Sunday, May 29, 2016

Restauranteur Convicted of Manslaughter in Peanut Allergy Death

As a person with peanut allergy, I am reluctant to eat at restaurants that have any peanut items on the menu.  A kitchen with peanuts is a kitchen that could cross contaminate my food.  My general rule is that I don't eat at any Thai, most Vietnamese, some Indian, and Chinese restaurants.  

Before I go out to eat, I call the restaurant and ask my questions.  I look up the menu online and I scan it for signs of peanut.  Eating at a restaurant is a pain for me and something I don't entirely feel safe doing.  I am as careful as possible.  

When I was around 12, my mom took me out to eat at the Bamboo Garden, a vegan Chinese restaurant.  The waiter assured us that the restaurant would be careful and not use the same cookware to cook my food.  He said that my dinner would have no peanuts.  He lied.  20 minutes later, I was in the Group Health Emergency Room fighting for my life.  My mom complained to the manager,  and I have never eaten there since.  This experience left me with a deep distrust of vegan and Chinese food.  The waiter who lied, and the sloppy kitchen staff who used very cross-contaminated dishes were never punished for hurting me, and causing my violent reaction.  

To my knowledge, historically, restaurants have been dodging responsibility for the suffering, pain, and sometimes death they inflict on people with food allergies.   People with food allergies are usually blamed for their carelessness in eating questionable food.  

Education about food allergies and the dangers of cross contamination should be required Public Health knowledge to obtain a Food Handler's Permit.  Currently it is not, and that needs to change.  And with this landmark court decision, hopefully it will.  

I have been following this trial for a few weeks.  The jury reached a decision, and they convicted the owner of an Indian restaurant  for the death of Paul Wilson, a customer who was allergic to peanuts.  The server wrote 'no nuts' on Mr. Wilson's take out meal.

I am not usually concerned with the proceedings of trials, court hearings, mostly because legal transactions bore me.  However, I followed the news stories about this case with enthusiastic interest.  I had a burning desire to see if the legal system would serve justice.  Would the court find the restaurant responsible?  Would this decision make restaurant food safer for people with severe food allergies like me?  Would restaurants think twice about lying to their customers in the future, if a guilty verdict was reached?  

I was overjoyed when the jury convicted the restaurant owner.  Justice at last!  I hope that this decision makes restaurant food safer for people with deadly food allergies.  

Saturday, May 28, 2016

Recent Reaction!

A couple of weeks ago, I was eating my snack while driving home from work.  My snack was coconut cashews from Trader Joe's.  It was a prepackaged bag of nuts.  The warning on the bag said "Manufactured in a facility that also manufactures other tree nuts."  I have eaten this snack for years.  I like cashews, and I like coconut, and combined they are a great snack!  Creeping along in heavy Seattle traffic, I bit down, and realized that my mouth was no longer tasting the sweet, wonderful taste of cashews, but rather the nutty, roasted, rich taste of peanut!

I was in mid-swallow when I realized what was in my mouth was potentially fatal.  Luckily, I always carry a vomit bag in my car, so I gathered up the bag and spit out the remaining contents of my mouth.  Seattle has awful traffic, and I was stuck!  I had a couple of choices:  pull over and call 911 and use the Epipen, or drive to the hospital using a low traffic route, and use the Epipen if my body started displaying objective signs of anaphylaxis.  I chose option B.  I thought it would probably be safer to just Epipen myself while speeding to the hospital, rather than waiting for an ambulance to take me up to an E. R. on pill hill.

Accidental ingestion is a catastrophic scenario.  If a person dies from a food allergy, accidental ingestion always triggered the fatal reaction.  Accidental ingestion is terrifying to a person with peanut allergies because of 3 things: it's unpredictable, it can occur immediately or within 20 minutes after eating the contaminated food, and finally, once the reaction progresses beyond a certain point, it's impossible to reverse with an Epipen.

So, knowing all of this, I drove myself to the E. R.   I had the Epipen hovered over my right quadriceps.  I didn't use the Epipen.  Probably should have.  Due to the possibility of  accidental ingestion.

