It’s taken me a while to write this post. I wanted to process what happened and not act on emotion and it’s taken me much longer than expected to do that.
“Hello,” I answered the phone as I sat in the parking lot of Macks’ preschool. I’d arrived early that day, so decided to eat lunch in the car and catch up on emails before going into get him.
“Hi. Everything is okay, but I need you to come to my office right away.” It was the Director of the preschool. She’s never called me before. If anything, she’s texted me telling me I was late on turning in a form (which is standard as I try to juggle life with three active kids.) But she’s never called.
I knew something was wrong. I threw my lunch down and ran into her office.
“Sit down,” she prompted. “Macks is okay, but I want you to know he’s ingested some nuts.”
Tears immediately streamed down my face and hundreds of thoughts ran through my head.
“A parent brought in some cupcakes for a student’s birthday and while the teacher asked many times what the ingredients were, she forgot to mention it had almond paste in the icing.”
The tears became sobs and I pondered on what to even say.
“He didn’t show any signs of an allergic reaction, but we gave him Benadryl as stated in his allergy action plan. He’s upstairs and acting normal.”
I sat there stunned. While they might have followed his allergy action plan as stated by his doctors, they didn’t follow my allergy action plan, which was to NEVER, under any circumstance, give him outside food without my permission.
“Lauren, you should have brought something in for him to eat,” she said to me.
“I didn’t know about this celebration!” I yelled in shock, fear, and anger.
Her reaction to the situation wasn’t exactly what I was expecting. Rather than give me the comfort I so desperately needed in that time, she somehow made me believe this was my fault for not bringing him a separate treat.
I ran outside of her office and upstairs to his classroom. I just wanted to see him and see with my own eyes that he was okay. As soon as he came out of the room, I squeezed him. Thankfully, he was oblivious to what happened and was a tad bit confused as to why I was in tears. His teacher was very apologetic and felt horrible about the situation. I told her it was okay (which is wasn’t,) because I didn’t know what else to say. I was still in shock.
I took Macks downstairs and into the car where I called MacKay in hysterics. I explained to him what happened and he quickly told me he’d head home from the city so we could take care of the situation. Macks sat in the back of the car and just kept telling me he was sorry, which broke my heart even more.
Macks felt safe.
School is safe. His teacher is safe.
And that’s why he took the cupcake.
This wasn’t his fault.
In the two and a half years since he’s been diagnosed with severe food allergies, we’ve been working so hard with him about what he can and cannot eat and how to react in situations with outside food. We’ve trained him to ask before eating anything. He’s been so good with it. If he can’t have a treat, he doesn’t react by being hurt, he knows that we will eventually get something for him that’s safe for him to eat. By educating everyone in our family and those close to us, we’ve been very successful in avoiding foods that could possibly give Macks a reaction.
Shortly after getting off the phone with MacKay, I called his allergist just to make sure there was nothing else I was supposed to do. This was the first time he’d ingested something we knew he was allergic to, so I’ll be honest, I wasn’t prepared on how to react or what to do. I was told to watch him, to look for delayed reactions, and to administer the epi-pen if he showed any difficulties breathing. Thankfully, none of that ever happened.
This situation was one hundred percent preventable. While our school has a no nut policy, it wasn’t properly enforced or communicated properly with parents, and therefore a mistake was made. And it was with that mistake, I became an advocate for my son.
In the weeks following the incident, MacKay and I took action. This incident should have never happened and we wanted to make sure that not only does it not happen to Macks again, but any child in our school. We did research to see what policy other schools in the area have. We met with our preschool director and insisted that the food allergy policy immediately be changed in the school.
We also wanted to make sure the teachers (and any parents that wanted) were educated on food allergies. While they do undergo training prior to each school year, this incident still happened, which means more education is necessary.
The school did change the food policy and does not allow any outside food into the classroom (other than what parents bring in for their own children,) but we are, nearly six months later, still challenging his school to do more. We won’t back down until more action is made to keep our children safe.
I am not an expert in food allergies. I continue to educate myself everyday so I can know more and better help Macks as he takes this lifelong journey. The more I educate myself on food allergies, the more I can raise awareness with others. The more I can educate those around me. The more I can protect my son.
And that’s exactly what I was put on this Earth to do.