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August 15, 2017

    Don’t Feed Me

    I was four years old, laying tummy down on a cold table while several needles pricked my back. The doctor was yelling at my mom, telling her she was being an overreactive, overprotective parent.

    Fast-forward a few moments and now the doctor yells at my mother for not taking me to see him sooner. We both sat in tears as the doctor told us the results of my tests, and continued to make my mum feel like a less-than-good mother(which, if y’all know Sherry, she’s the bomb). He was not the friendliest doctor, I always disliked him for he treated my mum poorly but also because gave me bad news every time I went to see him.

    The news?

    I am anaphylactic allergic to eggs.

    Allergies- such a common issue these days, everyone is gluten free, dairy free, vegan, etc… But my allergy is not a dietary choice, it’s not a preference, it’s not a trend that I’ll get over in two years. It’s a diagnosis that lasts me a life time.


    Anaphylaxis

    Anaphylaxis is the worst type of allergic reaction there is. There are several symptoms which change person to person/reaction to reaction. When I am experiencing an anaphylactic reaction, my tongue swells, my throat closes, I get wheezy, my heart rate goes crazy, I have severe pain in my stomach and fun fun fun, I vomit. 

    Anaphylaxis is not fun, it’s scary, and it is life-threatening. I’m not doctor or professional, but I do have twenty years of experience 🙂 

     


    I was sitting at a restaurant in Nepal a few years ago, my team was celebrating the birthday of a team member. I looked at the menu, a little squeamish, as eating out did not usually go over well for me, and by grace I had made it two weeks in the country without a problem. I picked the simplest meal on the menu, chicken with rice, potatoes and veggies. There’s no egg in that. 

    When the server came to take our order, I very clearly expressed my allergies, and told him that my meal had to be made in a clean pan and could not even touch anything that had eggs in it. As every server, he said it would be no problem and would tell the chef.

    A few moments later he brought out our drinks and I asked him if he had talked to the kitchen, everything was good he told me. I drank my cola and enjoyed the evening with my friends. When our food arrived I triple-checked with the server, and again he assured me everything was fine.

    I nervously ate a few bites, felt okay, and continued to consume almost my entire meal. Near the end of it, I really began to feel funny. I must be fine, I’ve eaten almost an entire meal. If this meal touched something with egg, I would’ve known within the first few bites, that’s how it’s always been.

    Next thing I know I am throwing up in the (not-so-nice) bathroom of the restaurant and I feel a strong impression: Savannah, you need to go to the hospital.

    I was having an anaphylactic reaction, in a foreign country. The scary part was usually, when I had a reaction, I would be at the hospital by the time I was throwing up. Immediately after I throw up, is when my airways begin to close. It was about another hour between that point and me receiving medical help. I am not exaggerating when I say, I almost didn’t make it. I shared the rest of this story on a blog post years ago, you can read that here.

    After this incident, and many to follow and many that preceded, big and small reactions, hospital visits, or just a Benadryl, I made a decision. You see, my allergy is so severe that if you touch your egg sandwich, pass me the salt, and I touch my avotoast, I’m making a lil trip to the ER. I don’t have to eat straight scrambled eggs to end up needing medical attention. It takes the smallest amount to give me a reaction. It’s severe. It’s scary. It isn’t fun.

    I made a decision to only eat the food I make myself.

    Nothing against you, I promise.

    I know, you want to make me the yummiest vegan cookies from Oh She Glows. They’re vegan so I can eat them right?!

    You’re so kind.

    You tell me that the restaurant you work at as a waitress is “really good with allergies”.

    I really believe that they are, and that those vegan cookies are vegan and I could probably eat them.

    But I won’t.

    I won’t eat the cookies, or eat at your restaurant.

    What if the pan you made vegan cookies on has a little bit of non-vegan cookie baked onto it from last week’s girl’s night.

    What if the guy you talked to in the kitchen who told you my meal was egg-free, didn’t realize that the parmesan cheese used in the dish has lysozyme, which is (often) made from egg.

    Now that bit of cookie from last week touches the “vegan” cookies and I’m eating this parm with a substance in it that no one knows is egg (I even learned the hard way),  now we’re on the way to the hospital.

    These are dumb what-ifs maybe, quite unlikely, but out of all the serious and life-threatening reactions I have had, at least 80% of them were in circumstances where someone else served me food that they ensure was “safe”.

    Am I mad or bitter at any of these people? NO!

    We are human y’all! We mess up, we forget to wipe the counter properly after setting egg shells on it, we misread ingredients lists, we don’t know that allergens have other (very weird) names.