The main reason I did not stab myself in the leg with the Epipen is that my body did not show objective signs.  No sudden asthma tightening and wheezing.  No hives.  No swollen lips.  No swollen throat.  I tasted peanut.  That's it.  This whole adventure could have been a false alarm.  Who knows?  But with deadly food allergy, it is always better to be safe than sorry.

The Epipen is painful.  Imagine taking a Philip's head screwdriver and stabbing yourself in the leg with it and holding it there for 10 seconds.  This is what it's like to get Epipened.  If it's between the Epipen or death, give me Epi.  If I am around other people, I usually get someone else to administer the Epipen, because I have a hard time doing that to myself.

I have asked my allergist numerous times to write me a prescription for a small needle kit for epinephrine like the diabetics use, and he claims that epinephrine is not sold to consumers that way.  I am a careful methodical person.  I majored in Biology and Chemistry, -it would be easy for me to pull over, get out my little epi-kit, fill a small injector with the medicine, and then inject it into my arm muscle.  That's more my style.  I could easily handle that.  I struggle with firing what feels like a nail gun into my leg.  No wonder people don't use the Epipen like they should.

In the past, I've noticed that a few weeks after a recent anaphylactic episode, I have nightmares that I Epipened myself, and after I wake up, I discover a large bruise on my leg!  I am most likely punching my leg while dreaming.  This is encouraging because it seems to indicate that my mind and body will hack my brainwaves to survive anaphylactic shock!  I'm sure I could stab myself if I was confronted with objective evidence of anaphylaxis, (sudden wheezing and asthma, hives, face swelling, vomiting, diarrhea).  

There should be an alternative delivery system that is not as violent and doesn't hurt as much as the Epipen.  I received vaccinations in the in the rear when I was a kid, and they didn't hurt as much as the Epipen.  There ought to be another device invented that will inject epinephrine in the arm, or the rear, a little more chill, and non-violent.  I sure hope big pharma manufacturers read my blog, and create this!

Once I got to the Emergency Room, I parked in the 30 minutes or less space right by the automatic sliding glass entrance doors.  I went in and explained my situation to the triage nurse.  I sat down by the aquarium.  I tried to relax and watch the fish.  This was to be my last moment of relaxation and healing for the next 3 hours.  My name was quickly called.  I explained what happened to the next nurse.  My vitals were normal.  My pulse was fast, 100 beats a minute!  I was scared as hell!

I was taken to a small room and a doctor looked over my chart, took my vitals again, and decided I did not need epinephrine.  She noticed that I was getting a red rash and she was concerned about how my asthma sounded, which was slightly worse than baseline.  She ordered IV Benadryl and left.  A nurse hustled me to a new location.  The Emergency Department of UW was getting busy and they needed the room.  My new address was a gurney in the hall.  I changed into a hospital gown and orderlies attached sticky monitors to my chest and back.  A blood oxygen pulse counter was clipped to my finger.  An IV catheter was inserted into my right arm.  The IV was very painful.  My arm ached with dull, throbbing pain.  It hurt so bad I couldn't move it, and after about 20 minutes, my fingers started to tingle.  I was trapped, wired to the hallway heart machine monitor laying on a bed in the E. R. hall, my right arm frozen in agonizing pain.  I was at my most vulnerable.

Despite my physical restrictions, I was able to take a couple of decent selfies...  With my left hand!

I was having a really good hair day that day.

I talked to a couple nurses about the intense pain that the IV in my arm was causing me, and they were unsympathetic.  A terse nurse told me that she could take it out, but she's have to "Stick me again."  I decided to leave the catheter of pain in.  My arm was shot up with diphenhydramine and then I felt dizzy.

Light-headed, helpless, and exposed, I took a look at what was going on in the E. R. and allergies became the least of my worries.  About 15 feet away, the nurses had locked the door to a patient room.  The person inside started to pound the door. 'Bang! Bang! Bang!'  I could see, hear, and feel the door shake.  A nurse called security, and security guards swarmed around the door and the person inside calmed down.  The people who handled the situation started to disperse.  Now I could relax and focus on healing.

That's when I heard the screaming from a room behind me.  The screaming died down.  It was not a full moon that night.  What was going on?

