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Saturday, March 31, 2007

Rolling Eyes

As I read through the numerous articles, blogs and stories about anaphylaxis I have noticed a disturbing trend. It seems that when other parents, teachers, principals, etc. are told about severe allergy they often 'roll their eyes'. Unfortunately some of these people did not understand the true severity of the allergy until a child under their care died.

Here is an example from a live chat from the fall of 2006 at with Sara Shannon: "Sabrina had a reaction at her public school the year before she died, and the reaction was handled improperly. Looking back, I see that as a warning. I went to the school to discuss how the reaction was handled, and I was greeted by rolling eyes (sad to say but it’s true). (This person now cries to this day about what happened to my daughter, by the way.) At the time that I was greeted with rolling eyes, I accepted their lack of belief and didn’t feel I could do anything about it, based on my past experience with the education system. My solution was for Sabrina to have complete avoidance of her allergens and hopefully she would not have a reaction at school."

Another example comes from Australia where a coroner's inquest is looking into the death of a young boy who was given peanut butter despite their being prior knowledge of his allergy. The boy's mother, Martha Baptist "told a packed session of the Victorian Coroner's Court that one mother at the kindergarten had rolled her eyes when she repeatedly asked her not to bring food with nut traces."

What I find troubling about this is that Baptist was trying to inform the other parents of the allergy but they treated her with disdain. Then the unthinkable happened ... the mother who rolled her eyes 'rolled in' with a peanut butter sandwich and it led to the boy's death. "Martha Baptist told the court that after her son's death it took her three months to work up the courage to ask the parents on duty that day what food was given to the children. Two mothers she asked, including a woman called Angela Berry, told her the children had eaten nothing but fruit.

But Martha Baptist told the court a third woman she knew from a mother's group later told her Angela Berry had in fact brought a peanut butter sandwich in on the day Alex died but that Ms Berry had told her not to say anything about it."

If that wasn't bad enough, to add insult to injury "
lawyers for Berry asked Alex Baptist's paediatrician whether she was aware the boy had been referred to a neurologist for investigation of possible epilepsy, on account of an incident where as a baby his eyes rolled up in his head and his body went limp while breastfeeding." The doctor denied that this had occurred.

These examples make me roll my eyes. Allergic children rely on the support of school staff and the cooperation of other parents.
Though people's attitudes seem to have come a long way in the last few years, it is disappointing to continuously see life threatening allergy met with rolling eyes, as if it was a nuisance to others.

As parents of an anaphylactic daughter it is impossible to read these stories without picturing this happening to our child. I suspect it is also nearly impossible for those who rolled their eyes to live with the fact that they did not take anaphylaxis seriously until it was too late.

Only through continued education, training and support programs will the non-allergic world understand the perpetual risk that our allergic kids face.

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