Multiple Food Allergies and Prom…It Can Be Done

Another milestone accomplished with multiple food allergies.

My eldest son, Michael, with food allergies to dairy, eggs, beef, lamb, fish, shellfish, peanut/tree nuts, sesame, mustard and raspberries…just had his 2014 Prom Night!

All I can say is…it can be done!

Of course, just like all his classmates…picking out just the right outfit is key.  Michael and I enjoyed our time out with him trying on suits, shirts and ties.

With a pale grey suit, white shirt and lavender tie picked out…it was on to the belt, socks (funky charcoal grey with purple polka dots) and shoes.

That is until he decided he would prefer a bow tie (Bluey purple houndstooth)…saving the lavender tie for graduation with, a yet to be picked out, jazzy kerchief for the pocket.

With the outfit picked out, the limo with about a dozen of his friends rented, it was time to think about the 2014 Prom Night meal…a buffet.

About a week before the event, I spoke to one of the teachers in charge of organizing the big event about the meal…beef, chicken, pasta with red sauce, Caesar salad, mashed potatoes, seasonal vegetables and some sort of dessert.

No matter what was on the menu…with all of Michael’s food allergens…I knew that the chef would need to create a separate meal.

I called up the banquet facility hosting the event and spoke with the events coordinator.  She assured me that their facility had worked with patrons with food allergies.  Just email her a list of Michael’s food allergies and the chef would create a meal just for him.

Literally, it was that simple.

She emailed me back this menu:

Grilled chicken (salt and pepper seasoning)
Roasted red potatoes (salt, pepper, olive oil)
Seasonal vegetables (salt, pepper, olive oil)
Dessert we will offer fresh fruit plate no raspberries

Michael’s meal would be plated in the kitchen separately and when he was ready for his meal, he was to ask a server to bring it out…perfect!

On the day of the prom, I called the principal to inform her of Michael’s separate meal.  I also inquired about the staff attending the Prom to chaperone.  The principal assured me that she was going to review with each of them the administration of an Allerject…she noted she had the Allerject trainer sitting on her desk.

I had presented her with an Allerject trainer at the last School Council Meeting along with an EpiPen trainer and other information from the many exhibitors at Anaphylaxis Canada’s 7th Annual Community Conference I attended. Click here for the post.

The principal requested that Michael inform her of his table number and even gave me her cell phone number…just in case I felt the need to call…I am pleased to say, I didn’t.

Michael even told me a teacher, aware of his multiple food allergies, the week of the Prom, stopped him in the hallway to ask if everything was set for him at the Prom…very impressed!

With all the details in place…it was time for Michael to be dropped off at his friend’s house to catch a limo!

Yes…I hung around to take pictures of all the guys and gals in their finest.

No…I was not the only proud mother taking pictures of this stellar crowd of soon to be graduates!

Yes…attending one’s Prom with a list of multiple food allergies…priceless!

P.S.  Word of advice…a thank you goes a long way..

 

 

Anaphylaxis Canada’s 7th Annual Community Conference, May 10, 2014

May is Food Allergy Awareness Month…what better way to spend it than at a day dedicated to food allergies.

On Saturday, May 10, 2014,  that is just where you would have found me…attending Anaphylaxis Canada’s 7th Annual Community Conference in Markham, Ontario, Canada.

What a day! I hardly know where the time went…so fast, I even forgot to run out and grab my lunch from the car!

At the morning parent session…I think I may have been one of the oldest mom’s in the group with a son with multiple food allergies ready to graduate from high school.

My table of 6 parents, including myself, consisted of a couple of mom’s with a child with food allergies entering JK, a mom of a girl in Grade 3 and parents of another child who I think was also in Grade 3.

The morning was all about “Partnering And Planning With Your School”.

The registering of one’s child with anaphylaxis in the school system was a big topic. Understanding the law and responsibilities of the school, providing resources on your child with anaphylaxis’ allergy management, creating an Action Plan and effective communication tools for parents were all covered.

Complete with a very ‘Oscar worthy’ role-play example performance!

All the information regarding the morning session can be found at The Toronto Anaphylaxis Education Group (TAEG).  Click here.

I really liked the ‘electronic binder information’ they have all ready for one to download…  I wish I had that resource way back when!

The afternoon session, “Managing food allergies:  Working together for a safer future” also flew by.

Great speakers from Anaphylaxis CanadaKyle Dine and three members of the Youth Advisory Panel from Why Risk It? discussed and answered questions on bullying and Laurie Harada, Executive Director of Anaphylaxis Canada moderated a great discussion on food labelling.

