Sunday, March 26, 2017

Allergy Friendly Spiralised Potato

We have always enjoyed going to markets and food fairs, but when your children have multiple food allergies, these events can be more stress than it is worth. Life continues to change, and we have started gaining confidence eating out with our children now. We are still very very careful concerning cross contamination, especially with life threatening allergies such as dairy, egg and most nuts.

Our recent discovery is that Food Trucks can offer a number of foods that are actually safe for our children! The benefits of food trucks is that they only cook and serve a limited number of dishes. Often these trucks are owner operated and have a personal connection with their food. These are some of the foods we have successfully eaten whilst avoiding traces of dairy, eggs, nuts, citrus and soy:
- Vegan donuts - one son loved the jam filled ones, while the other loved cinnamon dusted ones
- Deep fried calamari
- Vegan chocolate
- Greek donuts drizzled with honey (Loukamades)
- Frozen mango icecreams

Every food truck is different however. We have come across many donut and loukamade trucks that use egg in their recipes. One calamari vendor used prepackaged products that contained dairy. Vegan vendors can be a high risk when it comes to nuts. Each stall has to be assessed on an individual basis - stand and watch first to see what food they serve. Is cross contamination a risk? Then ask the owner concerning your specific allergens. If they are unsure, it is not worth the risk. We always bring enough food for our children, but anything we can safely buy is a bonus.

One food that I have thought would be safe is the deep fried spiralised potatoes. However, when I've gone to the markets, they sprinkle all sorts of flavourings over their potatoes, and the risk of cheddar powder floating over to our potato was too high.

So, today, hubby is away for the weekend and my sons were so wonderful in getting themselves ready on their own, that I decided they really deserved a treat. I was honestly surprised how easy it is to do! The main trick is to tilt the knife at an angle and take it slowly. As the potato rotates on the chopping board the knife will begin making its way down the potato. I used a mixture of olive oil and sunflower oil. Heat the oil on Medium heat until a plain skewer produces lots of bubbles when the tip is placed in the oil. Leave at least 2cm at the top of the pot to allow for bubbling oil. The result looked and tasted great! "Awesome" according to my eight year old. So why not give it a try? I used small sized potatoes - you could even try other vegetables like carrots, zuchinni or sweet potato. I am sure they would all be delicious! The best part though is being able to provide a treat for my kids so they don't miss out.

Sunday, March 5, 2017

After an allergic reaction - thankful in so many ways

A family from our Allergy Fun - Support group on Facebook has a very special message to share after their son suffered a severe allergic reaction. It is important to share our heartaches as well as our triumphs, because this is the life we live.
How do you even begin to thank the people who saved your son's life? Although words are not to convey our absolute gratitude, there are many people who deserve recognition and praise for their role in the medical emergency that unfolded when our son had an anaphalactic reaction. 
To the 000 dispatcher who was the calm in the storm while my son was having a seizure and unresponsive - thank you, thank you, thank you. You prompted information from my husband while I was yelling out my son's condition. You explained that you need specific questions answered, and your professionalism was exemplary in the chaos.

To the two ambulance paramedics who were the first to arrive at our house - thank you, thank you, thank you. You ensured he was kept alive until the MICA unit came. You trusted me to carry my son out to the ambulance. I needed to be able to hold my son's limp body, in case it was the last time he would feel his mum. 

To the two MICA paramedics who saved our son's life - thank you, thank you, thank you. You gave him the vital drugs that would bring him back to us. You updated me with his condition when you had the chance and invited me to ask any questions I had. You kept him alive until we arrived at the hospital and checked on him in hospital before you left. Your skills and care was brilliant and we are eternally grateful. 

To the resuscitation team who were ready and waiting in the Monash Children's emergency bay - thank you, thank you, thank you. You formed an arc of light around him on our darkest day. Your expertise, experience and presence was invaluable. You pumped out the remaining allergen from his stomach. You gave him oxygen and an adrenaline infusion to keep him alive. My apologies for getting in your way while you were doing your job - it was an automatic reaction to move to his side when he was responsive. 

A special thank you to the doctor who held my hand and guided me back to our son's side so I could tell him that 'the hurt would be gone soon' and 'mumma's here, right next to him'. I will never forget the moment he heard my voice and turned his head towards it, listening to me repeat his favourite things in the whole world (avocado, watermelon, meat off the bone, motorbikes, cars, mummy and daddy and little brother loving him lots and lots and lots and lots). 

To the care co-ordinator in emergency who was there to counsel and console us - thank you, thank you, thank you. You understood that my husband, who was in tears, needed to be with our son, just as much as I did. You gave my husband a chance to sit by our son's side, while I looked after his brother. Your co-ordination allowed our time to be shared between our two children so that no one was neglected. We appreciated your presence and kind words. 

To the emergency nurses who looked after him while we waited for a bed - thank you, thank you, thank you. You ensured he was comfortable and stable and kept us up to date with everything. You did a brilliant job and your kindness was most appreciated. 

To the cleaner who saw that I looked lost and helped me out of the ED to buy food for my younger son - thank you for walking me towards the right direction. You are not only pivotal in keeping the hospital running, your direction made my difficult day a little easier.

To the ward staff at the Monash Children's who looked after our son until he was discharged - thank you, thank you, thank you. You all went above and beyond in your roles. 

