The Phone Call Most Feared!

Ottawa, Canada food allergy mom Michelle Nel Chow shares a series of her personal stories with BAAAB. Her son, Nolan, is severely food allergic. Michelle stays strong and has self-published her own children’s book “To Be a Nut or Not“.

If she is pushing a vacuum with one hand yet holding her cordless phone in the other , should she be in the shower – phone propped against the outside of the glass door, if you think her unreasonably irate her charger was unknowingly unplugged leaving her cell with anything less than a full battery, if she will interrupt her own dental work to answer an incoming call, if she answers her home phone speaking quickly and saying something along the lines of ‘hello…can’t talk… must keep phone free….school might call – click!, well, the odds would be ‘she’ is an allergy mom!!

Allergy parents share more than an overload of information which at an exponential rate we continually stuff into our brains (aka: information hoarders by necessity). What Allergy parents also share is a feeling. This sentiment in no way means nor insinuates we are overly anxious , unduly nervous, or that we have our kids wrapped in anything let alone bubble …this feeling I would describe more as an awareness tugging at us due to an underlying reality.
Each time we hug our kids goodbye, be it for a day at school , a birthday party or a trip to Grandma’s, we send them off trusting in the allergy lessons we have instilled in them, equally we are also putting our children into the trust of others.

Today I received a text, one which I admit I read several times to fully absorb. It was from a good friend who had literally just received ‘ the’ phone call most feared. In this moment , the only information she had was that due to an allergic reaction school staff had (yeah- and THANK YOU) administered epinephrine and an ambulance was en route. Knowing just this, with no further knowledge , my friend was at the very moment I received her text leaving to drive to her daughters school. I cannot even fathom that trip, I can’t imagine how long each light, how far each small distance must have felt.

Awaiting for word afternoon was a long one. And when texts stopped my heart raced and honestly that was when my own tears frequently welled. With great relief, more than I can express…. my friends daughter today has recovered after a long day in the ER. But the thing is – (and I’ve heard it myself after my son’s own anaphylactic reactions) when others say ‘it could have been worse’, or ‘relax, it all ended well’ , ‘don’t focus on the what if’s’ they cannot in any way comprehend the impact or trauma left due to an anaphylactic reaction. YES… we are grateful for those who did the right thing, YES we celebrate that the medication did as it should, YES the outcome was in fact the best case scenario … but what remains , unrefuted are the emotions from the ‘after ‘ as they flood over like an uncontrolled emotional volcano.

From personal experience I know that in the moment there is no reflection, only acting and doing. Not until home and unwinding do the waves of emotion crest over . For what might be a crisis diverted for others, is a reality check for allergy parents. One which we live with every day – yet choose not to live in fear of – but along side with.

For all those who roll eyes as we advocate for our children, for the many who belittle, dismiss, mock or disbelieve, for each and every person who question what we do, shouldn’t do , might do or have done to cause or cure our children’s allergies , for every person who groans about the smallest accommodation requested of them in order to keep our children safe, know this.

I would love be the parent (as I once was), the mom who went with the general censuses, whatever worked for others I agreed to. Before our son I had no need to constantly speak up, voice my concerns, request accommodations, make suggestions, deal with arrogance and ignorance, accept exclusion for my child to some degree large or small. But the thing is , I now must, we must, and we do.

That being said , many of the most incredible, compassionate and accommodating people I’ve met have been through my son’s allergies.

Tonight my friend and fellow mama bear is in my thoughts. Mama bears is a term we’ve dubbed our fellow allergy moms. How fitting this definition of mama bear I found today “a mom who can be cuddly and lovable but also has a ferocious side when it’s necessary to protect her cubs.” There is no group I’ve ever found more supportive, caring, and sincere than the mama bears in my own life. Not even minutes after I spread the word regarding today’s reaction thoughts, wishes, prayers, love and support were pouring in , each mama bear feeling the same weight of the unknown dread. For allergy mamas, we are equally protective of each others’ cubs as we are our own.

I am grateful today for school staff knowing what to do and for acting swiftly and appropriately. My dear friend, knowing the actions of others saved your child’s life is a daunting thought, I send you my love and a huge allergy mama bear hug.
And yes, I am unashamed to admit I just did double check that my cell phone is plugged in and happily charging. =)))

By Michelle Nel Chow