multiple food allergies and the products that were considered allergen ‘safe’. I even attached a photo of Michael.

I was, as you can imagine, very concerned, worried, nervous…

Once again, I was reassured that Camp Muskoka would be able to meet Michael’s allergen needs. I was advised to contact the head chef, Michael to discuss the details.

Stage 2: Working with Camp Muskoka’s Head Chef Michael

My first contact with Chef Michael was by phone. I felt an initial personal first contact by phone necessary to establish good rapport. Very important when one wants to convey the seriousness of multiple food allergies, cross-contamination and the prevention of an anaphylactic reaction.

By phone, Chef Michael and I ironed out all the specifics:

-Michael would not eat buffet style
-Michael would have separate cutting boards, kitchen tools, pots, pans, plate and utensils kept separately. They would be washed and disinfected daily.
-Michael’s food would be prepared separately from the other food being prepared in the kitchen.
– Michael’s meal would be presented to him already plated.
-Chef Michael and I reviewed his menu plan discussing ingredient lists, food options and substitutions.
-It was agreed that due to Michael’s multiple food allergies, there were certain food items that Camp Muskoka would not be able to accomodate. Mainly all breads and baked goods. (Baked good contain some of Michael’s food allergens)

Chef Michael emailed me his menu plan for review. Between the two of us, we created a menu plan free of all Michael’s food allergens. A copy was made complete with emergency contact information, all Michael’s food allergens, all the food and drink products he was not to consume, and all the food I would be sending from home along with the food that Camp Muskoka would provide. Copies were given to all teachers’ and Camp Muskoka staff for quick reference.

Food Sent From Home

-Dairy, Egg, Soy and Peanut/Tree Nut Free Banana Bundt Cake baked in a 6 mold mini bundt pan for a substitute for muffins at breakfast and as a snack.
-Pure Maple Syrup for the Organic Pancakes (an allergen safe organic pancake mix with rice milk and an egg substitute was made for all the students on the trip for breakfast)
-allergen safe sliced ham for sandwiches
-Dairy,Egg,Soy,Sesame and Peanut/Tree Free Sub Buns for sandwiches and garlic bread
-Dairy,Egg and Peanut/Tree Nut Free Wacky Cake
-allergen safe pasta and meat sauce
-Dairy,Egg,and Peanut/Tree Nut Free Apple Crisp

Michael’s 2010 Camp Muskoka Grade 8 Graduation Trip Experience

The beginning of June 2010, I waived good bye to Michael, two coolers full of food, 3 epi pens, puffers and his asthma/eczema medications as he headed for his once in a lifetime adventure to Camp Muskoka.

Yes, tears were definitely shed. Yes, a part of me was nervous.

Parents, as a rule, are not to have contact with their children on the trip…Mr. G. bent them, just a little, and called me both nights to let me know everything was going smoothly. Thanks Mr. G.!

Michael came home with many stories and experiences that will last a lifetime!

Michael’s Camp Muskoka’s Grade 8 Graduation Trip was a success due to a team effort…teachers’ and Camp Muskoka staff working together with compassion, common sense, communication and an emergency plan. Priceless! I can’t thank you all enough!

Overview

I remind my kids all the time…read ingredient lists, never assume.

Accidents are called accidents because they are not planned. Thank goodness we can at least be prepared for accidents…because cross-contamination and injestion of food allergens is a reality.

That is why, as a parent with children with food allergies I teach my boys the Two Golden Rules: Always wash your hands and have your epi pen on hand before eating.

That is why, as parents with children with food allergies, we have emergency plans in place…that is why teachers’ and Camp Muskoka staff are trained to recognize the signs and symptoms of anaphylaxis and how to administer epi pens…that is why students with life threatening food allergies need to carry epi pens and have back up epi pens available.

Being prepared means that when an accidental cross-contamination or injestion of a food allergy occurs…an anaphylactic reaction can be prevented.

Matthew 2012 Camp Muskoka Grade 8 Graduation Trip

Last week, I emailed Chef Michael and alerted him to Matthew’s peanut/tree nut allergy and his arrival today. He assured me that Camp Muskoka is still ‘Nut Safe’ and following Anaphylaxis Canada’s Policies. There is no need for me to send any food this time. Matthew will be travelling with his 3 epi pens, his puffers and all the gear needed for a winter adventure.