I asked about the screaming, and the nurse explained that the person screaming was now calm because they had ordered his dinner, and he now seemed fine.  I took a deep breath.  Everything was going to be alright.  I was going to be okay.  I heard a loud commotion start behind me: screaming, a struggle, a door being forced open, and a tray full of food whizzed by my head and hit the wall opposite me.  Nurses, orderlies, and security ran past me to subdue the patient who was freaking out.  They seemed to have succeeded because the noise calmed down.

An orderly started to clean up the broccoli and food splattered on the wall.  I looked at him and said, "I guess the food here is terrible and I think he didn't like the broccoli."  The orderly and I laughed.

I was completely terrified.  After 3 hours of observation with no noticeable symptoms of anaphylaxis, the next nurse just who had just arrived to the next shift okay'ed me to be discharged.   I paid whatever it was they charged me, like $300.

What an adventure!  I am very grateful that I didn't get very sick.  This experience had positive aspects that will help me be a better person.  I made some mistakes, and I learned from those mistakes.   I got to practice my skill of being a hospital patient (I am very good at being in the hospital).  Living with deadly allergies may be terrifying at times, but it's not as catastrophic as the fear in my mind sometimes makes it out to be.  Experiences like this have made me extra-ordinarily resilient.  Now, I have a greater appreciation for all the little things in life, and I have noticed I seem to have increased compassion and patience for the people around me.  Thanks for reading my blog.

Sunday, September 6, 2015

Airborne Peanut "Reactions" Debunked! ~and my Microbiome Obsession

I had the most thrilling, exciting, life-affirming day yesterday because of my peanut allergy.  It involves international travel, adventure, and heroic deeds.  I will blog about this at a later time.  That's why you should subscribe to my blog.  Subscribing to my blog is free, and the latest installment will conveniently be delivered to your email inbox.

What I am very excited to write about tonight is to discuss several articles that validate my personal experiences and belief in science in relation to my peanut allergy!  Here are the links:

The Daily Mail.  I know, right?  I apologize that I included it as a source however, the material articulates a point.  Seriously, there is a point besides the hysteria and bad, sloppy writing.  And that point gives me the warm fuzzies, and it makes me feel safe.  Well, I can't ever really feel 'safe.'  But somewhat, a little safer.  

The scientists are convinced a person cannot get an anaphylactic reaction due to airborne peanut protein alone.  This is an issue that has concerned me.  I travel by air, bus, and train.  And I have been supremely terrified of stories of apparent anaphylactic reactions due to 'airborne' peanut dust.  I have personally limited my travel.  I have been a disciple of The Fear.  

But most recently, I am a disciple of the wisdom of my Microbiome.  I have been completely obsessed with my microbiome recently.  Have you ever heard of Kim Chee?  I have eaten three jars of it in the past week.  It's a normal thing for me now to consume half a jar of kimchee for breakfast.  Why?  Because that spicy fermented cabbage is teeming with probiotics that could theoretically alleviate my allergies!  I buy insane amounts of probiotics and consume them with reckless abandon!  A few weeks ago I bought 16 ounces of highly concentrated probiotics that were supposed to last a month.  I drank 'em down in 4 days.  I read about the studies of very young children fed huge amounts of probiotics: their developing immune systems could easily be conditioned to stop being allergic to peanuts.  Probiotics are awesome.  They seem to have a positive impact on my mood, my ability to concentrate, and a healthier feeling in general.  But I remain allergic as all heck to peanuts.

I am not giving up!  I am going to keep trying!

I intend to keep consuming ridiculous amounts of probiotics, regardless of whether they help my peanut allergy because I feel better when I do this.  It's not going to be the magic cure that ends my severe allergy.  I appreciate the addition to my toolbox, another helpful aspect about my life that I can control that can help keep my asthma and eczema from flaring and crippling me.

The link between my Microbiome obsession and "Airborne Peanut Reactions" has a name and it's Tim Spector.  He's the scientist in the articles who recently wrote a book about the fabulous human microbiome called "The Diet Myth."  He is also the scientist who did the heavy lifting and took a close look at all the scientific research, and concluded that the heavy peanut protein molecules needed to cause a reaction cannot become airborne.  

