I'm sure you've seen the news by now: a child died from eating a cookie at Publix and the family is suing.
Died. From eating a cookie.
I suspect that if this headline made your heart ache then you're a parent. I suspect that if it made your heart ache and drop into your stomach as your head filled with anxiety and fear, then you're the parent of child with food allergies.
See, for those of us who are fighting the daily battles that are food allergies, it's the headlines like these make us take a knee. And then a deep breath. And then make us reevaluate everything we've been doing to protect our children. Once again.
Yes, I've read all questions people are asking. Is it Publix's fault? Is it the person who worked at the bakery's fault? Is it the mom's fault? Is it the medic's fault? What about GMO's? Personally, I don't care who's at fault here, because the truth is that all I care about is that another child has passed away from the very same thing that could potentially kill my child: a cookie.
But I do have questions. Lots of them.
Though, like most allergy parents, my questions are a little different. Was it a cookie he has ever had before? Did the cookie actually contain the allergens or was it just made on shared equipment? Did he get hives? How soon did the mom administer the EpiPen? Did she miss the muscle? Did she try a second Epi? Was it expired? What were the child's RAST scores from the allergen that killed him? What about his skin prick tests? Did he have any other food allergies? What were all the warning signs? How long until mom called 911? Did the medics administer more epinephrine? And on, and on.
Because we have so many questions, but none are about who is to blame. Our questions are focused on getting answers. Because, guess what? We hardly have any. Food allergies are hard to navigate and there are very few clear-cut answers right now, which means the fine line between letting your child lead a normal life and protecting them from their allergies is the tightrope we walk every day. Every dinner out. Every birthday party. Every meal made by someone else. Every holiday. Every item with "natural flavorings" listed as an ingredient. Every trip to the grocery store.
And just today I took my son to a pizza joint where we had eaten at hundreds of times before, I got him the same thing he's always had, wiped the table, and looked in my purse only to realize I didn't have his EpiPen or Benadryl. As he took his first bite I wondered if they changed how they made the pizza. Or what the person who sat at this spot before us ate? Did anyone else dining here have an Epi? All while the story of the boy who died from eating a cookie was at the forefront of my mind. The painful internal battle with myself about whether or not I should pack us up and head home or let him enjoy the fun lunch out I had promised him ensued.
And many of you might question how a simple lunch turned terrifying for me, but the truth is that boy's cookie could have been my son's pizza.
So while I'm going to keep on protecting my child the best way I know how, hearing about the deaths of children from food allergies never gets any easier. And perhaps it's time to start asking the right questions in hopes to get the right answers far beyond who's to blame.