Tuesday, April 21, 2009

The Baseball Game

"Crunch, crunch, crunch," I heard as I walked into the stadium towards our seats. Peanut shells were everywhere!  On the seats.  On the ground. In the hands of the other fans sitting around me. All I saw were peanuts!  I didn't notice the excitement of the game or any of the players on the field.  I sat there in a state of paralysis, afraid if I moved in any direction I would be in contact with a peanut.   

The first major league baseball game that I remember going to, was my freshman year of college.  It was a floor bonding activity, so I didn't want to miss it.  My mom had warned me on the phone the night before that there would be a lot of peanuts.  I hadn't realized how serious she was though.  I had been to sports games before, and seen a few minor league games when I was a camper during the summer in Maine.  I never remembered being uncomfortable, or even concerned in any way about peanuts.

The experience was eye-opening to me though!  I couldn't relax or enjoy myself.  I couldn't touch anything.  If I did touch anything then I used a wipe.  I couldn't touch my face all night!  I didn't eat anything, drink anything, or enjoy the experience in any way.  It feels debilitating to go somewhere surrounded by something I am anaphylactic to.  It is nearly impossible to enjoy myself when I am thinking the entire time about not having a reaction.  I was also with people I had just met a few days earlier and barely knew.  My roommate and a few others on my floor were aware of my allergies, but I am sure they didn't understand the severity, or why I sat there on the edge of my seat counting the innings until the game would be over.  

Now they have baseball games on certain dates, that have either peanut free sections or peanut free games. Go to: http://foodallergies.about.com/od/nutallergies/a/peanutbaseball.htm 

There is a listing and links to find baseball games that are peanut free.  I think this is a great option, instead of risking the other games, while also feeling uneasy the entire time!  I would imagine that these games are a lot more enjoyable to us allergic reactors!

Last night Mr. Comprehender asked me to go to a baseball game with him this week.  He didn't understand my immediate reaction of "No, I can't.  Sorry.  You should definitely find a friend to go with you though."  I felt bad because of his excitement at being given free tickets and his enthusiasm to take me, but there was no way I could legitimize putting myself in a position I knew I felt uncomfortable in.  "I won't be fun," I told him.  "But I don't understand why you don't want to go.  You don't have any other plans.  It would be fun," he countered.  "I don't think you understand," I said.  "There are peanuts everywhere!  I know I don't usually let my allergies stop me, but I have done this before, and I know how it is.  I know I will sit there uncomfortably the entire time.  You would be much better off finding a friend to enjoy it with." Mr. Comprehender was still dubious of my certainty.  Maybe he'll understand tomorrow night...

Sunday, April 12, 2009

Ben & Jerry's Ice Cream

I was walking around the city yesterday.  It was beautiful, sunny, and unseasonably warm outside. This must have been the reason I was craving an ice cream (or just because ice cream is the awesome)! I walked into Ben & Jerry's.  "Can I get a small chocolate fudge brownie in a cup please?" I asked. "Can you also please get a clean scoop from the back and make sure the area is clean before scooping my ice cream? I am very allergic to nuts," I said.  The guy who was waiting on me was clearly new, and unaware of the routine that is established at Ben & Jerry's with allergies. Luckily, a woman who also worked there, overheard my request.  She knew exactly what to do and why to do it.  I was very impressed.  She explained to him, "You need to get a clean scoop from the back (as she walked back with him to get a scoop). Make sure not to put the scoop in the water fountain because that is what contaminates it," she explained.  "Open up a new box of ice cream underneath the one that is already open, and scoop it from that one," she said to him as she helped him get my ice cream.  I was extremely impressed with her knowledge of allergies, and how seriously she took the situation!  

I have always had similar experiences at Ben & Jerry's. Never have I had an experience where anyone didn't take my allergies seriously there. I have had plenty of experiences at other ice cream places, but never at Ben & Jerry's.  They are the best!     

Wednesday, April 8, 2009

Peer Pressure

I met some friends out for dinner last week.  It was one of their birthdays.  I already had plans to eat with my parents, so I met them afterwards.  The girls had ordered sushi to share.  I am allergic to fish, and clearly couldn't eat the sushi.  I knew the girls from high school, but was only friends with them through a few classes and organizations we were both in at that time.  I ran into them and re-connected the week before at another friend's house.  None of them remembered I had food allergies, or maybe didn't even know about my allergies in the first place.  