I have always been skeptical of people who claim that their 'peanut anaphylactic reaction' is due to airborne peanut proteins.  The reason for my skepticism is my childhood.  I grew up in the 1980's.  My dad was the Vice President of an airline.  He flew all over the world all the time.  He flew me all over the world, a lot.  Well, maybe not all over the world, but to the USA and the Caribbean frequently.  I started having anaphylactic reactions to peanuts when I was about 4.

I wasn't as allergic then as I am now.   Scientists and laboratory people describe the antibodies in my blood as being 'thermonuclear.'  Level 5 or level 6.  Actually the last time I was tested in 2011, the laboratory had to dilute my blood serum with saline, and even then it maxed out as a level 6.  It used to be 5, but it is now currently 6.  That's the worst this allergy can get. 

When I was a kid my allergy was maybe half as bad as it is now to peanuts.  And this was in the days when peanuts were served as snacks.  Every flight.  I remember having asthma a lot when I was flying in planes with my dad.  I remember taking a lot of Benadryl.  I remember being very itchy.  But I never had an  anaphylactic reaction when I was flying as a kid.  And I was in a lot of pressurized cabins with over 50 people opening up packets of peanuts and eating them around me. And I had asthma attacks too.  Because people liked to light up and smoke cigarettes after eating peanuts.  It was the 1980's and it was very popular to smoke cigarettes on airplanes.  I had a rough childhood.  It was kind of like a nightmare at times.  I'm very happy that things have changed.

 For me personally, the evidence does not suggest peanut allergies can be transmitted in the air.  For that reason, I have remained skeptical of people who claim that they have 'airborne peanut allergies.'  

If you are a person who believes in airborne peanut anaphylactic reactions,  I do not mean to invalidate you.  Just because my personal experience and current science doesn't show this to be true does not mean that it cannot be possible.  
Who knows, maybe there will be some more scientific research in the future and it will show in some cases that a little bit of peanut proteins can become airborne.  That is the cool thing about science!

Science is always changing and learning, amending itself, and adapting to the latest advances....
Just like my Microbiome!

Monday, March 9, 2015

Going Gluten Free to Fight Allergies

People often suggest that I abstain from wheat and gluten to improve my asthma, eczema, and allergies.  I hear this from talking to people in-person and on social media.  And you know what?  Why the heck not?  I've got nothing to lose, and it's fun to experiment and see what works for allergies.  Starting yesterday, this week I'm taking the plunge.  This week I will be gluten free!

Some motivating factors involved with my decision: high pollen counts, terrible eczema, and bad asthma.  I am super allergic to alder pollen and the current warm weather has got the alder pollen count super high.  And that is making me super miserable.  Wednesday through Friday, the skin on my hands broke out in horrible looking eczema.  I'm using Flovent and Flonase like crazy.  I'm using my rescue inhaler more often than I should.  My eyes and face itch.   My head's foggy, and my sinuses feel like sore rocks behind my cheeks.   I just took half a Bendryl.  It's not even 4 in the afternoon.  Benadryl stopped making me drowsy years ago.  Mostly because I've been eating it like Tic-Tacs since I was 3 years old.  The allergy life.  Damn pollen.  

This weekend, I am pleased to report that despite my horrible allergies, I went hiking through an alder forest!  I hiked 2.7 miles up 1350 feet to check out beautiful Lake 22.  All last week I have been guzzling probiotics and eating lots of healthy fruits and veggies.  I have been using my steroid inhalers religiously every day.  And at the top of the trail, looking out over the pretty lake, with ice floating in it, I ate half a bagel.  A wheat bagel.  Later I felt sick and got the runs.  And that got me thinking, maybe I should take a break from wheat/gluten for a little while.  

I believe it is healthy to switch up your diet.  I was eating wheat/gluten several times a day, and I was wondering if this could be adversely impacting my allergies.  Going gluten free feels very stylish and fashionable.  I feel very trendy and pleased with myself.  I even feel slightly less bloated.  Last night to prepare for my gluten free week, I bought a brown rice bread loaf at Trader Joe's.  

