FAACT Welcomes New Members to the Leadership Team

Susan Kelly

Susan Kelly, BSN, RN
Vice President of Education

When my second daughter was 14-months-old, I decided to feed her half of her older sister’s peanut butter and jelly sandwich for lunch. After a tiny bite of the sandwich, she refused to try more. Almost immediately, her eyes began to water and swell. Her nose was running. Hives appeared on her face and neck. She started to panic and cry.
I called her pediatrician, who advised me to give an antihistamine and take her to the emergency room. She was given steroids and monitored for several hours before being sent home. I thought to myself, “This is easy. I won’t let her eat peanuts or peanut butter, and she will be fine!” I did not receive a prescription for an epinephrine auto-injector. The words “anaphylaxis” or “epinephrine” were never even discussed. I was not taught how to read a food label or prevent cross-contact. Even as a nurse, I did not know – we did not receive this training in nursing school or in continuing education classes.
A few weeks later, we had a consultation with an allergist. After testing and bloodwork, he confirmed that my daughter had an allergy to peanuts as well as tree nuts and sesame. He also talked with me about how to keep her safe. He prescribed an epinephrine auto-injector and showed us how and when to use it. He told us not to be afraid of the epinephrine and to immediately use it if she ate something containing her allergens or if we thought she was having an anaphylactic reaction. He said to call 911 if we ever had to administer her epinephrine. He told me to educate her caregivers and to have them see him if they did not believe me.

Linda Menighan

Linda Menighan
Vice President of Programs

In 2002, my 10-month-old daughter, Bailey, experienced the first of what turned out to be multiple, life-threatening allergic reactions to food. We had invited some friends over to watch a movie. Bailey was given Reese's Pieces candy while watching the movie. Later that night, she broke out into a rash and hives all over her body.
As a baby, Bailey often had issues with eczema, but this was different. She had hives and a red rash covering her whole body. Because I did not know she was experiencing an allergic reaction, I treated it as I would the eczema – and it went away that night.

A month later, we were visiting family and Bailey at a peanut butter and jelly sandwich. I was not there to see her reaction, but was told that she threw up all over the place and was not feeling well. Again, the symptoms went away before bedtime. Nothing made sense to me, so I consulted our local board-certified allergist for testing.
Imagine a 10-month-old baby having blood drawn to diagnose food allergies. It was one of the hardest things I had to do – hold her down so the nurse could stick a needle in my baby and draw about 10 vials of blood. She was diagnosed with allergies to peanut, tree nuts, and egg.

The day I found out that Bailey had food allergies, I began reading everything I could about living with food allergies and available resources. There was not much out there in 2002. I kept journals of everything she ate and got creative to get her to eat certain foods. Bailey did not eat anything unless I made it for her. Welcome to the world of being a food allergy mom.

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