Sunday, March 22, 2009

The future is bright, the future is nut-free

On Saturday Sinéad and I went along to a parents support group meeting organised by the Irish Anaphylaxis Campaign. No kids allowed, so Fionn spent his time entertaining his more than willing baby-sitters (Roisin & Brion) by climbing up a flight of stairs three times. Good man Fionn.

The meet-up was excellent, with about 20 people attending, some couples but mostly parents attending by themselves. The stories we heard were very varied: the ages of the children with anaphylaxis ranged from Fionn at nine months of age up to at least 17 years old; and the allergens included everything from peanuts to potatoes. It was a really informative few hours, especially for myself and Sinéad, as we're obviously still very new to this, and we got some good practical information like names of experts in Ireland, and the kind of supports that were available (not much).

We also got to listen to peoples' own personal struggles, to hear about the kind of everyday stuff they had to cope with, and that we have yet to face: kid's parties; eating out in restaurants; transitioning to new schools. Parents sat there discussing the vital neccessity of having adrenaline shots (anapens/epipens) pretty much everywhere - in the home, at school, having the child carry two themselves - as well as making sure that as many friends and relatives were familiar with how the anapens work by asking them to practice with a training "pen". It all seemed a bit daunting, and one lady (who also quite recently found out that her son has anaphylaxis, although he's much older than Fionn) seemed to sum up my feelings quite well, saying that before she found out about the diagnosis she had never given much thought to allergies and allergic reactions; now that she knew, she felt that she had crossed some great divide, and that we were somehow separated from the general public, in that it is now all that we can think about, that we now have this huge extra responsibilty to remain vigilant on behalf of our children about what they eat and what they are exposed to.

This may seem like a doom and gloom post, but it's not. I came away from the meeting feeling quite motivated by the level of support from the others present - they've made it this far, and their success (in some cases in spite of much greater challenges than we face) is inspiring. The Irish Anaphylaxis Campaign is doing a great job of raising awareness in this country, and I'll be giving some of my time to empower the community by helping out with the website, as well as doing what I can to help with the drive to have the campaign become a recognised charitable organisation. I'd like to thank Claire and Fiona for organising the meet-up, as well as the other parents we met on the day, and look forward to seeing you again soon.

Oh, and by the way, Declan Kidney for Taoiseach.

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