I'm not going totally overboard.  I'm still planning to eat soy sauce and crackers that have been made in a facility that also makes wheat.  But I'm cutting out wheat bread, pasta, and baked goods.  I will allow small amounts of wheat.

Yesterday's day one gluten free menu:  Breakfast: scrambled eggs with cheese.  Snack:  2 mandarin oranges.  Dinner: 1 medium size bowl of Pho.  I was very tired last night and went to sleep at 9:30 PM.  I never do that but my allergies were bad, so I hit the hay early like an elderly person.  

I woke up at 6:30 AM today, and did my meditation practice.  I noticed my eczema was bad on my neck and forehead.  It hurt.  It was burning.  I put topical steroid cream on the afflicted parts of my skin.  

Day two's gluten free menu:  Breakfast: 1.5 peices of rice bread with butter, 2 oz cashews, and 1 apple.  The rice bread has the consistency of a sponge.  It's like eating a sponge.  With butter.  I microwaved it for 30 seconds and the consistency is slightly improved.  And it's got a rice flavor.  I'm not sure I like it, but it's definitely gluten free! 

 Lunch:  leftover beef jerkey and potato chips from the hike and a cup of tomato soup.    

Around 3 PM I decide I need a snack.  I go to Trader Joe's and buy some mandarin oranges, and then I buy some asparagus to eat later.  I also buy a box of Trader Joe's "Soft-Baked Snickerdoodles -Peanut, Tree-Nut, and Wheat free."  I eat a couple of cookies.  They were delicious.  Light.  Fluffy.  So good.  I eat another cookie.  I am in heaven.  There is a party in my mouth.  I end up eating the entire box.  Hmmm.  Not my best choice of the day.  At least there were only 12 cookies in the box.  I eat a carrot and feel somewhat healthier.  

Well, so far so good.  Will I make it an entire week?  Will I send my allergies into remission?  Will I experience improvement in my eczema?  Will I drive my loved ones insane with my new self-imposed dietary restrictions?  Will I be even more ridiculously inconvenienced than I currently am? Okay, obviously the answers to the last two questions are yes.  I hope this experience will increase my compassion for people with wheat/gluten allergies.  I'll be blogging with an update in a few days.  Stay tuned!

Thursday, February 19, 2015

Peanut-Tainted Cumin Made Me Sick! Hungry Boyfriend Saved My Life!

I finally figured out what happened after my boss called me today in hysterics.

"Denise!  Don't eat any cumin!  I heard on the radio it all contains peanuts!"

I thanked her.  I told her that I appreciated her letting me know.  I told her I was avoiding cumin.  After we hung up, I experienced a Eureka moment of insight:  I hadn't been vigilant about cumin avoidance last night, and that was the likely reason for today's violent eczema flare up.

It all started last night with a late night visit to the local taco truck with my boyfriend.  I ordered a chicken burrito, my boyfriend ordered tacos.  I was responsible about my peanut allergy when ordering my food, I asked the cashier and the cooks if they used peanuts 'en Espanol.'  They said they didn't, so I thought I would be safe.  But you know what?  I didn't ask about cumin.  And Mexican food uses cumin.

What's so bad about cumin?  The FDA discovered peanut proteins in cumin and products containing cumin and issued a massive, massive recall.

People with severe peanut allergies are being advised to avoid all cumin.

I started asking the cumin question about food I could eat last week, but I failed miserably to remember to ask it last night.

It is completely exhausting to remain perfectly on guard and vigilant about everything I eat.  I get hungry.  Food looks good, and smells great.  Blood sugar gets low and my brain shuts down.  And then I have the lapse in judgement.

Unbelievably, despite the fact that I have been hospitalized over 30 times for severe food allergies and asthma, I get complacent.  I'm around other people and I forget that I have this invisible disability, and I forget how some food can make me very sick.

Back to the story, my boyfriend and I take our entrees home and I sit down in the living room and he goes into the kitchen to put his tacos on plates.  While he's putting hot sauce on them, he turns and the plate of open face tacos flips off the counter on to the floor.  Not the kind of floor you could eat food off of.  His dinner was ruined.  Poor guy!  He was so bummed out.

