Love #3 – A Labor of Love


Nuttin Will Stop Us…

Food allergies can be life threatening.

In 1999, this statement hit too close to home when my 2 year old nephew and godson Braden went into anaphylaxis shock.  One afternoon, he ate noodles with peanut sauce that caused immediate vomiting and swelling reactions-his systems started to shut down and was quickly rushed to the emergency room where Doctor’s administered an Epinephrine injection, nebuelizer treatment, steriods and an IV -he was monitored closely for hours watching for a biphasic (secondary) reaction which could be worse then the first. That is when they discovered his allergy to nuts.

Do you know the top 8 allergens?  I did not…they are Wheat, Egg, Dairy, Tree Nut, Soy, Peanut, Fish and Shellfish.  

A food allergy occurs when the immune system mistakenly attacks a food protein. Ingestion of the offending food may trigger the sudden release of chemicals, including histamine, resulting in symptoms of an allergic reaction. The symptoms may be mild (rashes, hives, itching, swelling, etc.) or severe (trouble breathing, wheezing, loss of consciousness, etc.). A food allergy can be potentially fatal.

Our lives changed that day.  We all were ready to take the next step and empowered ourselves and the ones around us by educating and creating allergy awareness in our community.  None of us wanted anyone to experience what we just went through with Braden.  

My sister Leslie did lots of research on food allergies and believed in the central message behind FAAN’s programs “Until there’s a cure, education is the key”.  She reached out to parents, children, young adults, educators, health professionals, and others in an effort to teach individuals how to effectively manage their food allergies, and to reduce the number of food allergy reactions that occur.  

But she knew she could do more, she took matters into her own hands and contacted local, county and state officials to try and make a difference and educate others on a larger scale.  

Leslie worked with Senator Tom Torlakson of Califorina, Dr. Joseph A Ovick, Contra Costa County Superintendent of School, Peggy Marshburn Chief Communication Officer of Contra Costa County and several FAAN executives to present a grant request to the state for emergency books.  Her focus was to provide all Contra Costa County California public schools the educational tools needed to make the school a safer environment for children up against food allergies. Scientists estimate that as many as 15 million Americans suffer from food allergies,including approximately 6 million children.   In this particular county of schools, only 1 nurse was given to every 4-6 schools.

I am proud to say that Leslie achieved her goal!  She received a Grant from FAAN for $20,000, enough to provide over 250 schools “The School Food Allergy Program”  FAAN’s School Food Allergy Program is a comprehensive multimedia educational resource that now includes the Safe@School® training presentation component. It’s an essential tool for schools that are developing a food allergy management policy.

In addition to her success for public school, she has been a food allergy advocate to the private school her children attend and the community.  Over the years, we come together to walk in the FAAN walk in San Francisco.  Why did we fly our family to San Francisco to walk in the FAAN Walk?   We walked to fund food allergy awareness, advocacy, education, and research programs. It is our responsibility to provide understanding, hope, and an opportunity for those affected by food allergies.  Mainly I walked to save a life.  With the help of his parents Braden raised $3,000 for the walk – an additional $2,000 was added by others…totaling $5000.  

I am truly inspired at the drive this woman continues to have for this effort on behalf of her son and so many children she will never know.  I am also proud of my nephew for his responsible efforts to create awareness as a child.  He continues to be a healthy, active teen today who appreciates life and lives it to the fullest.  Living with an “invisible disability” is life changing but it makes you stronger and can change your life focus as well. 

A committed advocate, amazing mentor, provider to so many..proud to call her my sister and proud of my nephew for his continued responsible efforts to lead a normal life.  Nuttin’ will stop him or us!  

FAAN™ (The Food Allergy & Anaphylaxis Network) was established in 1991 by Anne Muñoz-Furlong, at a time when information about food allergies was difficult to find. Anne’s daughter was diagnosed with milk and egg allergy, and founding FAAN was a way of providing education and support to the many other parents who needed help managing food allergy.

To educate yourself on FAAN and make a difference, click here