Food allergies are incredibly dangerous when eating away from home. A trace amount can be found anywhere. For example, one server didn't wash his hands after touching cream cheese and picked up Lindsay's egg-, dairy-, and-nut free bagel to put it in the bag. Another time, a server mistakenly put a nut-contaminated vitamin supplement into her fruit shake. Both accidental exposures required 911 calls and ambulance teams to get her safely to the hospital.
We have a few restaurants that we feel safe visiting, as the chef and entire team are aware of Lindsay’s allergies and are vigilant. But for the most part, we don't go out to eat with Lindsay for fear of a food containing an allergen we cannot see.
Eating dictates everything we do as a family. Traveling has been the hardest part of living with food allergies. I have spent a decade pre-boarding planes to wipe down Lindsay’s seat and surrounding areas to clean off potential allergens. I have pleaded with countless airline teams to make announcements and to not serve nuts on the plane. There is nothing scarier than the thought of anaphylaxis at 30,000 feet. And we've only stayed in hotels with kitchens so we can make all of her food.
But most of all, I want to make sure that Lindsay isn't defined by her food allergies.
Lindsay dove (literally) into gymnastics six years ago. She joined a gym that embraced her food allergies and did everything possible to keep her safe. Now 12 years old, Lindsay spends 15 hours a week practicing and competing. Lindsay is a gymnast who happens to have food allergies. She is not the “allergic kid” in the corner.
These days, I'm also focused on finding a cure. Diagnosed food allergies are an epidemic affecting 1 in 12 children in the United States and that rate is doubling approximately every 10 years.
Two years ago I met Elise Bates at a local food allergy meeting. Not only did Elise share my passion to find a cure because of her own daughter's life-threatening allergies, but she also had a vision of how to make a difference. Within a year, our families founded End Allergies Together, Inc. (EAT), a nonprofit organization solely dedicated to funding food allergy research.
EAT is committed to finding a cure for food allergies by directly funding the researchers who strive to find new treatments and solutions for this growing epidemic. EAT was founded on the premise that everyone’s contribution, big or small, is crucial. If we all do something small, collectively we can do something extraordinary.
Our hope and dream is that someday Lindsay will be able to live a life where she can just eat.
In the meantime, we are grateful for her friends, family, coaches, and teachers who keep her safe every day. And for the researchers who dedicate their careers to helping find a cure.