I told him that I was really sorry that happened, and then, being the awesome girlfriend I am, I told him he could eat half my burrito.  He said okay, and then made something with melted cheese and then he sat down next to me.  We cut the burrito in half and he got the slightly larger half.  And this is how he accidentally saved my life.  I probably would have gone into anaphylactic shock had I eaten the whole thing.  It was a yummy burrito.

About 5 minutes after eating my half-burrito my stomach starts to hurt really bad.  It hurt with this very specific kind of pain.  It's very alarming because I only get it when I eat food I'm allergic to.  It's different than the other kinds of stomach pain like heartburn.  It's hard to describe, but it's like I can feel the food I have eaten disrupting my molecular structure.

I have this helpful app on my phone called "Why Risk It"  It has a helpful list of all the symptoms of anaphylaxis.  Stomach pain is one of them.  I was on edge, I knew it could be the start of a reaction.  I waited to see if other objective physical symptoms occurred.  I was waiting for my asthma to kick in, my face to swell up, hives to start appearing on my body.  45 minutes went by and none of that happened.  I was in the clear?  I took a couple Benadryl and then went to sleep with my Epipens easily accessible inches away.

At 4:45 I woke up and my hands were on fire. Warning: the next part is gross so you might want to skip this paragraph.  The skin on the top of my hand was oozing clear liquid and I could see the layers of my skin trying to separate.  My skin became pale and red.  An angry inflamed rash appeared.  Accompanied by searing pain.  Tiny little cuts started bleeding along the entire rash on the top my left hand.  The pain started to become really itchy, like I had hundreds of mosquito bites.  Blood started replacing the clear liquid.  The skin on my hands was literally burning from the inside.
The eruption of this violent rash is what is known as an eczema flare, when my immune system turns on me.  This is what happens sometimes when I unwittingly eat a tiny, tiny amount of something I am allergic to and I do not go into anaphylactic shock.

I'm doing sort of better than this morning. I was a trooper and went to work.  I still have itchy patches on my scalp, forehead, neck, and under my ears.  My hands are doing better.  I treated them with steroid cream. One of the side effects is thinning of the skin, and my hands look like they are 90 years old.  I have grandma hands.  But the rash and the bleeding have gone way down, and it only hurts a little to move them to type.  I am able to accept the pain and continue on with life.  I am grateful.  Not everybody can do that.

My stomach and abdomen still hurt.  My body feels sick from all this inflammation.

And I'm mad at myself for letting this happen.  And I'm also mad at food because it turned on me.  I ate an apple for lunch, oranges and toast for breakfast.  Haven't had any dinner.  I'm fed up with having a body that requires me to eat. I'm upset with my body for being so broken.  Why should I eat food if it makes me sick like this?  These are temporary issues.  All of this stuff will pass.

Thank you for reading, and I hope you pass along the information about the cumin contamination recall to everyone you know affected by peanut allergies.

For the next few months: warn everyone you know affected by peanut allergies to be very careful eating in restaurants that use cumin as a spice!  I learned that the hard way.

And I am very grateful that my sweet boyfriend ate half that burrito. He saved me!  Even though I am in pain and miserable today, it could have been a lot worse.

Sunday, January 18, 2015

Peanut Allergy is Contagious Through Organ Donation!

I used to have a little red heart on my driver's license.  The small heart indicated I was an organ donor.  In the event of my death, my organs were to be distributed to people who needed them.  I was happy about this.  It was to be my final act of compassion to heal people with my spare parts.  I can't say that I was looking forward to it, but I liked the idea of donating my organs to sick patients desperately needing them.  I would be dead, sure, but at least I could be useful to others in a healing way.  

When I had to get my license renewed, I had the little red heart taken off.  I want to donate my organs to people who need my help, but I do not want to give them my peanut allergy.  Which organ recipient will get my allergy?  No way to tell.  I don't want to play 'peanut allergy' Russian roulette with someone else's life.  I want to end people's suffering, but I don't want to give them my level 5+ food allergy.  Avoiding peanuts in this society is really hard, inconvenient, and it can be frightening.  It is a real pain in the ass, and I don't want to give this to someone else.  

