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Saturday, November 24, 2007

Villagers of Distinction: Sara & Mike Shannon

The Villager of the Month accolade has gone to a person or group that has done something interesting or special for those with allergies. It has honoured several people but as I award this accolade this evening I am struggling with the title.

Let me explain ...

Today I posted about how I thought I almost received a peanut cookie at a café. Though I do not have any food allergies, I seem to be vicariously allergic to peanut through my daughter. I react to peanut with an urgency that would suggest I am allergic myself. It is downright scary to think that I could accidentally consume something that would cause a possibly fatal physiological response. It is scarier still to imagine my daughter have that same reaction.

Tonight Gina Clowes of Allergy Moms emailed me. She reminded me that my Villager of the Month accolade was again due and her nominees are an obvious recipient for any and all allergy-related accolades. My concern was that a 'Villager of the Month' accolade just didn't seem appropriate given all that they have been through, and all they have done for the allergy community.

Many of you will know the story of their daughter Sabrina. The best summary of the Shannons' dedication to their daughter is summed up by Allergic Living, "On that terrible last day of September 30, 2003, Sara had made this promise to her daughter: she would do everything possible to prevent another child from dying of anaphylaxis. That promise has become her mission."

Sara has followed through on that promise.

For those who have children with anaphylaxis, Sara and Mike should serve as your inspiration. Collectively, our worst fear is that we might someday lose our child to a fatal allergic reaction. The Shannon's have turned their tragic loss into triumph and proved that all you can do in life is make the most of any situation, no matter how dire.

Gina Clowes was one of the first people to ever comment on NoPeanutsPlease. She counseled me to think of those with allergy to things other than peanut, and highlighted the story of Sabrina and her parents. After Gina's post I lay awake at night for about a month and wondered if I would have the courage to follow in the Shannons' footsteps. In those initial days after our daughter's diagnosis the possibility of a fatal reaction were of course exaggerated in my mind.

Madeleine would cough at night and my immediate response was to rush in and make sure she was not having an allergic reaction. It sounds crazy ... and it was.

Over the ensuing year my thoughts have returned many times to the Shannons.

My pittance of an accolade cannot begin to demonstrate my respect and gratitude for what they have done. We live in Vancouver and when Madeleine goes to school in three years she will be safer than she would be if she entered school today. Because of the Shannons' support for bill M210 here in British Columbia there are new anaphylaxis policies in our schools. Though we did not secure a west coast version of Sabrina's law, the support of the Shannons gave credibility to the efforts of PACT.

Though I hope to never follow in their footsteps, I am deeply moved by their response to the tragic loss of their daughter. Though I cannot even fathom the loss of Madeleine, I would hope that I could have a fraction of the Shannons' courage.

In honour of Sara and Mike Shannon I have renamed my 'Village of the Month' award. Henceforth the accolade will be called 'Villagers of Distinction'. The word 'month' connotes a point in time. The Shannons have given so much to the allergy community that any accolade, no matter how small, requires an element of permanence. It is not melodramatic to say their through their efforts they have undoubtedly saved the lives of multiple children.

Their efforts in BC may even someday save Madeleine's life and that possibility alone makes me forever grateful for their courage and their contribution to the allergy community.

Thank you Sara and Mike. You are truly an inspiration.

4 comments:

Lise said...

Very good choice!

AllergyMom said...

You can watch an incredible documentary on Sabrina's Law here:
http://www.canada.com/globaltv/globalshows/globalcurrents/sabrinas_law/index.html The Shannons are joined by Robert F. Kennedy Jr (board member of the Food Allergy Initiative) and many other food allergy advocates and parents from across the US and Canada.

Sara is a very giving person and I hope we never lose sight of the fact that her work is protecting our kids. At the end of the day, we go home to our children but she goes home alone.

I truly believe that Sabrina's story will be the one that enlightens the world about food allergies.

Take care,

Gina Clowes
www.AllergyMoms.com

ChupieandJ'smama said...

Wonderful Choice! And I'm glad you changed the name of the award. I never thought of it that way, but since you mentioned that "month" gives it a time distinction, I like the new name better. Thanks for all the advocating you do too!

Amy said...

I love what you are doing. In case you are not already familiar, I would like to introduce you to Paul and Katrina Vonder Muellen. Ther remind me a lot of the Shannon's as they, too, lost their daughter to an ana. reaction in the spring of 2006. You can read their story at www.foodallergyangel.com

Amy