Tuesday, July 30, 2013

Sensing kryptonite

Being a teacher means being aware... aware of the 35 students' behaviors, attention-spans, interests, dislikes, and... health issues.  We are pretty lucky that we have a computerized tracking system that gives us access to so much student information, like attendance, recent school picture, test scores, and health records.  With a click of a mouse, I can take a quick glance into their past, and use it for decisions I make in the present.

When Jesse was 2, we began suspecting something about his health; nothing drastic, but something a little nutty.  During a quick trip to Trader Joes, big brother got to pick a snack.  We paid, we left, they opened the package in the car.  After 3 bites, Jesse tossed the bag over to me.  He started coughing lightly.  I was driving, so I couldn't do much but ask if he's okay.  We arrived at home, and his face had red, hive-like streaks.  His eyes were puffy; he's scratching his ears and neck.  I ran and got the Benadryl.  I looked at the snack: Peanut Butter Pretzels.

"Eh, he can't be allergic," I thought to myself.  No one in my extended family has extreme allergies.  And Jesse has such an appetite, he'll eat anything!  "Maybe it'll go away."

A couple months later, we decided to eat at La Bou.  One of our favorite dishes is the Asian noodle salad.  It came with peanuts, but we moved them to the side so Jesse can try this delicious dish.  The fork barely touched his lips, and the hive-like rashes formed right down his mouth.  "Uh oh."

A trip to the allergist it is.  The blood-draw tested over 30 different reactions.  Kaiser does a great job of keeping their website up-to-date, so I checked every day for the results.  I don't have a medical background whatsoever, so I clicked away at each test...ryegrass <.10; elm <.10; mugwort <.10 (mugwort? what is that?); cat dander <.10; dog dander .23; cottonwood <.10... clicking away, not knowing what I was really looking at.  Test result number twenty-nine: peanut.  93.5.  93.5!

I clicked on "About this Test," but it only gave me generic information of the blood-draw.  I wanted to know what that number meant!  I called my husband (why?  he can't interpret it!), and we finally got the allergist's response:

Peanut was the only significantly positive test (class V = very high positive). There were a few tree nuts that were class I (very low positive). I think the risk of Jesse reacting to nuts from trees is very low.
Also - no allergies to any of the environmental allergens (pollen, mold, dust mite, cat, dog)

Wait, what? I read it three more times.  Well, what does it mean?  What does Jesse need?  Is there a cure?  A vaccine? (vaccines are always the answer, right?) Will he be okay?  I know peanut allergies are pretty common, as pointed out by my sister later, but I had never had any close encounters with this, even in all my years of teaching.

Recently, a local 13-year-old girl died (died!) after a bite, Benadryl, and three Epi-pens.  Our Superman has a kryptonite.  It could be worse, I know.  But we will be cautious wherever we go.  We will carry his Epi-pen around.  We will notice every "peanut-free" sign, even the one at his new school.  He knows he's allergic.  He knows he can't just put anything in his mouth.  He has to be the one in charge of his "bizarre but delicious" food creations, and not eat everything in sight, like all the other boys around him.  So, in that regard, we'll have to bury "boys will be boys."


  1. We have gone to the moon and back. We are talking about space travels, hacking into pacemakers and insulin pumps!! I know we do not have a "brain drain" issue so why can't someone come up with a solution to this!!! Come on!!!!