Patty Unleashed

Patty Unleashed: 8.17.16

I learned I was allergic to bees by stepping on one in my backyard when I was a teenager. My sister, Teresa, and I watched in horror as my foot doubled in size and I started having trouble breathing. This of course was before the days of cell phones, so she took me to the old St. Louis County Hospital just in case something was wrong. They gave me a shot of epinephrine, which stopped the reaction. When asked how I got stung, my sister told the doctors I was a beekeeper in the middle of collecting honey. Yes, even in the face of near death she had to be a smart aleck.

Once my mom arrived, they explained that my career as a beekeeper was over. The result was that I spent years getting allergy shots trying to build up my defense against bees and wasps. Now I just carry an epi pen with me, which seems to act like some sort of shield—you know, like carrying an umbrella wards off rain. I haven’t been stung in years. So why is any of this relevant, other than my need to overshare? Well, I’d always treated the epi pen as an unnecessary annoyance. But then I got an attitude adjustment when I met Ally Kalishman, age 13.

I know Ally’s mom, Amy, from volunteering, and I knew her daughter had food allergies. Like many people, I secretly (and sometimes not so secretly) thought food allergies were often overblown. OK, as I typed that I realized how awful it sounds. But I am admitting it now: I never truly realized how deadly food allergies can be.

Ally is allergic to eggs, dairy, tree nuts and shellfish. She can’t even ingest a trace of it without getting a reaction. And when she reacts, it isn’t like my bee sting reaction with my sister casually driving to the hospital while making fun of my evergrowing foot. She needs immediate attention, which means Ally needs to be hypervigilant about what she eats. But Ally is 13 years old and she doesn’t live in a bubble, so imagine how hard her day-to-day life can be. Instead of taking the ‘poor me’ approach to her allergy challenges, Ally has mobilized to bring awareness to the issue.

The Food Allergy Research & Education (FARE) is holding a walk in Tilles Park Sept. 16 to raise awareness and critical funds. Its mission is to create a safer environment in which kids and adults can better manage food allergies. And Ally is responsible for getting the word out about this year’s walk. So, since I have been an insensitive ignoramus about food allergies, demanding my right to peanuts and peanut butter, I thought the least I could do is mention the upcoming walk. Take a look at foodallergywalk.org/stlouis2016. Last year, the walk raised about $25,000, $7,000 of it through Ally’s friends and family. Ally is only heading into eighth grade, but she is already making a difference. Not to make you feel bad or anything.

Contact Patty at phannum@townandstyle.com.

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