Having a life-threatening food allergy can sometimes make the world seem very scary and dangerous…especially when you are a child and things like playing with a toy or eating a grilled cheese at a restaurant have proven to be unsafe. My son suffered reaction after reaction outside our home from peanut residue and cross-contamination in the strangest and unlikeliest of places. In turn, he withdrew and exhibited many behaviors that could have easily been misconstrued as spectrum traits.
Initially the idea of oral immunotherapy or OIT seemed impossible because he was terrified of peanuts and peanut butter. Once he watched a few videos of other kids eating “doses” of their allergen under the care of a board certified allergist, he got a glimpse of freedom and he wanted in. It took us a few months to figure it out and we had to move to another state temporarily, but in 7 months, we came back home with a different child. A confident child. A child who was set free.
The changes began about 4 months into OIT. Suddenly, discussions of a future didn’t reduce him to tears and he stopped asking if he could stay a boy forever. He began to believe he would grow up. By the time we came home, our child who previously didn’t make eye contact with his teachers, was hugging them in the hallways at school. My child who would stay off by himself in his kindergarten classroom is now the boy in second grade who everyone knows and likes, who raises his hand and engages in classroom discussion. Over the weekend, we stopped somewhere and he began chatting with a woman he had never met and we practically had to drag him away. While I write this, he’s in his after school cooking class. I have no idea what ingredients they are using and it doesn’t matter. He is safe.
Yesterday he said something I will carry with me for the rest of my life. He told me he almost doesn’t remember what it was like to have a food allergy. The one thing that permeated every aspect of his life for years is now nothing but faded, worn out, nearly gone memory.
If I had to decide whether to take this journey all over again, I would in a heartbeat. I would drive, fly, move 600 miles to Utah to have Dr. Jones save my son from peanuts and honestly, himself, all over again. The only change I would make is that I would have stopped stalling, stopped finding excuses and I would have gone that very day.