Not Just a Walk in the Park
My family and I will soon be taking steps toward finding a cure for food allergies. On Nov. 5, we’ll lace up our walking shoes to participate in the Food Allergy and Anaphylaxis Network (FAAN) Walk for Food Allergy. Why? So that one day my 8-year-old son Joseph and an estimated 15 million Americans, including about 6 million other children like him, might be able to live a life free from the danger of food allergies. The morning we spend enjoying this pleasant fall walk will help fund research that could find a way to protect my son from an anaphylactic reaction. Currently, the only protection is avoidance and, should a reaction occur, an epinephrine auto-injector.
We’re lucky to live in an area where some groundbreaking research is happening. Joseph and I recently attended a talk by Wesley Burks, MD, Kiser-Arena professor of pediatrics and chief of the Division of Pediatric Allergy and Immunology at Duke University Medical Center. Joseph was excited to attend a grownup presentation by a leading food allergy scientist.
Burks outlined the research scientists are exploring, such as oral immunotherapy, sublingual immunotherapy and the Chinese herbs FAHF-2. Joseph, who is allergic to peanuts, tree nuts, wheat, milk, egg and soy, conscientiously wrote down some of the scientific words with a note to "look up later." But while he didn't understand all of the scientific terms, he did understand that there are several intelligent and dedicated scientists working hard to help make his world safer.
The statistic that stuck with Joseph the most after the presentation at Duke was the fact that there’s been an 18 percent increase in the prevalence of children with food allergies from 1997 to 2007 (Branum, 2009 Pediatrics). He said, "Wow, that's a lot more people like me." Food-allergic kids like Joseph latch on to those kinds of statistics because they so often feel isolated. It helps for Joseph to see proof that he’s not the only kid who can't eat at a pizzeria, sample Halloween candy while trick-or-treating or taste a free cookie from the bakery. When we participate in the FAAN Walk for Food Allergy, Joseph gets to see that proof by the hundreds.
The FAAN walk is a fun event with other kids who have food allergies, just like him. I'm thankful for the wonderful members of our local support group NC FACES (Food Allergic Children Excelling Safely), who make this event a success.
After 31 of 43 walks throughout the United States, the FAAN Walk for Food Allergy is more than halfway to its fundraising goal of $3 million. I’m proud to be a small part of this effort.
Will you be participating in your city? What part of the walk is most special to you?