Thank you to the head nurse - you run an excellent team and lead by example. You came into our bay from the corridor and unobtrusively offered me tissues when you saw my tears. You double checked that the hospital meals ordered were correct, knowing that our son had allergies. You noticed all the details and addressed them promptly. 

Thank you to the nurses who looked after our son in the ward - you did a great job continuing his care and we appreciate it. A special thank you to the staff member in the ward who walked our younger son around and attempted to put him to sleep so I could have a rest. You stayed after your shift to help and I wished I had asked for your name to thank you. Your generosity with your time reflects your generosity as a person. 

Thank you to the ICU nurse who came to check on our son during his stay. Your follow up reassured us that he was OK and we're glad we only needed to see your lovely smile in the ward instead of in ICU. 

Thank you to the junior registrar who went to check if our son could finally eat and even retrieved a fork for us - you actions allowed us to calm a distressed, hangry toddler and we appreciated it. Thank you to the discharging doctor who gave our son the all clear to go home on the next day. You answered all my questions and advised us to put the event in the past. You accepted my thanks and praise for all the hospital staff and responded to my tears. You ensured our discharge was smooth and timely, and for someone who nearly lost a child, time is the greatest gift you could have given us. In every single way, you have all returned to us a precious thing - an active, cheeky, naughty 2.5 year old boy who is back to teasing his brother, not sharing his toys and chatting our ears off. You have given us a future with our son that was very close to being lost.

This incident happened a few months ago, when my husband accidentally gave my allergy son his brother's cow's milk instead of his oat milk. It was the morning after a very busy day before and in his exhausted state, he mixed up the milk cups that were in the fridge (both cups had been poured for the boys but they didn't drink want to drink it straight away so they were put in the fridge for later). My husband picked up the wrong cup. 
We now: 
1. Feed both son's oat milk
2. Have different coloured cups for each (although this wouldn't have prevented the incident because when you're tired, a different cup probably wouldn't make much of a difference) 
3. Occasionally give the non-allergic son dairy to keep it in his system, but in different forms and from a tetra pack if needed. Our allergist mentioned to us that this kind of incident was very common (exhausted parents mixing up milks).

Consider this... who and what are you thankful for?

Wednesday, March 1, 2017

Exhaustion in allergy parents

Exhaustion is defined as a state of extreme physical or mental tiredness. It occurs when something (typically our energy levels) have been used up.

Parents of kids with allergies (or any other chronic illness for that matter) understand what it feels like to be exhausted: the need to be constantly alert; the need to be constantly organised; to be only one step away from making a devastating mistake. Our energy levels quite simply get used up! But being exhausted or feeling exhausted still doesn't change the needs of our children.

It's now the beginning of March, and we have just come through the stress of Christmas, family gatherings, starting school/kinder, new teachers, new routines... and we wonder why we are exhausted?! But wait, Easter is coming up, and still another 10 months till we do it all again! Clearly, we need help, or a new way of doing things, or a bit of both.

So what do we do?? There are many practical steps we can take to ease the load. Here are just a few:

Keep a pantry well stocked with snacks and treats that are ready to go:
- Small packets of crisps/popcorn/potato stix
- Fruit cups or packets of pureed fruit (check out the baby aisle if you don't want additives etc)
- Dried fruit or fruit based lollies (check out the baby aisle again for bite sized snacks)
- Small packets of lollies and chocolates. If you can't get small packets, simply pour a few into a small container or paper cupcake liner
- Juice boxes

For something a little more substantial at a party:
- corn thins/ rice crackers with biocheese (coconut cheese for us)
- slices of ham
- small tin of baked beans

We also like to have cupcakes in the freezer that can be easily topped with either fondant or just a pile of lollies.

LIMIT the number of outings each weekend or day to something that is manageable for your family at this time. This might mean missing out on something, but it will also mean actually enjoying the chosen event much more. It takes time to pack and unpack, so having planned activities back to back is a recipe for mistakes as well as tears.

EXERCISE is good for the body as well as the heart and mind. Finding a way to get your body moving is a great way to release pent up stress. When our minds have a tendency to flit from one thought to another, it helps to pick an activity that demands your full attention. Exercise classes that demand some level of mental focus and coordination are great for helping to increase focus on the present and let go of the things we can't control. I've tried Zumba, boxing, and circuit classes - all of them help me to take off the load of allergy parenting, and concentrate on the present.

REST and RECOOPERATION is needed for the mind and for the body. For the body, a good night's sleep does everyone wonders! Make sure you get to bed at a regular time, or you won't have the energy to face anything or anyone tomorrow. Finding time for friends, away from the stress of allergy parenting does wonders for the soul. Enjoy a movie or a dinner where you don't have to take a bag of goodies, plus wipes, plus medications. Be carefree, for a litttle while at least!

If some of these points resonate with you but you're not sure where or how to start, face to face appointments are available in Rowville, Victoria. If you live further a field, online appointments can be arranged using Facebook Messenger etc. Our family has dealt with allergies (including anaphylaxis) to  dairy, eggs, peanuts, all nuts, soy, wheat, oats, shellfish, seafood and some other random foods. We also understand the stress of asthma, dustmites and hayfever.

Exhaustion is exhausting. If you would like personalised support, please send me an email.