My peanut Henry and peanuts

My peanut Henry and peanuts

Tonight, Henry Donaldson Dahl will be spending the night alone with Grandma J and Grandpa Steve.  This is a first. I am excited and know we will have a swell time.

I have been preparing for this: I bought a life jacket so we can swim.  Mother Nature is trying to foil me by dropping 20 degrees.  Ha! The pool is warm, and we will not be foiled.

I shopped. Rachel sent me a list of Henry’s favorites.  I have them all.  He will weigh 2 pounds more when I return him.  I plan to bombard him with pancakes and yogurt and blueberries and vanilla milk and any pouch of fruit and veggies he wants.

It is a little more tense than the usual visit, and a little harder for Rachel and Pat to leave him because Henry has peanut allergies. He has been to the emergency room twice already.  He is only 2!  To see him in a hospital gown is to have a grandma’s heart cave in.

His pediatrician suggested that the kids expose him to peanuts because  knowledge is power.  Rachel works, and Henry is entrusted to an excellent babysitter. Still, parents do not want the nanny to face the first allergic reaction.

His first tiny exposure produced violent nausea and hives. They did not abate. Ambulance time.  The second, accidental exposure resulted in the typical accelerated reaction- breathing difficulties which necessitated dilation treatments at the hospital. Untreated, Henry’s breathing can be so distressed that he could die. His parents will never relax their oversight.

Now Pat and Rachel carry Benadryl, a set of epi pens, and sanitary wipes wherever they go.

Where they go is a bit constrained: Henry, poster boy for the White Sox, can only attend a game in a peanut free zone.  Fortunately, the White Sox schedule a few such events every year.  A circus trip proved hazardous: the United Center was filled with the dust of peanut shells. Even if his section was peanut free, those darn elephants are impossible to reason with. They love their peanuts!

Flying is fraught with peril. Peanuts are everywhere, and an epi pen gives only about 20 minutes of stabilization.  They pre-clean their seats, because the residue from old nuts is a trigger.   They worry about long distances: would a pilot drop a plane for a child with anaphylaxis?They ask the forbearance of fellow travelers in the surrounding seats, trading benign snacks for anything that threatens Henry’s life.  Once a couple told them that they should leave Henry at home.  Really? Forever, like a leper?  So that they could eat peanuts with impunity?

The thing is, we eat so many processed foods in the US,that nuts are almost impossible to avoid.  Henry is also allergic to sesame seeds- a common overlap.  All bakeries have sesame seeds.  Snack companies also produce nuts.  Almond butter is made by companies that make peanut butter.  Candy producers have nuts at the ready.  Ice cream companies have nuts in their plants for Rocky Road. Nuts lurk everywhere: home made pesto was made with pine nuts not labeled as produced in a facility processing peanuts. But they were, obviously.  Hives and an asthma attack.

Complicating things is the fact that saliva holds the nut essence for 8 hours- so anyone who hopes to cuddle or kiss Henry cannot ingest HIS allergens, or he will hive up-or worse.  Because we are all watchdogs we have not had to contend with any intense reactions.

Parents of allergic kids have to shop like hawks.  They read every ingredient on the box.  They recognize the risks and never give in to a begging child without asking to read the container.  Henry is the beneficiary of a very fresh diet: Rachel can control the ingredients if she makes his food from scratch.  Grandma Kathy makes him a loaf of fresh bread every week. I, on the other hand, failed to link tahini with sesame seeds, and bought hummus as a healthy snack.  I am officially the Bad Grandma.  Praise God that my daughter in law Kathryn flagged it.

I have been to restaurants with Henry and his parents, and I am awed by his parents’ proactivity.  They know the “go to” foods that are likely to be unsullied, and Henry often has a platter of asparagus, avocado, fruit and yogurt.  His palate is eclectic.  Lately, he shows a fairly unhealthy love of bacon, just showing all of us that there are some urges we cannot control.  After his bib is secured, Henry will turn his adorable face to the server and ask, “May I have some bacon, please?”

If he asks me, I will get the frying pan out.

Trying to figure out the WHY of peanut allergies will not help Henry.  Kids do not generally outgrow this allergy, though they may be desensitized.  To go through the desensitization process for peanuts requires nerves of steel, because your child’s life is at stake.  Science may come through someday, but in the present- we are all dedicated to protecting our little boy.

So- for this weekend- I am monitoring every molecule of food that Henry eats.  When I show him off on walks and play time in the park, I will be armed with his allergy kit.  Steve and I took a lesson in injecting him. I will never be without my cell phone.  He will be safe and sound, and I will be in my glory.

I managed to get My Three Sons to adulthood, and dammit- I will prevail again. Tomorrow we will hit up the Honey Bee, Henry’s favorite stop for bacon, and celebrate his first overnight.  We will toast with fresh squeezed, diluted orange juice. To life!


Come back to hear of my babysitting triumph!


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