Sunday, November 30, 2014

Cookies of Death

This week I was saddened to read about peanut allergies killed two people.  A college student in California, and a teenager in Wisconsin.  Both of these people died because of peanut butter cookies.  And that is what I am going to write about today.  The most deadliest of threats that a person who has a severe allergy like me has to avoid.  Cookies.  Here's links to news articles:

For over 15 years, I have been seeking, searching, and reading every article about peanut allergy fatalities that I am able to find.  Morbid curiosity?  Not really.  I want to know exactly how deadly exposure to peanut protein occurs, and the chain of events that leads to the death.  And believe it or not, my extensive research has discovered the most dangerous food for a person like me.  And that food is cookies.  I remember a few years back reading about yet another peanut allergy death involving cookies, and I thought to myself: "Cookies.  Always the cookies."

Reading about these most recent fatalities, I anxiously think back to my life.  Had I put myself in a similar situation?  Was I in a kitchen with peanut products that were out?  I actually was in the past month.  I was at a friends and there was a brownie cut in half with a peanut center on the cutting board on the counter.  I told my friends about my allergy, and the brownie was put away, the counter cleaned, the cutting board and utensil put in the dishwasher.  But what about the crumbs?  The crumbs have been on the floor and I had been walking around in my socks.  I chilled on the couch with my socks on later.  Peanut protein could have gotten onto the couch.  I could have touched the couch, and then my face.  I could have died.

I really dodged a bullet.  Because what happened to Chandler Swink could have happened to me.  Reading about people who have died motivate me to take effective action to be as safe as possible living with this deadly condition.  Most of the time people are understanding.  But sometimes, people say very insensitive hurtful things about my allergy.  There was this one guy I was seeing, told me he liked to eat peanuts, and that he was often too lazy to brush his teeth sometimes, and that he didn't want to see me anymore because he found my allergy inconvenient and wanted me to be 'safe.'  Which was his choice, but the callous way he used my allergy as an excuse to discard me sucked.  It was a good learning experience for me, because I need to be surrounded by people who love and support me, and I don't need cruel selfish people in my life.

But let's get back to cookies, which is what this blog post is all about.  Cookies are a treat.  Cookies are a fun thing to share.  Cookies can often contain peanut butter.  Cookies can kill.  So where ever I go, if I see cookies, I am very, very cautious.  Here's another news story about a cookie that killed:

Imagine the terror the people in Liberia go through with Ebola.  People touch a contaminated surface, then touch their face, they could get the deadly virus.  It's the same for a person like me who has a severe peanut allergy.  Imagine walking through an Ebola ward in Sierra Leone  without a hazmat suit on.  This is how I feel walking through your kitchen when you have peanut products in it.  Every surface is a potential reservoir for the protein.  I usually carry gloves, and 'glove up' to protect myself if I feel there is danger of the protein touching my skin.  I always carry my Epipen.  It is never more than 90 seconds away from my body at all times.  The 90 second rule, I call it.

My 90 second rule was inspired by a tragic peanut allergy fatality that occured in July 2008 in Magnuson Park, Seattle.  Daniel Sargent took one bite of a peanut butter cookie, and 90 seconds later, he collapsed.  I read everything about his death I could find.  Some things I discovered: he was airlifted to Harborview, where his body was cooled and sedated for 24 hours.  This treatment works for heart attack patients.  They discovered that it did not help save him.  Think about that.  If my heart stops beating for non-allergy reasons, I have a greater chance of being revived at the hospital than if I went into anaphylactic shock.  Here's a link:

If you don't have peanut allergies, and you want to help a loved one with peanut allergies, here's a simple thing you could do that aren't all that inconvenient and will prevent your loved ones from dying:
-If you offer food, make sure that the food that you offer has an ingredient list that your allergic guest can read.  Another rule I have: If I can't read the ingredients, I don't eat the food.

It is difficult to live with this deadly condition.  It is important that we remember the people who have died.  And we need to support allergy research to find a cure to stop this horrible allergy.  Thank you for reading, and please subscribe to my blog.

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