Here are some interesting links to articles detailing how transplanted organs (and bone marrow!!!) can spread peanut allergy:

There are lots and lots of science articles like this.  It seems like the donor not only gives the recipient their organs and a second chance of life, but also their anaphylactic food allergy, and a drastically changed inconvenienced life of avoidance and fear.  

I'm going to go with what the science says.  I don't think it's a good idea to donate my organs.  What if the recipient of my organs really liked to eat at Thai restaurants?  That would really suck for that person if they got my allergy.  No Thai restaurants ever.  I don't want my organs being responsible for making someone else's life suck.  My peanut allergy is going to end when I die.  I'm not giving this the opportunity to live on in someone else.  

I think that I am making the compassionate, responsible decision.  I am basing my decision on science.  But it still kind of sucks.  I would like to donate my organs, but it wouldn't be ethical to give people my disease.  

So if you are reading this post and you don't have a deadly peanut allergy: rejoice!  Rejoice at the freedom you have to help people with your organs after you die.  Take a look at your driver's license, make sure it has that little red heart, and just to be on the safe side, send a 'just-in-case' email to your loved ones and next-of-kin and joyfully proclaim your compassionate intention to donate your organs to help sick patients who need them and are suffering.  

I wish I didn't have this unpredictable, deadly disease, and I wish I could be an organ donor.  I hope that you will consider donating your organs if you can.  Thank you for reading, and please share this post and subscribe to my blog.  

Tuesday, December 9, 2014

Utter Deprivation of Delights and Temptations

I was in line at Starbucks yesterday, and I took a good long look at the pastry case.  Delicious cake pops, muffins, lavish slices of pumpkin  bread, sugar cookies in bright cheerful holiday designs and colors.  Truly a collection of Earthly delights.  And I absolutely cannot eat any of it.  Because of this worthless sign on their pastry case:

The problem with signs such as the one Starbucks posts, is that it does not indicate WHICH items have which allergens.  But if you look at the food item behind their lazy sign, you can clearly see cookies.  Cookies are a terrible food if you are like me and allergic to peanuts, in fact, cookies are probably the single number one killer of people like me.  Horrible things.  So this sign plus cookies in the case means that when I see a display like this I look at it, and appreciate the colors and the treats.  And then I go without.  I wonder to myself: what it must be like to be 'normal' and be able to select and eat anything you care to ingest.  That's a crazy freedom I've never even experienced.

I guess most people don't have these severe dietary restrictions, so they probably wouldn't even think about it.  But everyday, I am bombarded with countless food displays, advertisements, restaurants, coffee hours, pot-latches, etc, all overflowing with food I cannot allow myself to eat.  If I don't eat, I won't die.  If I plan ahead, and make careful food choices, survival is a likely scenario.  

I only slept for like 3 hours last night, and I am kind of in a fog.  

I live in the Seattle neighborhood of Fremont.  Fremont is a fun, arty, funky, place.  Someone was telling me that Fremont had a lot of great places to eat.  I was confused.  Restaurants?  Huh?  I asked and they named off like 4 Thai restaurants.  Oh.  Okay.  I guess Fremont does have a lot of Thai restaurants, but I've never noticed because I cannot eat Thai food.  Thai food served in Thai restaurants in America has tons of peanuts, and the last time I ate at a Thai food restaurant I went into anaphylactic shock and almost died.  I walk and drive pass Thai food restaurants all the time.  They do not register to me as restaurants.  They are dead to me.  Places I'd rather not go.  Having a severe allergy, entire sections of reality are blocked off to my perception in this way.

There is this stupid chocolate company called Theo's Chocolates in Fremont.  It's a chocolate factory, and they give tours and make their delicious chocolate.  But they are a small company, and the peanut chocolates are made on the same equipment as the other chocolates.  Deadly cross contamination.  To me Theo's Chocolates does not exist.  I once biked past this horrible chocolate factory when they must have been making a peanut butter chocolate thing this summer.  My eyes started to water, my nose started to run, and I started gagging when I smelled the aroma of chocolate peanut candy.  This is a psychological problem.  The peanut allergy is not airborne.  But I can't even begin to describe the smell of peanuts when one has a peanut allergy.  It's like smelling death itself.  Theo's Chocolates is a pox upon the neighborhood from my perspective.  Theo's Chocolates is dead to me.  Maybe if they had allergy friendly practices and chocolates, I'd have a different outlook, but right now it's a worthless waste of space.

