KosAbility is a community diary series posted at 5 PM ET every Sunday and Wednesday by volunteer diarists. This is a gathering place for people who are living with disabilities, who love someone with a disability, or who want to know more about the issues surrounding this topic. There are two parts to each diary. First, a volunteer diarist will offer their specific knowledge and insight about a topic they know intimately. Then, readers are invited to comment on what they've read and or ask general questions about disabilities, share something they've learned, tell bad jokes, post photos, or rage about the unfairness of their situation. Our only rule is to be kind; trolls will be spayed or neutered.
I put down my backpack and stretched out my shoulders. Thank goodness I'd gotten through another day. I whistled at my cockatiel and let her out of her cage. I could have gone to Subway after my last class with a few friends, but there really isn't anything I can eat there any more, and I was starving.
At least Angie gets it. Brenda keeps saying that if I'd just go organic I could eat anything I want, and I think Jade thinks I'm making up my allergies to get attention. Not hardly.
I didn't make up having my hand swell up to three times its size after I touched a peanut shell lying on the floor in my mom's office.
Well, okay. I have to be honest. I don't remember that, but my mom does, and she has pictures in our family photo album (a real one, with actual prints...it was too early to have stuff on-line). I do remember the time I tried to go to the Cubs game and had to be taken to the hospital half an hour later, wheezing. Boy, did that suck! Six epi shots, overnight "observation," and I didn't even get to keep up with the game. (Didn't matter, 'cause they lost again, I guess.)
Yeah, peanuts are my bane. But I'm not lucky enough to be Superman in exchange. And don't bring up Supergirl...lame. There's no female version of Superman. Yet.
Mom says I don't remember this, but I do. Grandma in California got really sick when I was about five years old. Back then, in the "good old days," the airlines passed out peanuts like they were air. So we had to drive all the way there and back to make sure that I wouldn't die on a flight over.
Grandma got better. I'm glad. She's still around, still worried 'cause I read books with swear words in them. There are better things to worry about, but I guess she has to worry about stuff like that. That's what makes her Grandma. You know?
Our big move when I was about thirteen sucked, too. I had to go to a new school, they didn't have my IEP ready...you know what an IEP is, right? Individualized education plan? Basically, it's how the school makes sure, if you have a "disability" like my peanut and milk allergies, that you aren't going to die. Maybe. So they called in some "specialist" who decided the best thing to do was keep me far away from every other kid in the school.
Seriously! She set up "peanut free" tables in my classroom and the cafeteria with huge red arrows pointing at them and signs that read "No Peanuts!" in this ugly Day-Glo orange color. I asked if she wanted me to ring a bell and shout "Unclean!" everywhere I went, so she sent me to the principal's office for being a "problem."
Geez. And I was so sure I could just handle everything myself. The principal told me I had to do what the "specialist" said. I went back to class but wouldn't sit at the leper table. This happened for a few days until finally someone called in Dad. Boy were there fireworks then! There was a reason I refused to go along with their crap, and it wasn't because Dad and Mom taught me to lay down and take it.
Heh. I ended up at a different school, the other school in town. And I wasn't put at some damned leper table, either. Oh, sorry. I don't mean to be mean if you have some disease like that. I meant it like the way people used to treat lepers, like the Bible stories.
Anyway. Some days it still sucks, missing out on stuff. I went to my cousin Steve's wedding, and he didn't have anything I could eat there. And we were there for eight hours. I thought Uncle Bob and Aunt Karen knew about my allergies, so we didn't ask them for special stuff for me to eat there, and Steve said he was sorry, but he was busy thinking about other things. I'm not really mad at anyone about that, I guess, because I know they didn't mean to do it, but come on...I'm your family, and you forgot? You'd think they'd remember, right?
But some stuff got a lot better. I'd like to think the Cubs were working to make things up to me, but I know they weren't, I guess. They hosted a peanut-free night of baseball! They had to have it in a skybox, so we wouldn't get contaminated, but I got to see them play live!
They still lost, though.
The above is based on either my own experiences with food allergies or those I've encountered in my research into them. I was never put at a segregated table, but according to the Food Allergy and Anaphylaxis Network, this did happen at one school to one elementary-age child. I am not a fan of sports, but the Cubs did host a peanut-free night and do support the It Gets Better campaign besides. I have gone twice to family events where I trusted others to accommodate my allergies, and they did not. I have missed out frequently on gatherings with my friends involving food. I have never driven to California, and do not have relatives there. The reactions are real reactions children have had to peanuts. So far, I appear to have been spared.
Please feel free to ask further questions in the comments. Thank you so much for your attention and reading my depiction of how food allergies can isolate someone.