Dr. Adelle Atkinson’s , MD, FRCPC talk on “A Buffet of truths and myths about food allergy” easily kept the attention of all with her wit and humour.

Many exhibitors waited in the hallway for us all to descend upon them during our morning and afternoon breaks and lunch.

Exhibitors…such as Allerject (I picked up some posters and an Allerject trainer for my boys’ high school), EpiPen (I picked up some posters and an EpiPen trainer for my boys’ high school), Allergic Living Magazine (I happily subscribed for another 2 years), Medic Alert, and SunButter (my favourite being the Organic SunButter I asked if they could please make a crunchy version!)...just to name a few.

So what did I learn at this event?

1)  I was inspired to pick up as much information as I could from the exhibitors to bring back to my boys’ high school to present at the School Council Meeting on May 14, 2014.

2)  It made me realize, my boys’ high school website needs to contain information about registering a student with anaphylaxis.  Adding such information would be a welcoming sight for parents registering a student with anaphylaxis…the Principal agreed.

My experience at the high school level has taught me that not all parents feel the need to inform their child’s high school of their anaphylaxis.  Shocking I know!

By including anaphylaxis information on my boys’ high school website, I hope to bring awareness and encourage all parents of high school children with anaphylaxis to notify the Principal of their child’s anaphylaxis.  Set up a meeting with the Principal, review and fill out an Action Plan and provide the high school with an auto-injector for the office.

Continuing to be advocates at the high school level sets a good example for our children with anaphylaxis…for in only 4 years, you will be passing the torch!

 

 

 

Allerject Educational Materials For All Ontario School and Public Health Units

Did you know…all Ontario Schools and Public Health Units will have received educational material regarding the latest auto-injector Allerject?

Anaphylaxis Canada,  in collaboration with the Ontario Ministry of Education, have updated their Anaphylaxis Support Kits with packages containing resources to inform and educate our educators on the Allerject. Click here for the announcement at Anaphylaxis Canada.

Minister of Education, Liz Sandals, stated, “The health and well-being of our students is a top priority for the Ontario government.”  “Together with our partners, we are committed to making our schools healthier places for students to learn and grow.”

I am more than thrilled!

The resources in Anaphylaxis Canada’s Support Kit support Sabrina’s Law…passed May 2005, Bill 3 and effective January 1, 2006.  Sabrina’s Law “requires that every school board in Ontario establish and maintain an anaphylaxis policy”...it also “requires that principals develop individual plans for pupils at risk of anaphylaxis.”

Ontario publicly funded schools, school boards and public health units received their first bilingual Anaphylaxis Support Kits in 2011…they will receive Updated Packages, whereas, new schools and public health units will have received the full packages.

The bilingual Anaphylaxis Support Kit includes epinephrine auto-injector training devices (EpiPen and Allerject), awareness and instructional posters and videos, a presentation for school personnel, as well as, related materials and other information.

Educating our educators on anaphylaxis is key to the safety of our children with anaphylaxis in their journey through the education system.

I truly believe the next step is to include the students themselves…our children with anaphylaxis’ classmates.

I know from experience with my two boys with multiple food allergies…the importance of educating their classmates on their food allergies and explaining, in age-appropriate language, the causes, signs and symptoms and treatment of anaphylaxis.

I believe…de-mystifying auto-injectors and developing an awareness of anaphylaxis early on has many benefits. 1)  It would increase a student’s understanding of a classmate with anaphylaxis. 2)  Develop an appreciation of their classmates living with anaphylaxis. 3)  Build a support network of educators and students for classmates with anaphylaxis.

I am every so grateful for the continuing compassion, empathy and support from my boys’ classmates and educators throughout their education journey.

Classmates are on the ‘front-line’…they are the most likely to witness the onset of an anaphylactic reaction. Students educated on the causes, signs and symptoms and treatment of anaphylaxis would be prepared to administer an auto-injector in the event of an anaphylactic reaction…saving precious time.

A recent article, “It’s Hard Not to Stare children’s book opens discussion on disabilities” by Andrea Gordon in the Toronto Star supports my theory of capitalizing on educating students early to embrace all their classmates, regardless of their differences. Click here to view the article.

Author Tim Huff’s latest children’s book, “It’s Hard Not To Stare: Helping Children Understand Disabilities” and his first book, “The Cardboard Shack Beneath The Bridge”, both touch on this very concept.

