'Peanut Allergy Princess' is the story of one mom, one Princess with food allergies (to peanuts and brazil nuts) and our journey through the stress of life with food allergies. Here you will find many recipes, tips on living (and enjoying life) with food allergies, thoughts from a mother of 3 kids (The Brothers and The Princess) and insights into our life. Welcome!

Tuesday, May 7, 2013

The School Bus

I have to apologize for last Friday... can you believe that I completely forgot? What a crazy week we had! And as school gets closer to ending, it seems like things get busier and busier.

Today's post is a guest post from a friend (who actually came up with the name for my blog - so props to my friend for an awesome name!!). I am grateful to her for being willing to share this recent experience she had on the blog. Food allergies are often misunderstood and the only way to combat that is to get more information out there. My friend's story is an eye-opener to the ignorance that is out there and what we, as parents of food allergic children, have to deal with on a daily basis.

I've been thinking about this a lot lately...for the past 6 years to be exact. That's when my daughter Kendall was diagnosed with severe, life-threatening allergies to peanuts and eggs. I am the mother of a child with food allergies. I KNOW I am perceived by others as a "high-maintenance" mother – a "helicopter" mother by some. But not a day goes by that I do not wonder if my child with food allergies will come in contact with a food allergen that will cause her to stop breathing and go into anaphylactic shock. I know how to handle the situation but will her teacher, the school workers, the lunch room attendants, the bus driver????

I wasn't going to share this story publicly, and I don’t know if many people will actually take the time to read this whole thing.   But I wanted to write this because I am bothered by the ignorance of some who just do NOT understand that one small crumb or cross-contamination of a food allergen can literally cause my child to stop breathing. I know most people will just scroll past this post because who has time to deal with food allergies when it doesn't involve them personally? I just hope that maybe I can encourage just ONE more person to understand what I deal with on a daily basis. So here's my story:

Last week Kendall's bus driver handed out donuts to the students on his bus for good behavior during a bus evacuation drill. When Kendall came home and told me about the donuts (WHICH USUALLY CONTAIN EGGS AND COULD CONTAIN PEANUTS!--and YES, I explained the severity of Kendall's allergies to the bus driver at the beginning of the school year!) I went through the usual conversation of "I'm sorry you couldn't eat one. Next time I'll get you a peanut and egg free treat that you can have instead." What she said next was a big eye opener: "BUT MOM, I don't care about the treat! They ate the donuts on the bus and I was worried about getting hives the WHOLE way to school!" She's 7 years old.

I thought about this situation for a while before I called the bus depot to talk to the supervisor. At the beginning of the school year I was told I could not allow Kendall to carry an Epi-Pen in her backpack in case another child accidentally played with it and got hurt. SO I bought my 5th grader a cell phone and put him in charge of being the "peanut police" and he was to call me if Kendall had any problems on the bus. The drive from the bus stop to the school is short and I have not worried about it too much because there are enough kids on the bus who know Kendall well and know what to watch for with her. I’m also usually very close by so I know that I could get to her within the few short minutes I would need to save her life. There are also 2 other children on the same bus with peanut and egg allergies as well. As my son, the "peanut police" was enjoying not ONE but TWO donuts...my daughter was terrified of getting cross-contaminated. I do not blame my son. He's 11. He loves donuts. I blame an ignorant bus driver who does not understand the severity of a child with food allergies.

Like I said...many of you will scroll right past this LONG post but if you've made it this far keep reading. The story gets better. A few days after this incident the bus depot supervisor advised our bus driver he could not hand out treats anymore. Now I'm the "MEAN" mom. I'm sure I offended the bus driver. He probably spent a fortune on all of the donuts for all of the students.  And I'm sure the students who could actually enjoy them were very excited to get such a wonderful treat to start their school day with (don't even get me started on that!). And for the record, I have heard that you're a mean bus driver if you don't hand out as many treats as the other bus drivers. As if bus drivers should use their hard earned money to buy our kids treats every week?!???!

I had mainly called to talk to the supervisor to find out if I could keep an Epi-Pen in my daughter's backpack, not to ask them to get rid of treats on the bus. The supervisor made the executive decision to just tell the bus driver "No treats!" I even told the supervisor that I was ok if the bus driver hands out treats as the kids exit the bus because I know I cannot control every single thing my daughter comes in contact with. (BUT I CAN TRY MY HARDEST!) I was just asking that he please not hand them out ON THE BUS! I was told that I was the FIRST mother to make this request! In an entire SCHOOL DISTRICT with several cities...I'M THE FIRST MOTHER TO ASK THAT PEANUT CONTAMINATED FOOD NOT BE HANDED OUT TO THE KIDS ON THE BUS????? WHAT?!?!?! Back to the story, the supervisor was very supportive in my request to have her carry an Epi-Pen on the bus. BUT...I have to call the school district, talk to the school nurse (again) contact the principal...etc. It's not going to be easy. And I STILL might be told NO!

The story continues... a few days after this incident my 11 year old was telling us how funny it was that the bus driver told them he was going to bring a bunch of cats on the bus. He said into his loudspeaker "Oh wait! How many kids are allergic to cats???" Several students raised their hand. He continued, "Well, I guess I can't bring cats on the bus then because you guys are allergic to them." My kids did not know his intention here but I KNEW what his intention was! HE WAS MOCKING ME! Really, Mr. Bus Driver???? Just goes to show people really do NOT understand the severity of food allergies! Our bus driver still DOES NOT GET IT!!!!!  And yes, I know I could just drive my daughter to school, which I do quite often, but that is not the point. The point is that I have to live every minute of every day just HOPING that all of the "responsible" adults who take care of my daughter take her LIFE-THREATENING FOOD ALLERGIES seriously! Kids with food allergies are becoming more and more common, yet so many adults refuse to acknowledge this! They think we CHOOSE to eliminate eggs, dairy, peanuts, and other dangerous food allergens from our children's diet. Do you think I ENJOY squinting at tiny food labels in the grocery store on every item I buy to make sure I do not accidentally contaminate my daughter?

So...I will contain to be a high maintenance mother. I will continue to complain to the school district if my daughter is placed in a life-threatening situation. If a child had a gun on the bus do you think the bus driver would laugh and make cat jokes about it? I didn't think so. Thank you if you took time to read this EXTREMELY long post. I'm just trying to make other people aware. I will worry and protect my daughter with food allergies her entire life. That's what mother's do. That's what I do - every day. 

Thanks to my friend Jenny for sharing her story. My hope is that we can help increase awareness one story at a time and make the world a safer place for kids (and adults) with food allergies.


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