Not sure if I will be hearing from Mr. G. tonight for a recap on the day. I will try to be content in the knowledge that I have sent Matthew in capable hands.

In the meantime, I am eagerly awaiting Matthew’s arrival home on Friday to hear all his exciting stories and experiences at Camp Muskoka.

Question: Has anyone else sent their child/children to Camp Muskoka with food allergies? What experiences have you had sending your child/children on overight trips with food allergies? Please share.

A Tragic Loss of a Child with Food Allergies: Amarrie Johnson

On January 2, 2012, 7-year-old Amarrie Johnson from Chesterfield Virginia, ingested one of her food allergens (peanut) while at her school and died.

When I first learned of this tragedy…I felt like the wind had been knocked out of me.

Details regarding all the specifics have not been shared with the public. It is these specific details that led up to the death of Amarrie that are the pieces of the puzzle that need to be put together.

As a parent with two boys with multiple food allergies, I want…need answers. Why did this happen?

Read about her story here and here.

In the year 2012, with all the knowledge and medication that is out there…a death of a child with a food allergies should be preventable.

Words cannot describe how I feel…I am at a loss… I sit here at my computer trying to sort through my feelings…it is any parents’ worst nightmare.

I am feeling sad…the loss of a child is a tragedy…the family must be devastated.

I am feeling confused…was an emergency plan for her not established…why was  medication not administered to her…what type of awareness among staff and students was there in regards to students with food allergies at the school?

I am feeling angry…how many children must die before society takes food allergies seriously?

As a parent of two boys with multiple food allergies, I understand full well the need to educate both staff and students, in our schools, in the signs and symptoms of an anaphylactic reaction and how to administer an epi pen.

Knowledge is power…knowledge can save lives.

Read my Grade 8 presentation experience with my youngest son’s classroom here. Read my back to school experience for my eldest son to high school here.

The safety of all children should be paramount in all schools. Accidents happen…that is why children with food allergies need emergency plans in place.

In Ontario, where I live, we have Sabrina’s Law. On January 1 , 2006, all schools in Ontario were required by law, to have policies and procedures for those children with food allergies and all staff to be trained in the administration of the epi pen.

Sabrina Shannon died from an anaphylactic reaction to dairy at her school. Her name and story lives on with Sabrina’s Law. Read her story here.

Click here for a list of Canadian and U.S. Anaphylaxis Laws Guidelines.

If there is one thing I have learned through my journey with food allergies, eczema and asthma with my boys…never assume!

I have learned to be an advocate for my boys’ safety…being proactive…educating those who are in contact with my boys…from fellow students, teachers, school staff (cafeteria and custodians included), neighbours, parents, coaches…doing my best to try to cover all the bases.

In two weeks, my youngest son will be heading off on his Grade 8 overnight trip to Camp Muskoka. It is a three-day, two night trip north of the city. An allergy related death of a child is unnerving.

Camp Muskoka is peanut/tree nut free and follows Anaphylaxis Canada’s policy. I must say, I feel confident sending Matthew (peanut/tree nut allergy). My eldest son, Michael  (dairy,egg,beef,sesame,peanut/tree nut,fish,shellfish,raspberry and mustard allergies) attended this same camp 2 years ago. As difficult as it was, I knew I had sent him in capable hands with every safety precaution covered, as best as I knew how, between his teachers, students and staff at Camp Muskoka.

I will be writing a post on our positive experience.

Kelly, a family friend of the Johnson’s family, is quoted as saying, “If you want to honor Amarrie, don’t grieve for the rest of your life.” “Do something about it. Let’s honor her memory by making sure that what happened to her never happens to another child.”

Amarrie’s death brings us face to face with the reality of the dangers of living with food allergies…my heart breaks for her family…I feel paralyzed with sadness…it is a reminder of how vigilant we must be…may Amarrie’s death not be in vain…may compassion unlock the doors to food allergy awareness everywhere.

How has Amerrie’s death affected you?

P.S. Some posts I recommend reading with their opinions are: Food Allergy Mama, DairyFreeDiner, Frugal Food Allergies and Nut-Free Mom.