Anaphylaxis in Rome (part 1 of 2)

These posts are hard to write.  In many ways, it forces me to relive moments that are very frightening and difficult.  It also forces me face the reality that these moments might happen in the future at any time.  We never know the situation, hour, or moment.  Anaphylaxis can happen to him and changes everything in the blink of an eye.  We work hard to never have an anaphylactic moment.  But the reality is I can’t fully protect my son from that as hard as I try. He must live a full life and I want him too!

Before even agreeing to go to Rome in Summer 2010, Joel and I had “the talk.”  Do we go or do we stay? What is the worst case scenario? We both agreed our worst case scenario is that Benjamin might go into anaphylaxis.  Could we take extra precautions and try to prevent that or is it best to stay at home?  We want our son to live fully.  He loves history, cultural experiences, and travel. Could we deny him the chance to try? We reasoned: if we don’t travel, how will he know how to travel when he is grown?  We would have to work really hard to make it work. We could do that. 

So, here is a short list of things we decided to do. We worked with the university to create a list of every nut in Italian. We wrote a summary explaining his allergy to restaurants and food workers and a friend at the university translated it into Italian.  We wrote a one-page summary about his condition, immediate medical needs, and other vital information (blood type, etc.) for emergency workers and doctors and had it translated into Italian. (We carried that with us 100% of the time.)  We brought extra epi pens and Benadryl  and had prescriptions written by our doctor for all them to get them through customs. I started studying traditional Italian cookbooks. I made a list of dishes that I noticed were using nuts. I read travel memoirs and blogs of Americans living in Italy so that I had more information about rhythm of life in Italy. I’m glad I did, too! I found out valuable information – and had fun reading and learning about Italy.

We chose an apartment near to the children’s hospital.  We notified everyone. Participants in the academic program where Joel taught, airlines, restaurants we were scheduled to eat at, and catering services.  I planned to mostly cook from scratch in our apartment.

We worked hard to eliminate risk.

But it’s hard to be 100% right.  And we missed one.  I missed the danger.  I can still feel the lump in my throat and the hot tears in my eyes just writing it now. I missed it.  It was plain jar of red tomato sauce at the grocery store.  I read the label. I consulted my list and I did not recognize the word they listed for cashew, which was embedded in the middle of the list of ingredients. In all of my research I’d never run across a recipe for a tomato sauce (a Romano sauce) that called for ground cashew.

We had spent an unforgettable morning that day at a nearly empty Coliseum. We got up very early to take the kids. Our plan was to get across Rome early in the morning and be one of the first to stand in the long line. We already had our tickets.  It worked. We watched the sunrise from inside the Coliseum.  It was glorious. We took our time looking through the gladiator exhibit.  We left and walked down the main street in ancient Rome.  We wondered if the apostle Paul had walked where we were walking.  It was hot, dusty, but magnificent at the same time.

We left and made the long journey back across Rome to have lunch at home. It was hot, miserably hot.  We had invited some law students over for dinner and the kids wanted to have an easy pasta dish.  So, we stopped in the mart on the way home and bought the supplies.

At dinner time, the girls came over. We prayed and started eating and chatting about our day.  Benjamin helped himself to pasta and took a bite. One bite was all he had.  And then he said, “Dad, my throat.”  [to be continued]

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  1. Anaphylaxis in Rome (part 2 of 2) « Benjamin's BlogDog
  2. Italy (Guest Post by Amanda Fenolio) « Benjamin's BlogDog

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