    I have spent 20 years of my life training my brain to think a certain way. I ask the doctor every time I get a shot, if it has eggs. Yeah, it’s a weird question to ask but the Flu shot, Yellow Fever vaccine and several anesthetics have eggs. I notice when people touch something with egg and then pass me their phone to look at a photo. It’s just in my brain to do these things and I still make mistakes sometimes. I don’t expect people to get it right every time either.

    Because of the crazy health trend right now, especially being Vegan, there are SO many options of places to go and things to eat that would be okay for me but I mentally cannot handle it. Having your throat close and not being able to breathe is a really crummy feeling. Reactions have left me anxious and fearful to eat anything I did not make myself. I even struggle to let my mama cook for me. Anxiety has paralyzed me when it comes to food.

    I stopped eating what I didn’t make because it allows me to enjoy moments better.

    It looks weird when I go out with friends to a restaurant to celebrate someone’s birthday and don’t order anything, or when I’m not getting excited when it’s finally my table’s turn to hit the buffet at a wedding (cheers if you saw my Instastory last weekend of me scarfing food down in my car in between the ceremony and reception).  I promise I don’t have anything against a brother or sister and I am a believer, I just can’t take communion because the bread probably has egg, and y’all dip it in the wine, so now I can’t have the wine.

    BUT

    Letting the elements pass by lets me enjoy these moments, rather than feeling anxious that at any moment, after any bite, my throat is going to get itchy, and I’ll have to find someone to sacrifice their evening to drive me to the hospital as I struggle to breathe.

    The anxiety part of this is something I can work through, but it is real, and it’s there for a reason. It keeps me from being dumb and eating things I can’t and shouldn’t.  I am trying to be more chill about some things but other things, I’m sorry, I won’t budge on.

    I am so so so grateful for those of you who are SO thoughtful, and bring a baked good to the potluck with ingredients I can have, or recommend good vegan restaurants, or consistently offer me food you made (that I probably could eat). I am sorry if I have ever offended you in my saying no, or “I just ate”. I am so grateful for thoughtful people in my life and am sorry that my anxiety overrides your generosity and thoughtfulness. I trust that you made your food with clean pans/utensils/cutting boards and that the ingredients are Savannah-friendly, but I’d much rather bring my own food/eat beforehand, and enjoy time with you rather than being distracted because I am planning an exit strategy in my head incase a mistake was made. That’s what blesses me, time with you. Knowing you thought of me though, does speak great lengths. Sometimes and some day I may say yes, but for now, please note, I am SO grateful but too anxious and have had too many bad experiences.

    Sometimes it’s hard. I don’t want to make dinner sometimes and want to order take out, but I can’t. I want to check out that new taco place down the street with you. I want to be a basic millennial white girl and get brunch with my friends Saturday morning, eat something yummy and not have to leave to take my inhaler because there’s so much egg in the air. I want to let locals be the hospitable people they are, and eat the food they so kindly and selflessly prepared instead of saying no and risk them thinking I am rude. I want a freaking omelet, like every day of my life.

    But this is my life right now. I pray for healing of course (join me) but I trust that God in His mercy will continue to carry me. I could have it so worse. If anything, God has taught me so much about trust and contentment through all of this. So if this is a way in which He chooses to be glorified in my life, so be it. I’ll learn to make it fun, thank Him that I have a reason not to go out with friends and spend more money than I need to (hah) and  thank Him that making everything from scratch means I’m eating more healthy food than if I could order take-out whenever I was too lazy to make dinner.

    God is good, and though I hoped (and even had a few moments where I thought) I would be healed or grow out of this by now, and feel like a total kid carrying around an Epipen and inhaler, God is still good. Life does not suck. You don’t need to apologize when you eat yummy food in front of me that I cannot eat. All good things come from Him, and I so deeeeply want you to enjoy the good gift that is delicious food, even if I cannot partake. The Lord is in this.

    This is my rant, on my allergy. I have more allergies. I have more words to say and a lot of jokes and stories. But this is my disclosure why I won’t eat your food, or why I came late to your dinner party. Please have grace on me, and those in your life who have severe allergies.

    If you have serious allergies I’d love your tips and tricks of this fun life we live, comment below or send me a message. Not everyone with dietary restrictions and allergies needs to make the decision that I made! It is SO possible to live a safe and yummy lifestyle, go out to restaurants and eat yummy food no matter what you cannot have in your diet. I’ve been figuring this out for almost two decades and have lots of experience. If you want me to post some of my alternatives to eggs (recipes, ingredients etc.) or more about living with dietary restrictions let me know!

     

    And now, here are some allergy-related memes for your enjoyment:

     

     

     

     (The amount of times a waiter has come back to me saying “I checked with the kitchen and the __insert meal___ doesn’t have dairy in it”. Hah, lady eggs and dairy come from two very different types of animals.)