Today I did something I never thought that I would do. I did something that was out of my comfort zone. It was something that, honestly, made me a little nervous at first. But it was something that I always wanted to do. During my residency and fellowship, I used to see press conferences being set up in the lobby at Children’s Memorial Hospital, Chicago, on a frequent basis. I would watch from afar. Cameras rolling, big lights shining on the stage, important people from the hospital or government officials speaking, parents talking about their children. Today was different though. Instead of watching from afar, I was in the midst of it.
I was asked to speak at a press conference today where U.S. Senator Dick Durbin and U.S. Senator Mark Kirk proposed a piece of bipartisan legislation referred to as The School Access to Emergency Epinephrine Act. This legislation will encourage states across the nation to improve school access to epinephrine auto-injectors for use if students are experiencing life-threatening systemic allergic reactions. This bill would also require those states to have “Good Samaritan” laws in place to protect those individuals who administer an epinephrine auto-injector to any student believed to be experiencing anaphylaxis.
When giving my perspective as to the importance of this bill, I said, “I mean it’s hard enough to send children without food allergy to school for that first time. You are handing over your most precious possessions to another group of people whom you hope will take good care of them, nurture them and teach them. For most people, school is a place to learn and flourish. For us, it is all this and much more. It is a minefield. It’s a risk. I hold my breath the whole time they are there. I worry. There is food that they are allergic to around every corner. So sure, we hope they come home a little smarter, but more importantly we just want them to come home, come home without an allergic reaction, without a trip to the hospital. We just want them to come home safely.
Now imagine that you are in this exact situation but you don’t even know it. Let’s say you have a four year old that you are sending to preschool for the first time. She has never eaten peanuts because either she is too picky or you have been too nervous to try them. At lunch, a new friend asks her if she wants a bite of her peanut butter and jelly sandwich so she takes one. In a few minutes, she is covered in hives. She is vomiting and having a hard time breathing. But you, as her parent, had no idea that she was allergic to peanuts so you didn’t send her to school with epinephrine. And now as she gets sicker and sicker while she waits for the ambulance, there is no epinephrine at school for her. There is no epinephrine in the nurse’s office with her name on it, so she can’t get any. There is no Superhero to rescue her.
That is until Senator Durbin and Senator Kirk got together and developed this piece of legislation to protect our nation’s food allergic children. This piece of legislation is a game-changer, it’s a life-saver. It will allow injectable epinephrine to be part of the medical emergency kits, for anyone who may need it. If this law passes, injectable epinephrine will be there – ready and waiting to be your kids Superhero, just in case they need it.”
There were so many wonderful people there this morning showing their support of this bill. I was proud to be one of the people speaking at the podium today. My most proud moment of today though was when my three boys each made a statement to the Senators regarding the new legislation. I explained to the boys what the bill was going to do for children with food allergies and they each thought of what they wanted to say entirely on their own. They memorized it and presented it with a microphone to a room full of adults. It would have been hard not to be proud of them!
I’ll let you know how you can show your support of The School Access to Emergency Epinephrine Act. It is expected to be introduced on Thursday in Washington, D.C.!
For more details about The School Access to Emergency Epinephrine Act, click here:
A few more links covering the press conference:
photos courtesy of Senator Durbin’s office