Everyone is talking about this story. CNN covered it, MSNBC, The Today Show, Fox News, and countless daily newspapers, blogs and other news outlets. It’s the perfect recipe for a story with legs (in the newsroom this is what we label a story that runs off and takes on its own life); an innocent child with a disability, crazed and loud parents lining up the street outside an elementary school with big signs saying “where does it end?” and yelling “what about our rights?”, the school superintendent explaining that they are following the law in their protective measures, the food allergy doctor expert giving the facts about food allergies and then throw in the anchor/interviewer who seems agitated by the story and later discloses she has a child with a food allergy. Then there’s that whole online troll community, who literally wait at their keyboards for the next hot topic story and start typing horrible, insensitive and ridiculous comments (you know the ones, where they write vile and cruel comments online but would never ever have the guts to say it to your face? Creeps).
So many of my fellow food allergy bloggers have done a beautiful job of commenting on this story, and shared great perspectives on a story that hits so close to home for all of us. For me, the whole story is senseless and unfortunate. There was a real opportunity here to teach love, empathy and compassion for fellow students that aren’t exactly like them. That moment was lost, and instead was replaced with petty anger and the motivation to protest an innocent little girl’s legally mandated health accommodations. I cringed when I heard soundbites such as “Where’s our rights? Where does it stop? This takes too much time out the educational part of our kids’ day? That child should be homeschooled!” These parents are misguided in their comments. I’m not even that upset that they don’t get it. What pisses me off more is that they don’t seem to CARE to get “it”. Because if they really wanted to know what this food allergy thing was all about, they would do their research, read the statistics and come to the conclusion that food allergies are a real disability with no cure.
I would like to think that the parents in the Florida school talked to the teachers and administrators, visited the FAAN website, and really tried to understand why this sweet little 6-year-old girl needs special accommodations in her school and classroom. Maybe they did, I don’t know. But what I do know is that they chose to take whatever information they had, and decide the best solution in keeping the food allergic girl safe was to protest like crazy. They protested hand washing and mouth rinsing. They protested the elimination of snacks. They made big poster boards for the world to see. They got riled up on camera. It’s all good stuff for the newsroom. But it’s bad news for our already heavy hearts. This issue is much closer to us than what the soundbites are saying. It’s hard to watch and even harder to process logically. Because there is no logic in this protest. It is just a wasteland of a story.
I will say this, I think in some ways the parents who protested so loudly on this issue did the rest of us a big favor. The media heavily covered it, got great experts on to give the facts and good advice on allergies, and friends emailed and called me to talk about this story. This is a great opportunity to educate others and raise awareness. People are talking about it, and that’s a very good thing. I hope the little girl in Florida isn’t too traumatized by all the media attention. She’s so young and vulnerable, and I hope those pesky parents back off and do their protesting in private, leaving their signs at home. She didn’t deserve any of that nonsense, and no child ever should have to face that kind of scrutiny.
Finally, I wanted to pass along an email a good friend of mine sent to her family members after a child in her daughter’s class suffered a severe reaction during a school field trip, and didn’t have their medication. I think it serves as a good reminder that you can never be vigilant enough….
I was in Springfield yesterday on a 5th grade field trip with Laney when one of her classmates had a allergic reaction to peanut butter. He is 11yrs. old and has never had a bad reaction before. His mom did not have her epipen with her. He was sitting next to a boy that had peanut butter and they think he somehow touched his hand or the table and was exposed. He started out with hives and then started coughing and his throat was closing up. We called 911 and they were there within minutes. I went in the ambulance to the hospital with the mom and child and they were able to get him the epipen, oxygen, etc… in time.
As you can imagine it was a very scary experience for everyone involved. I send this to you as a reminder that we need to carry Maddie’s epipen with us at all times, no exceptions. Yes, the chances of it happening to her are extremely rare but I would never want to be in that situation without it.
I asked him, after he was feeling better, what it felt like and he actually said he thought he was going to die or suffocate.. It was really sad and the fear in his eyes is not something easily forgotten.
Finally, everyone was hesitant to call 911, thinking that the benedryl he was given would kick in. Never wait, every second counts in these situation.