One Mom’s Inspiring Story
Written by Melanie Lundheim, freelance writer, founder of GoodCopyFast.com, NutSafeSchools.wordpress.com and long-time friend of the AllergyKids Foundation
Back in 2002, my 14-month-old son, Soren, had his first exposure to peanut in the form of a cracker crumb that merely touched his lips.
Within seconds, his face swelled up and broke out in hives. At the time, the concepts of food allergies and anaphylaxis were not on my radar, so I was unprepared to respond appropriately to his reaction.
Fortunately, Soren’s symptoms subsided on their own after washing. But seeing his reaction prompted me to get him tested for food allergies as soon as possible.
Sure enough, Soren, who had already suffered from eczema and asthma, tested allergic to peanut. So allergic, in fact, that the doctor warned my husband and me not to even spell the word “peanut” in front of him.
The doctor was joking, of course, but he drove the point home: Soren’s peanut allergy is life threatening.
From then on, our lives changed. My husband and I got into the habit of having our son’s life-saving medication with us at all times. We armed ourselves with information about food allergies. Then we began to educate our loved ones about how to help keep Soren safe.
Together, my husband and I took all steps necessary to prepare for, prevent, recognize, and respond to peanut exposures in Soren.
When it came time to educate Soren, now 10, about his peanut allergy (and our daughter, Tessa, now 8, about her peanut- and tree-nut allergies) our quest for kids’ resources came up almost empty. The few books we found on the subject, which featured hand-drawn illustrations of the allergens, gave us the idea to commission a photographer to take photos of peanuts and tree nuts inside and outside their shells.
The photos were a great way to show our kids what the foods they’re allergic to look like. Together, my husband, kids, and I decided to find a way to share the photos with other peanut- and tree-nut-allergic children in the form of a free book. We wrote the content, which also discussed where the allergens might hide, how to check ingredients, why to carry life-saving medication at all times, and ways to stay safe. But when the book was complete, we quickly realized that printing and distributing a free book is cost-prohibitive to fund!
So we put the project on the back burner. I channeled my creative energy into my corporate freelance writing career, continuing to blog about food allergies on the side. To minimally make our peanut- and tree-nut photos available to the masses, we created a free, giveaway poster.
But it wasn’t until this past week that I realized how we could complete our Kids’ Allergies: Peanuts and Tree Nuts project. Rather than try to self-publish a book, we could put the information and photos we had compiled over the years into a free, printable presentation at our blogsite, and make it viewable as an audio book on YouTube.
I credit Food-allergy Musician and Educator Kyle Dine for inspiring me to act upon seeing his engaging performance at our kids’ school. Thanks to him, I sat down, learned how to use my computer’s presentation creation software, and within a week, created printable and viewable versions of the presentation, uploaded them to my blogsite and YouTube channel, then announced them to the world.
It was a great honor to hear back, first, from Robyn O’Brien, founder of AllergyKidsFoundation, nationally recognized food-safety speaker, and author of The Unhealthy Truth. She invited me to contribute my story to her blog. It is my hope that, like Kyle Dine inspired me, our project will inspire you. How can you cultivate and leverage your talents to create a safer world for our kids?