It’s been quite a few years since my venture into food allergy advocacy. As my children grew older and were able to advocate for themselves I became busy with my work, their activities, and well you know, life. Recently I have become an empty nester. While this life transition sparks different things in different people, it has reminded me of one thing I wasn’t prepared for “Drop-off envy.”
Years ago, I coined the term “Drop-Off Envy” when sharing an experience at the bus stop. After we watched all of the excited kids get on the bus for their field trip, the parents all high-fived each other with excitement to have their children gone all day. I on the other hand turned and prayed, please let them come home safe. The reason is, field trips were out of my comfort zone.
I had worked tirelessly to try to get the school admin and families to understand the dangers, but outside the school, 200 packed lunches in an environment other than the cafeteria, the thought of it made me a mess. While other parents were out enjoying their day, possibly losing track of time, and maybe even wishing the field trip was longer, I was home counting down the minutes until they got home safely.
Fast forward, I’ve now graduated to college drop-offs and with all of the emotion tied to it, one thing I was not prepared for was that feeling of “drop-off envy.” What if they party, stay out late, and have the munchies? Maybe they think it is a pretzel piece but it is a pretzel piece filled with peanut butter. Will they carry their Epi-pens EVERYWHERE? Will anyone notice if they are having an allergic reaction? I was plagued with fear for so many different reasons than other parents dropping off their college students.
Over the past couple of weeks, I’ve read about three devastating fatalities from food allergies. (Jess Prinsloo – (24) Dairy Allergy, Omar Osman (26) Nut Allergy, and Emerson Kate Cole (9) ) These stories hit me at the core. It’s like being punched in the gut, having the wind knocked out of you and then I go retreat to my lonely dark place until the weight of sadness and fear begins to slowly lighten. While the ages and sex of these innocent beautiful beings were different, the one thing they all shared was that their death was accidental. I feel the anguish for those families, the devastation to all those who knew and loved them, and the anger at how this could possibly have been avoided.
Now that I am an empty nester, I decided to continue my passion for food allergy education and awareness. While things have gotten better over the last 20 years, if I can offer anything to help make the lives of those suffering from food allergies and those caring for them easier, I am in. Until there is a cure for food allergies, education and awareness play a big role. Practicing avoidance is currently the only way to prevent anaphylaxis. Having an emergency plan in place with the use of epinephrine is the only chance one has to manage the reaction.
I hope you can find some of the tools I have used over the years helpful.