Tim Huff’s goal…”to demystify the unfamiliar, build empathy and prevent the kind of judgement and meanness he has witnessed during his decades working with the disabled and as an outreach worker on the street with youth.”

Tim Huff, co-founder of Street Level…”a national advocacy network on homelessness and poverty issues “ states, “If we teach children to be compassionate when they’re young it spills over to everything  and affects their character.”

He goes on to say, “At a time when bullying is rampant, it makes more sense to build on the positive by instilling compassion and dealing with kids’ questions or uncertainty about the unfamiliar, rather than simply outlawing behaviours through numerous anti-bullying programs.”

I totally agree…perhaps a children’s book focusing on anaphylaxis should be next in the works!

Now there is some food for thought.

P.S. Upon learning of Anaphylaxis Canada’s Updated Packages…I photocopied their media release to give to my boys’ high school principal.

Matthew’s Allerject Demonstration At His Grade School’s End Of The Year Staff Meeting

Tip # 1 from Anaphylaxis Canada’s Youth Advisory Panel at Why Risk It? Click here for the entire list.

“Don’t simply DO things for us when we are kids, TEACH US.  How to read a food label, speak up, ask questions in restaurants, and teach our friends to use an auto-injector . We need to know how to do these things and become vigilant ourselves.”

My youngest son, Matthew is allergic to peanut/tree nuts. He has just successfully completed his first year of high school. By the time he graduates…he needs to have completed 40 hours of volunteer work. Matthew chose to go back to his grade school to volunteer for 3 days at the end of his final exams.

On his first day, Matthew was kept busy taking down all the graduation decorations. He did, however, take the time to demonstrate for his Grade 8 teacher, Mr. G, his new auto-injector…the Allerject.

Mr. G was notably impressed and advised Matthew to demonstrate the Allerject to the school’s new principal, Mr. O.

Mr. O was also very impressed with Matthew’s demonstration of the Allerject…he wondered if Matthew and I could attend the end of the year staff meeting on the Friday morning to give a quick presentation.

Matthew accepted on our behalf…but was quite hesitant that he should actually do the demonstration.

I thought this was a great opportunity for Matthew to take advantage of the above Tip #1 from Anaphylaxis Canada’s Youth Advisory Panel. So I encouraged Matthew by explaining to him that I would give the background story…he would do the demonstration…and we would deal with any questions at the end.

Mr. O gave us a wonderful introduction…my background story ended with Matthew’s big intro…”What if the auto-injector talked?”

Matthew demonstrating the administration of the Allerject at his grade school's end of the year staff meeting

Matthew did a great job.

There were many questions from the staff. One of which stood out to me…”How do we know if a student has the Allerject or not?”

It was a great opportunity for me to reiterate the importance that all students with anaphylaxis should be known to all staff. 

All anaphylactic students’ pictures should be up in the staff room with all their anaphylactic allergies, type of auto-injectors, signs and symptoms of anaphylaxis, as well as the protocol for an anaphylactic reaction.

All in all I thought it went well…”You did a great job mom…just maybe you went on a little too long but I think it was okay.”...thanks Matthew.

P.S.  Matthew has been volunteering at his grade school, church and selling tickets for his friends’ swim team…he has completed 39 of the 40 hours required for him to graduate high school…way to go Matthew…I think you will make it!

Allergy Friendly Cupcakes To Celebrate A Job Well Done: Co-op Placement

This year, Michael partook in a unique opportunity his high school offered the Grade 11 students…a Business Specialist High Skills Major (SHSM).

A SHSM, is a ministry-funded program providing students the opportunity to participate in specific courses, complete a semester in a co-op, experience extra learning opportunities, and receive certification in First Aid, CPR and customer service.

It has been a great learning experience and opportunity for Michael…a first-hand look at working in the ‘real world’ with food allergies.

It was a great learning experience for his co-op placement as well…once they learned of Michael’s multiple food allergies…they had all kinds of questions.

Would he be all right to answer the phone?  What if he had an anaphylactic reaction?

A meeting was held with his co-op supervisor, the board of education co-op representative, his business teacher, myself and Michael where all their questions were easily answered.

Their anxiety over Michael’s multiple food allergies (dairy, egg, sesame, peanut/tree nuts, beef, lamb, fish, shellfish, mustard and raspberry) were eased by simply educating them all on the importance of washing hands, the signs and symptoms of anaphylaxis, and the administration of the Epipen.  (When Michael switched to the Allerject…he took in the Allerject trainer to train his supervisor and those working with him)

Michael’s Epipen/Allerject had a special spot on his desk that his co-workers were aware of for easy access.