When I got there, they tried to offer me some sushi.  I politely declined, and ordered something to drink.  I always have great excuses in my mind, in case I don't feel like I need to share my allergies with people I don't know very well.  They asked me a few more times, pressuring me to try some.  I said I was full from dinner (which was true), and they finally stopped asking.  In this situation, I could have explained my allergies, but I didn't need to, and decided to not make it a big deal.  Either way, I did experience peer pressure.  The peer pressure to try some food I couldn't eat.  

Peer pressure is something I remember happening a lot when I was growing up. Of course it didn't always involve food, but many times it did.  Even my close friend could occasionally have a momentary lapse of forgetfulness and offer me foods I couldn't eat.  It is the pressure though, and the need for acceptance that is the problem.  I luckily never succumbed to the peer pressure.  I never tried food out of courtesy or politeness.  If it came down to something like that, I would then explain my allergies.  I am not the type to make a big deal about something, if it isn't necessary. I think I am pretty good at knowing when it is and when it isn't important to share my allergies. Over the years I learned who needed to know, and who didn't. 

Broadcasting my allergies to everyone isn't necessary.  It is however necessary to inform the important people (teachers, coaches, nurses, parents, close friends, etc.).  Those are the people who will help if something happens, and who should know the precautions that I take.  

Preparing For Italy

As I start to get ready to move abroad at the end of August, I realize there are details I must figure out, as well as some concerns I have.  

The first step I have already taken, is starting to learn Italian.  I am working with an Italian tutor as well as using Rosetta Stone.  It feels like a slow, difficult process trying to learn another language, but it is also fun and exciting knowing that I will soon be using this new language daily.  

The next step was finding out if I could get a Medic Alert bracelet written in both English and Italian. I also wanted to make sure the Medic Alert symbol is recognized worldwide.  Although I have lived abroad before, this will be my first time living in a country that speaks another language other than English.  I called Medic Alert and found out that I can get a bracelet with both Italian and English on it.  I'm very excited and relieved about this!  I also found out that I could do it through Medic Alert here in the U.S., or one of their affiliates in either the U.K. or Cyprus.  Great news!  

I have already taken a look at the Italian allergy website: http://www.foodallergyitalia.org
The website is in Italian.  I am going to ask my tutor to help translate for me.  I will probably try to e-mail them and maybe also try to call them.  I need to find out how foods are labeled there, and if there are other suggestions and precautions I should take.  

When I went to Italy a few summers ago with my family, I made multiple copies of chef cards in Italian.  I want to update it and make sure there is nothing else that I want to add or include.  

There are a few concerns I have about moving to Italy with my allergies.  I may live with another teacher there.  If I do, will they be careful with my allergies, and not make me feel uncomfortable in my own apartment?  Living with other people can be difficult in general, but with allergies, it presents many more complexities.  Any common space is always a big question mark.  Did she eat something I was allergic to while sitting on the couch?  Are the dishes clean and safe for me to use?  etc. (I will go into this further in a follow-up post).

Another concern (that may sound a bit silly) is whether I will be able to find chocolate and ice cream that I will be able to eat.  Now I know on the grand scale of important concerns, this may not seem big, but going somewhere for a year, and not having any ice cream or chocolate is kind of a big deal!  When I lived in Australia, the only chocolate I could eat was Twix bars (because they were manufactured in a different facility there, than in the U.S. where I can't eat them) and soft serve vanilla from McDonald's.  That was it!  I rarely had the soft serve because it wasn't very good, and after a while, Twix bars can get pretty old!  Now, I am definitely an extremely healthy eater, but come on...a girl needs something sweet on occasion!  I already know I can't take the risk with gelato because of cross-contamination, so will I yet again live without sweets for a year? I hope not!  

One other concern I have right now, is how much money I will end up spending on food.  In Australia, I used to go to the grocery store almost every other day to get fresh food.  I could barely eat anything packaged, so I needed to buy fresh meat, veggies and fruit.  I would spend at least $100 a week, if not more, on feeding myself!  I am wondering how much it will cost in Italy.  Will I be able to find more packaged foods that I can eat there?  I doubt it...

I will continue to add and update on my findings, as I go about the process of preparing to move to Italy! 

Sunday, April 5, 2009

The Steps I Take...

Before I go out to any party or social gathering, there are always a few steps that I make sure to take before leaving.  Last night I was at friend's apartment before going out.  I took some video to show how I prepare.                                                                                
Step 1: Always eat ahead
Step 2: Bring a safe snack

When I bring a snack to a friend's house, I always make sure to set some aside to keep it cross-contamination free.  Then I put the platter out to share.  That way, if someone eats something I am allergic to, then touches the brownies I brought, I don't have to worry that I can't eat them. I know I have some set aside just for me.