This summer, my little sister gave me a Groupon for this trendy new vegan restaurant called Plum Bistro.  It was so nice of her, and I looked at the menu on the website and it didn't seem to have any peanut containing menu items.  I was starving when I walked into the restaurant.  My blood sugar was low: I was shaking.  I started asking the waiter my questions:  Do you have any menu items with peanuts?  Can you accommodate a guest with severe peanut allergy who will die from cross-contamination.  And the waiter went and talked to the manager and the kitchen.  And the waiter suggested I leave because they could not.  What. The. Fuck.  This trendy restaurant can accommodate a strict vegan diet -which IS A CHOICE, by the way, but not accommodate A SEVERE FOOD ALLERGY WHICH IS NOT A CHOICE?!?!?!!

I agree with the vegans, I mostly eat vegan at home.  But it seems that every time I go out and try to enjoy an ethical vegan meal, I am refused accommodation, I am refused service.  The waiter at Plum Bistro told me that their food handling practices had rampant peanut cross contamination, and he basically advised me to eat elsewhere. I thanked him and left.  I was so hungry, I was faint.  I practically dragged myself out of the restaurant.  It is such a heartbreak, a disappointment to be refused service.  It brings to mind the shameful segregation period in American history, when blacks had to endure the heartbreak of being refused service at a restaurant.  Well.  That is kind of like my life.  Right now.  And the food smelled so good.  And the ambiance was nice too.  I really would have liked to have eaten there.  I really like to eat vegan food.  But I had to leave starving and sad.  I didn't want to die.  I didn't have a choice.  I suffered a lot in attempting to eat at this restaurant, and I wanted to call them out on their discrimination of people with disabilities: people with severe food allergies like me.

That's the entire angst of today's whiny blog post.  All these wonderful food establishments exist with their delightful selections.  And I can't partake in any of it.  Thus I suffer greatly.

I was on a date with a guy.  He was nice.  He was a vegetarian.  He was critical that I occassionally ate meat.  My response to him?  It was this:

You know what?  I really enjoy vegan and vegetarian food.  I don't buy a whole lot of meat, and when I do it's grass-fed, organic, all that.  I consciously choose to buy ethical meat.  You know what else?  I try to dine at a vegan or vegetarian restaurant, and historically, I've either been refused service, or lied to and gone into anaphylactic shock.  You know that delicious chocolate company, "The Dilettante?" You know their vast cases of wonderful chocolate? I cannot eat any of it.  I can't eat it because it is cross contaminated with peanuts and I could die.  What about that trendy new cafe "Regent?"  They have aisles of pastries, and I can't eat any of them and it's not a choice.  Can you even imagine what that must be like?  With your privilege of not having the concern of deadly food allergens to vigilantly avoid?  Personally I would love being able to eat food safely at vegan restaurants, but the reality is that right now I can't do that.  So don't criticize me for eating meat sometimes, I am doing the best I can living with an incurable disease that will kill me if I eat the wrong food.

That guy didn't get a second date.  I just wasn't that into him.  And it is bad manners to criticize someone for something they didn't choose.  But he did buy me dinner, a nice one.  And I was gracious when dining out with him as well, I ordered a vegetarian option: the Mac and Cheese.

Again, I realize that this blog post is whiny.  But I am writing because it's important to let people know that for a person with deadly food allergies, this impacts my life in a big way, every hour, every day.  And I would give anything to be able to be like other people.  To eat food without the concern of a deadly food allergy.

Every time I see food gorgeously displayed in a pretty glass case, I look at it.  Often the food is beautiful.  And 99% of the time it is off limits to me.  That gorgeous glass case may hold all the choices freedom has to offer a normal person, but to me it is a prison wall, something I could never eat.  I wish science would cure peanut allergy.  I am sick of living in a prison.  I would give anything to be free.