Tuesday was Michael’s last day at his co-op placement…he wanted to bring something to all his co-workers as a way to thank them for all their support and guidance.

What does one bring a large group of staff?

When I was working, people would just stop at Tim Hortons for a dozen doughnuts/muffins or pick up something from a bakery or the grocery store…unfortunately, that does not work for Michael with his multiple food allergies…dairy, egg, sesame, peanut/tree nut, beef, lamb, shellfish, fish, mustard, and raspberry.

Dairy, Egg, Soy and Peanut/Tree Nut Free Chocolate and Vanilla Cupcakes to the rescue!

Dairy, Egg, Soy and Peanut/Tree Nut Free Chocolate and Vanilla Cupcakes

Everybody loves cupcakes!

A simple solution to solve…sure it takes it bit more time and energy to prepare…but then, good things in life usually do!

The staff were pleasantly surprised when Michael arrived with his assortment of allergy friendly cupcakes…everyone loves to celebrate a job well done!

Click here for Dairy, Egg, Soy and Peanut/Tree Nut Free Chocolate Cupcakes.

Click here for Dairy, Egg, Soy and Peanut/Tree Nut Free Vanilla Cupcakes.

Enjoy!

How do you raise awareness of your food allergies or sensitivities with your co-workers?

Have you ever found that your food allergies or sensitivities have limited your job choices?

Thank You Evan and Eric Edwards…My Boys Have Their Allerjects

In 1998, my eldest son, Michael was 2 years old…suffering from severe eczema, multiple food allergies, sensitivities and asthma. At the end of the year, I gave birth to my second son, Matthew…only to discover, years later, he also had food allergies, eczema and asthma.

Who knew, that same year, 18 year old twin brothers, Evan and Eric Edwards, (allergies include peanut/tree nuts, shellfish, fish and antibiotics), had sketched on a napkin...a design for an auto-injector that would fit inside their blue jeans pocket.

An activity that ultimately…determined the brothers’ educational paths (pharmaceutical science/medicine and engineering)…career paths (founded a specialty pharmaceutical company named Intelliject)…business decision (Sanofi bought the North American licensing rights to the new auto-injector)…and created, some 15 years later, the first voice-prompted auto-injectorAllerject.

The boys' first Allerject auto-injector

Click here for a link to their site. Take note of their offer for a free Allerject trainer and Allerject carrying case per household.

I first learned of Allerject from my Winter 2013 Allergic Living Magazinethere was an Allerject advertisement plus…a fantastic article written by Mary Esselman titled, “The Auto-Injector That Talks”. (The information for this post derives mostly from this article.)

I received my copy (December 2012) just days before heading out for the boys’ annual allergy testing at the allergist…I brought it along. My allergist was surprised to see that Allerject was almost ready to ‘hit the shelves’…at this point, Allerject was awaiting approval from Health Canada…hopefully becoming available in early 2013.

The allergist wrote a prescription for both the boys for Epi Pens and Allerjects…thus becoming the allergist’s very first written prescription for Allerject.

As the boys’ Epi Pens expired this month…I was eager to get to the pharmacy to fill their prescriptions for Allerject. I was pleased to discover…not only was Allerject available but the pharmacy had an Allerject trainer.

I have to say…I think the pharmacist and her assistant were just as eager to try out the Allerject trainer as I was…it was very cool.

My favourite quote from Mary Esselman’s article:

” ‘When I see it come in front of me in a pharmacy bag, that’s when reality will set in,’ said Eric. ‘Wow, we finally did something. We did something that we originally set out to do that one day when we were sketching a credit card thing with a retractable needle on a napkin. That’s when I think I’ll be most excited.’ “

Surprising my boys with the Edward twins ‘dream come true’…their very own Allerject…priceless!

Allerject fits in the palm of your hand.

Allerject fits in the palm of your hand

Michael just loves it…perfect for a teen that is uncomfortable carrying around a bulky auto-injector. Allerject has fit into his life at an ideal time.

Thank you, thank you, thank you!

Thank you for dreaming big…thank you for following your dream…thank you for proving that taking what you know (I need to carry an auto-injector because I have anaphylaxis) to solve that which you don’t know (how can I improve this auto-injector so it is easy to carry around, easy to use and teen friendly) is do-able…that dreams really can come true no matter how big.

P.S. I have just received my free Allerject trainer to practice with my boys, family members, friends and staff at my boys’ high school. Yippee!

