I was not wearing my white coat or pager and I didn’t have a stethoscope hanging from my neck. I wore jeans, a simple black sweater and had an overstuffed diaper bag slung over my shoulder. I was not the allergist that cool November day. I, instead, became the mother of children with life-threatening food allergies. As the diagnosis fell from my allergist’s lips, the same diagnosis that so often fell from mine, it struck me how it felt on the other side and the strike was powerful.
I went from handing out superhero stickers to my little patients after their skin prick testing to rewarding my own fiercely reluctant boys with superhero figures after the same prick test. I went from calling parents with their child’s lab results to waiting for that same single call for numbers that now somehow meant the world to me. I went from handing a patient’s parents a food avoidance sheet to standing in a grocery store with that same list and sobbing because I had no idea what I could buy or how I was going to cook for my family. I went from diagnosing anaphylaxis based on clinical history and lab results to jabbing an Epipen Jr® into the thigh of my own limp and dusky one-year-old cherub after he ate a single bite of cookie.
I was not expecting to be on this side of the table. This side of the table is top 8 allergen-free, plus some. This side of the table often eats alone. It is worried but brave. It is hindered but disciplined. It is threatened but confident. Although I would have preferred to stay seated on the other side of this table, I am also blessed to sit here in the company of other food allergy families. This side of the table would enable me to obtain an understanding that I could never have otherwise known completely.
Now, my friends, I get it.
So please, pull up a chair and sit down with me. I know we’ll have a lot to talk about.