This is Alison’s story, a mother to three children, the oldest of whom is 13 and a half, and is anaphylactically allergic to tree nuts, ground nuts, sesame and lupin.
My eldest son was diagnosed when he was 36 months after a lot of reactions and finally quite a major one. When he was 4 and a half, he had full anaphylactic shock.
Our family has led a very controlled existence with regard to food since then and rarely eat out, unless of course, alot of planning has taken place first.
Just recently, he went out to dinner in a restaurant, on his own!
I say on his own, there were others, about 20 to be precise. In many ways that made it more worrying. At least if he went out for the first time with just a friend or two, I would have felt confidence in his friends to support him, as they are aware of his circumstances and by and large as sensible as you get for young teenage lads.
However, this group were out for a fun Christmas meal, with ages ranging from 13 to 19 and then a few adults of around 50. No others in the group had dietary requirements of any kind, other than vegetarian.
When he first told me this meal was in the pipeline,he was quite terrified. In fact as he began telling me, his eyes grew like saucers.
Equally, I momentarily felt a sense of alarm. I knew this day would come, I just hadn’t expected it so soon.
Calm. That’s what came into my head. Show, and be, calm.
So, I rationally dissected what we needed to do. The same as we always do.
I asked him where and when.
A pizza restaurant. Great! For us, thats possible.
Then I told him he needed to speak to the lad in charge,and remind them of his condition. He said that they had remembered, but he wasn’t really sure what they meant by that. Eyes still large.
I said to my boy, “Look, we’ll go to the restaurant in the week before and talk it through. And if we’re not happy,either you don’t go- but I’m sure that won’t happen- or if the worst comes to the worst,I can book a table and sit round the corner. But that’s the last thing you probably want,but I wil if it makes you feel happier”
As it turned out, the group of lads were very good. When he had a word with them, he told them that I said he was panicking! Goodness I said! That’s not at all what I meant!
Either way, they crossed off any offending items from the menu and allowed the lads to order only safe foodstuffs. Brilliant!
We felt reassured straight away.
We visited the restaurant three days before.
Checked the menu again, and checked for trace elements. I left my telephone numbers against the booking, as well as notification of his name and allergies, and that he carried adrenalin. Unfortunately the same helpful waitress wasn’t going to be on that night but she promised to relay everything.
With all this preplanning, there was nothing else to do but wait.
THE BIG NIGHT ARRIVED!
Strangely, I was completely fine. Not chewing my nails, but actually looking forward to it for him. I guess I knew we had done all the usual checks and he is a sensible lad regarding his allergies.
I drove him and two friends down to the restaurant and left him outside where they were all gathering. I had gently given his two friends a reminder in the car that they were his support network and that I was sure they could rise to that should he need some back up.
And so I went home.
My boss asked me a couple of days later
“So, did you resist the urge to sit outside in a fake beard and hat?!”
And yes, I did happily resist.
I sat at home wrapping Christmas presents.
By the phone of course. I wasn’t that complacent!
When it did ring at 9.45pm it was his best friend’s mum, who was collecting.
“I thought they would have rung for a lift by now?!” she says with a concerned air.
“Oh, no.” I said “I’m not expecting them before 10pm, probably nearer half past”
After a few minutes of chatting, I begin to realise that she’s in her car outside the restaurant and clearly a little worried. Her son’s first night out too. No allergies or dietary requirements though.
Suddenly as it gets to 10pm, she tells me that she’s spotted our boys coming out and walking towards her. Relief is quite apparent in her voice.
I find myself smiling.
When he arrives home, I ask him all about his evening.
“It was great!” he says.
“The pizza was lovely, but I couldn’t eat it all, as the starter was so big. I’ve got it in a doggie bag… Oh! I’ve left it in their car.”
“Never mind.” I say, “We’ll get it from them tomorrow.” clearly able to see that he was swelled with pride about his evening, his personal achievment and also his enjoyment of restaurant food.
Then he happens to mention that “You know, mum, Jacks mum told us that she’d been sitting outside the restaurant since 9.30pm!”
So you see, it’s not just us allergic parents that worry, there are other crazies out there too!
I’m not ever not going to worry. And I’m sure that he will at some time take risks and not tell me. That’s what teenagers do. Hell, that’s what PEOPLE do. I just need to know that I have given him all the training and tools at his disposal, to help himself in his independent life. So far, so good. One day at a time.
Oh and the doggie bag?
Their dog got it. Lucky Humphrey!