Food allergies are a scary thing. Growing up, I don't remember having any friends with food allergies. Kids came to my house for a party and ate whatever was served. Not one parent would be fussing around, demanding to know if there was cashew butter in the cake frosting. But the times have changed, and now it seems like pretty much every kid I know has a food allergy. I've had an up close view of serious food allergies for a very long time, thanks to my friend Amy (not her real name). Amy has a whole host of food allergies, so many that sometimes I've wondered if she were exaggerating or paranoid. But after reading what happend to this teen who died from eating half of a cookie, I'll never doubt my friend again.
Nineteen-year-old college freshman Cameron Groezinger-Fitzpatrick died after eating a cookie that contained peanut oil. He and his friend were apparently driving when they bought some cookies. Cameron's friend ate the cookie first -- a taste-test I've done many times with Amy before -- and the friend said he didn't taste a hint of nut. So Cameron said, "Ah, I'm sure it's fine," and took a bite of his own cookie. But it wasn't fine.
Cameron, like my friend, had lived his life being ultra-cautious about food after being diagnosed with a nut allergy at 8-years-old. He checked food labels and questioned food service workers. He carried an epinephrine autoinjector. But there was no label on the cookies that Cameron and his friend bought. Hours later, Cameron was doubled over in pain. His throat closed up. And doctors couldn't save him.
I've been in a restaurant with my friend when we've been served bread. One time, it was dark and she couldn't tell if the bread contained any nuts. So I tasted it and said I didn't detect nuts at all. Plus, the server said there wasn't any. But my friend is so cautious that she decided not to risk it. In fact, she is so cautious that we once left a bar because my friend spied a jar of peanuts on a far away table and worried the servers might have touched it. My friend can not only suffer a reaction if she eats a peanut -- she can suffer a reaction if anyone who eats a peanut touches her or even gets near her.
And, yeah, sometimes I get a little frustrated with having to leave a bar or restaurant because my friend gets nervous. Or the endless questioning of the wait staff. Or being forced to wash my hands because she suspects that power bar I had an hour ago may have had nuts in it. But I want my friend alive.
I'm sure Cameron's friend does too -- he must feel terrible guilt over what happened. But if you have friends or family members with food allergies, remember Cameron. And be patient with them.
Do you have or know anyone who has bad food allergies?
Image via EuroMagic/Flickr