"Matt, do you have your EpiPen?" Those six words have echoed throughout my house each morning ever since I could understand them.
"Matt, do you have your EpiPen?" "Matt, do you have your EpiPen?" "Matt, do you have your EpiPen?" How many times have I heard that? Thousands. Growing up with a food allergy was a huge burden requiring constant vigilance. Vigilance about carrying my EpiPen, where to sit at the school lunch table, who would chaperone the field trip, whose birthday party would my mom or dad have to hang out at, whose house was safe for me to hang out at, vigilance about what foods I eat.
Since enrolling and subsequently graduating from a Stanford food allergy study led by Dr. Kari Nadeau, my anxiety surrounding my allergy has greatly decreased, but my vigilance remains steadfast. The Stanford study has given me safety from cross contamination and a life without fear.
Yet, just as Batman has his utility belt, I have my EpiPen. The EpiPen may as well be tattooed on to my skin, as it still travels with me everywhere I go. In my opinion, this should be the same for every severely allergic person. My good friend (who has multiple food allergies) doesn't carry an EpiPen when he is with me. His rationale behind it is, "I'm with you, so I don't need one." I recently met someone who does not carry an EpiPen although she has a diagnosed anaphylactic allergy to tree nuts and peanuts. Her rationale? "I've never had a reaction and I am really careful about what I eat."
I cannot understand when I meet people with food allergies and they do not carry an EpiPen. Sometimes they say, " I just get hives around my mouth." Or "I just get a little itchy on my tongue." Or "I have an EpiPen, it's in my car." CAN YOU BE SERIOUS?
Before entering the allergy study, unfortunately for me I had to use my trusted EpiPen several times. It was very tense, scary and thankfully quick. After a person gets over the paralyzing fear of the needle (which is actually hidden inside the pen), the EpiPen is actually easy to use (once you get the hang of it). The EpiPen works so fast. It actually stops the allergic reaction in its tracks. It is the only life saving medication food allergic people can use to help prevent life threatening reactions.
So yes, under the advice of my doctor, I still carry an EpiPen. Even though I successfully eat a lot (4,000 milligrams each) of all of my allergens daily, (which are wheat, rye, barley and oats), my EpiPen is always by my side -- at camp, tennis, school or a party. I know the facts of how quickly a reaction can escalate, and I may still have a reaction. I am after all, a living science experiment.
The words, "Matt, do you have your EpiPen?" are still essential to my life.
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