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Friday, April 6, 2012

Bittersweet Best Case Scenario



Well, the time has come to have our youngest, Olivia, tested for food allergies.  I have suspected an egg allergy for a while, but it’s so hard to trust my emotionally charged observations.  Olivia does have occasional minor flare ups of eczema, but not as bad as Elena did. I have suspected egg would give her trouble based on reactions I have seen after eating egg myself, then nursing.  It’s always hard to tell exactly what is going on with any baby, though.  A diaper rash can be caused by any one of about 30 things, a runny nose can mean they are sick or not, spit up happens with and without explanations, and teething can look like anything else under the sun.    How can I be sure any symptom was caused by the egg I ate?  It’s easy to hold on to little rays of hope, but also scary to go into an assessment clinging too tightly to that hope.  

This is a photo of Olivia about 6 hours after I ate egg. Her cheeks became red and she got some small bumps on her face.



We decided to go ahead and have Olivia tested for the top 8 food allergens and goat’s milk (thinking ahead to her first birthday transition).  We did not have any solid evidence, but living in a house that is free of egg, dairy, peanuts, and tree nuts and not ever eating fish or shellfish due to age doesn’t give a lot of opportunity for exposure.  We wanted to know what precautions are necessary for Olivia, rather than just imposing on her the same ones we use for her sister and hoping for the best.

We went in for the testing and our allergist decided to go with the skin test rather than the blood test.  Whew!!!  Seeing as how the blood test we did on Elena at 9 months was one of the most horrific experiences I remember, I was glad to hear this.  Olivia did very well and, although her little body jerked with each of the 11 pricks on her back, she never made so much as a whimper.  Actually, I should not say never.  She screamed hysterically when they were weighing her, but who can blame her for that?  I can relate.

Well, ladies and gentlemen, the moment of truth.  What you see below is a textbook case of an allergic reaction on the histamine (control meant to elicit a reaction so you can compare to others).  That’s right ONLY on histamine.  My second born is showing no allergic reaction to the top 8 food allergens.  [exhale] 

  


We are so thrilled and so pleasantly surprised.  I’m ecstatic that we won’t have to worry about Olivia touching, eating, reacting to the foods in her environment.  I can’t help but feel sad for Elena, though.  She has lost her teammate.  She had already begun talking about how she and Olivia could not eat certain things and they were just alike.  They are alike in a lot of ways, which I tried to point out to her after the appointment, but not in this way.  Ultimately, Elena decided she is glad she doesn’t have to worry about her sister’s food like she has to worry about her own, but I’m sure this is something she will struggle with.  I can’t imagine how lonely she must feel in all of this.

To add insult to injury, Olivia will be bringing her food into Elena’s safe haven.  The allergist told us that it is best to introduce all of the top 8 and give them frequently, now that we know Olivia isn’t allergic to any of them.  He said that by introducing them and then waiting months in between exposures, we would actually be increasing the chances that she would develop an allergy.  I suggested not giving them to her at all, but the idea did not seem to be in Olivia’s best interest.  I guess I knew it before I asked, but I had to ask.  Now that I know the extent to which food allergies interrupt and limit Elena’s experiences (not just with eating), I can’t impose the same restrictions on Olivia unnecessarily.  If it were just the food, that would be doable, but as you all know, it’s so much more.

I am worried that Elena will resent her sister or that people will prefer Olivia’s company to Elena’s because of the ease.  I also worry that Elena will begin to feel excluded and less safe in her own home.  I recently read a blog post where a mother described the constant battle of evening the score between her children due to experiences, treats, and privileges involving food.  It seemed like a full time job.  I know this is the lesser of two evils and I am so thankful for these results.  It’s time to learn a new dance and I’m sure my girls will help me figure it out as we go.  

For now, I just want to celebrate these results.  I need to celebrate Olivia and all of the possibilities that have been opened to her today.  She will never have to struggle with being hungry and not being able to figure out if the food she has available to her will do anything more than ease her hunger.  She will never have to fear parties and celebrations because of the food that will be present.  She will be able to visit friends without having to establish a plan of action for meals and snacks ahead of time.  She will not have to know the feeling of having an Epipen pouch accompany her everytime she leaves the house or the panic that comes with forgetting it.  My Olivia can be fully engaged in life without having to sidestep social situations because of food.  She will be able to appreciate all of these things fully because she will know the alternative better than most, as she will be playing her own role in helping to keep her big sister safe.  

