In March of 2004, our little Ryan “Ry-Guy” who was 14 months old at the time took a bite of a peanut butter sandwich. Four injections later, and hours of observation Ryan was going to be OK. What we learned is that Ryan had a biphasic anaphylactic reaction, and has a life-threatening peanut allergy.
Our lives would be different from that day on. Two large trash cans later our home was peanut free. We threw away our waffle iron, wok, and anything else that might have been used with peanuts or nut oils.
Ryan’s doctor stressed that to ensure Ryan’s safety we would have to become his advocate. To educate myself I began to read everything that I could on the subject of peanut allergies. I learned that eliminating peanuts was not quite as easy as one might think. Peanuts could appear in a wide variety of products and places that one might not think of as being potentially dangerous for someone with a peanut allergy.
The more I read the more I realized I would need to advocate for Ryan in more ways than I had imagined. I couldn’t expect someone who was not living with this allergy to read the educational materials, websites, and discussion boards that I had. I needed to find a quick and easy way to put all of this knowledge that I had gained into a “snap shot” to help people learn about cross-contamination, the importance of reading every label, the use of epinephrine etc… Keeping a child with a peanut allergy safe goes far beyond the peanut itself, hence the name for the flash-cards “Beyond A Peanut”.
Our Dr. asked to call Ryan’s day care. After speaking with both the director and the owner, she did not feel it would be safe for Ryan to return to that school. She felt they did not understand the difference between a life-threatening food allergy and one that might create some discomfort. I had set out to find a new day care. I found a great school. It wasn’t peanut free, but the school was so eager to be trained and learn how to provide a safe environment. What I realized was that I did not have the right tools to train them with, which is where my first prototype of “Beyond A Peanut – Food Allergy Awareness Cards” was born.
These cards were created to help educate children with a peanut allergy, their families, friends, and other individuals who provide care for children with peanut allergies. The cards have been found to be extremely effective. For adults they have created the “a hah” syndrome. For children they have created a circle of friends who help and support Ryan rather then single him out. My hope is that these flash-cards help educate children and those caring for them on how to stay safe with a food allergy.