Allerject trainer to the left and an actual Allerject auto-injector

The Allerject trainer is well marked and a totally different colour than the actual Allerject.

I will be heading to the high-school today with a letter outlining the boys’ new auto-injector…Allerject. I will be speaking to the Vice-Principal to discuss the best method of training for the administration of the Allerject to the boys’ immediate teachers and overall high-school staff. I hope they are excited about this opportunity as I am!

P.P.S. The United States equivalent to the Allerject is called the Auvi-Q. Click here for a link to their site.

Will you be choosing the Allerject/Auvi-Q for your next auto-injector for yourself or your child? How will the Allerject/Auvi-Q make a difference in your life? If you have one already…what do you think?

My Boys New MedicAlert ID’s Arrived…Have You Heard Of Allerject?

The boys were in desperate need of new MedicAlert ID’s…Matthew had lost his MedicAlert bracelet and Michael had outgrown his MedicAlert bracelet.

What is MedicAlert Canada?

As stated on their website…MedicAlert Canada is for anyone with “a medical condition, allergies, chronic disease or special needs that should be known in an emergency.”

Also, MedicAlert Canada’s “24-Hour Emergency Hotline ensures your critical medical information is available to paramedics in just 5 seconds. The right information, at the right time – crucial to saving your life when seconds count.”

Click here for a link to MedicAlert Canada to learn more about the association and how to become a member.

I feel better knowing that my boys’ medical history follows them around…especially, as teenagers, when their time is not always spent in my presence.

Nana to the rescue! MedicAlert ID’s became the perfect birthday gift idea.

Michael decided to switch from a MedicAlert bracelet to a necklace…he chose The London Dog Tag with Silver Chain-Brushed on a 20 inch chain. Click here to view at MedicAlert Canada.

Matthew chose The Figaro Silver Bracelet. Click here to view at MedicAlert. Matthew liked the pattern on the chain…I liked the clasp. It seemed similar to the clasp on Michael’s MedicAlert bracelet…which, incidentally, never came undone.

The clasp on his previous MedicAlert bracelet (it was the one Matthew received from the No Child Without Program) was not very secure…it kept coming undone. Hence, his MedicAlert bracelet would continue to fall off which eventually led to it becoming permanently lost. Click here to see the type of clasp.

The No Child Without Program by the Canadian MedicAlert Foundation, is a fabulous program. Matthew was fortunate that his school was selected for the program. Select schools are offered a free membership for children aged 4 to their 14th birthday. The Government of Canada and Lions Club financially support the program. Click here for a link to the No Child Without Program. Just be careful/aware of the clasp.

Michael chose his MedicAlert necklace way back in August…my procrastination led it to being ordered along with Matthew’s MedicAlert bracelet. Sorry Michael. So it happened that both the boys’ MedicAlert ID’s arrived in the mail on the very same day…this past Monday.

Oh happy day…the boys were thrilled when their MedicAlert Id’s arrived! The timing was perfect as Nana was still visiting.

The boys quickly tried them on…below is Michael wearing his MedicAlert ‘dog tag’.

Very cool!

Below is Matthew wearing his MedicAlert bracelet.

He loves it = he will wear it!

One cannot put a price on a ‘peace of mind’!

I have to say, my boys have never objected to wearing their MedicAlert ID’s. Explaining the importance of its presence on their body gave them no doubt that wearing a MedicAlert ID was a ‘smart choice’.

P.S. I just received my 2013 Winter Edition of Allergic Living Magazine. Inside I spied an advertisement for a new epinephrine auto-injector…Allerject. 

Allerject is a new device to administer epinephrine. It fits in the palm of your hand and has audio instructions. Click here for more information.

Allergic Living Magazine’s 2013 Winter Edition also has an article written by Mary Esselman, “The Auto-Injector That Talks”. The article discusses the 15 year journey that it took for a pair of 18-year-old allergic twin brothers conception of a small auto-injector that would fit inside a jeans pocket became a reality.

I showed the advertisement to the boys’ allergist on Monday…he was quite shocked that the Allerject was already being advertised. The Allergic Living Magazine article states, “The new auto-injector will be available for prescription in early 2013.”

Click here for an overview of the issues covered in the Winter 2013 Allergic Living Magazine.

My boys, liked the idea that the Allerject could fit inside their pant pocket…much more convenient and likely for them to have their epinephrine auto-injector at hand.

As the boys’ epi pens expire in April 2013…they became the first prescription that our allergist has written for the Allerject.

Have you heard of Allerject? What do you think of this new device?