Thank God for His many blessings!  



Elena shares her thoughts on Olivia's test results. video

11 comments:

  1. Hello, Super Mama.

    ...a new dance, indeed. I, too, share that "glittery" happiness that Elena expressed so well. At the same time, I am very sensitive to your mixed emotions. As an "all or nothing" type of person, I hear the concerns that this news brings. In many ways, it seems to be so much easier to just feed Olivia the same foods that Elena eats and go from there. However, it wouldn't be fair or healthy for your youngest daughter to do that. As you master this new dance, I'm embracing the fact that this journey will help both of your daughters to transfer what they learn at home to the experiences they have out in the world. They'll be food experts, and that will be a valuable tool at school, birthday parties, and beyond. Sure, it might cause some difficulties at times, but sisters are naturally going to find ways to cause occasional excitement anyway. Elena and Olivia are too smart to forget that they're on the same team, and you're too nurturing to let this be a source of division between your daughters. Kudos. We support you!

    Hugs.

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  2. Ah, Kelly. I just love how you "get" me. This is exactly what I believe to be true and what I need to hear. Thanks for commenting. As always, it means so much!!!

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  3. Well, first let's just take a sigh of relief that Olivia wasn't allergic to a new allergen and one that you have to rely on pretty heavily for protein... like SOY! I can't imagine what you are feeling right now, but I'm sure that you're going to find new and creative ways to make your home safe for both girls. As sisters, they are always going to love and be proud of each other. I'm sure they will learn how to respect and appreciate their differences. You can do this! Be sure to use your friends and family for support too! *wink wink*

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  4. Thank you, Brie. You know what that sisterly bond is like, so I will take your word for it that this will not be big enough to cause any rifts. True that as much as I try not to rely on soy, it would be a very difficult one for us to eliminate. I'm so glad she is not allergic to that or anything else. We will just look at this as being character building for both of them. (Thanks for the comment and sorry for the blatant solicitation.)

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  5. My younger child (age 7) has no food allergies. My older child (age 9) had multiple ones but is down to dairy only now. It's doable. I think you are on the right track. I also think the more matter of fact you are about it now, the easier it will be as they grow up.

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  6. Thanks, Jen. What a change this has been already. Elena seems to be dealing with Olivia eating things she can't have far better than I expected. I'm glad to know it gets easier. I certainly am looking forward to the day when we get to experience growing out of an allergy or two. Hopefully we will be among the lucky ones who do.

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  7. I have two boys. My oldest (4) has multiple allergies (dairy,egg,peanut and tree nut plus cat). My youngest (2) is so far allergy free. It is amazing how much easier life with #2 is, so much less worry! I do worry about how my oldest will feel as the years pass and he grows more and more aware of everything that has to be different for him. He already talks about how someday he'll be able to eat like his brother (God willing that WILL happen!). So glad you got good news about your second daughter!

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  8. Haley, I have already experienced a little taste of the freedom of having an allergy free child. I have been out with her a couple of times while Elena was at school and it's such a strange feeling to know I can give her anything I choose. It feels kind of wrong and also scary because now I really have to analyze what is the healthiest option for her. It's so strange to give one of my children dairy after treating it like a deadly poison with my other child for three years. Total mind shift.

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  9. That's wonderful news! My first child had horrible eczema, but his food allergies were not discovered until after the birth of our second child. If we had known, man, I would have been worried sick during pregnancy, birth, etc.

    What a great sense of relief for you. Like you said, time to exhale.

    Jennifer
    http://itchylittleworld.wordpress.com

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    1. Jennifer,

      The strange thing is, our second actually has more severe eczema than our allergic daughter did. We are now fighting the sunscreen battle, which I'm sure you know all too well. Your blog has been very helpful!!! thanks for all of the info!

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