Wednesday, May 2, 2012


At ten months old, with a stolen sip of milk,  the hives take over her face.

In a frantic call to the pediatrician,  "bring her right over" I'm told.

Panic overtakes my belly, as Maeve giggles in the car seat.

"Most likely, we're looking at a milk allergy" the doctor responds after a five minute examination. "I recommend you make an appointment with a pediatric allergist as soon as possible."

Only a month later, I hold Maeve  in my arms as we are ushered to the exam room.

Sitting in my lap, blissfully unaware of what is to occur, she leans her head back onto my chest. Reaching her hand up, she finds my hair, and starts playing.

I take a deep breath as the nurse enters.

"We're going to do a scratch test. We'll test her for the most common allergies: milk, egg, peanuts, tree nuts, and wheat. You'll have to be here for a while, as we wait to see if she has a reaction."

Those big blue eyes meet my own as the tears stream down. She tries to scratch, as I bat her hand away.

"You'll be okay" I whisper into her ear, reassuring both of us in that moment.

I see the small bumps have formed in seven of the eight areas, allergic reactions to everything. Only the control group has failed to yield a hive.

The diagnosis hits like a weighted brick square in the chest:

tree nut allergies,
and for good measure
a sensitivity to wheat.

What am I going to feed this kid?

No ice cream?
No grilled cheese?
No french toast?
No peanut butter and jelly?

Life goes on.

Over time, avoidance and substitution become the norm. Easily soy milk finds its place instead of cow's, jelly sandwiches minus peanut butter, Italian ice in place of ice cream. Benedryl and an epi pen always close by, just in case.

It surprises me, nearly a year later, that a blood test reveals the milk allergy may have dissipated. We are given a date to meet at the Children's Hospital of Philadelphia to partake in a milk challenge.

Two weeks prior, a nurse from the allergist calls to further explain the process. Over the course of a morning she will consume milk in various quantities, while we wait in between, hoping for no reaction. We will be in the safety of the hospital, in the event an adverse reaction occurs. She is not to have any food or non clear liquid after midnight, and the process should take six to eight hours from start to finish.

"Do you think she'll pass?" Bry asks.

"I hope so" I respond. "It will be so much easier for her not to have this milk allergy".

On Wednesday, I wake at 5:15, and spend the next forty minutes feigning sleep, the anticipation of the day keeps me from rest.

At 6:55, we're heading to the hospital,  a cooler packed with cow's milk, soy milk, juice, soy yogurt, apple sauce and other foods, my laptop, assorted toys, and the diaper bag fill the car.

At 7:28 we find the waiting room and register

By 7:50, we're taken up to the floor.

We are showed our space. Formerly patient rooms, they have been modified to meet the needs of the four children who will challenge their food allergies on this day.

Maeve is weighed, her height is recorded and an overall exam is performed.

Not quite 8:15, they mix the powdered milk substance into the soy yogurt.

"Are you hungry?" the nurse asks.

"Yup!" Maeve responds, and eagerly accepts spoonfuls of the yogurt.

A timer is set for twenty minutes.

Finding the doll stroller in my bag, Maeve eagerly reaches for it. Adjusting her small baby doll inside, she pushes it out the room, down the hall. Stopping at the nurses station, a few feet again, we turn and walk back. We continue the pace for twenty minutes until the timer beeps.

With a quick assessment more yogurt is consumed. She finishes and grabs her stroller and off we go.


Braver with boundaries, our path gets longer with each walk. Pushing the plastic stroller she makes her way to the end of the hallway.

I hear the beeping through the open door and sneak a peek inside.

The room is open, filled with the bright overhead light, and five beds sit along the perimeter. Kids sit in each bed, tweens and teens, if I had to guess, each with an IV running to their arms. One works on a laptop, while another, a girl, sleeps, a protective mask over her face.

"C'mon mommy" Maeve pleads, bringing me back to reality. With a deep breath, I walk on.

I notice a bulletin board filled with information regarding sickle cell anemia and blood transfusions. In that moment, I discover the food challenge shares the floor with blood transfusions.

I spy Maeve ahead, walking gingerly, pushing her beloved stroller.

Our visit is just for the day.

Our tenure at this hospital will be over before it really begins. Our life will go on once with leave, with this day, this food challenge, just one more moment in our life.

The kids in the other room aren't so lucky.

This is their life, frequent visits to the hospital, lost hours spent hooked to machines. They are familiar with these halls, with these rooms, with this staff.

Their reality so different from ours.

I can't help but think how very lucky I am.

After no reaction from the powdered milk, Maeve is coerced into drinking four ounces of cow's milk through the addition of strawberry syrup and a straw.

We wait for another two hours, to ensure no latent reactions and when nothing occurs, are discharged with the loss of one milk allergy.

Walking out, our spirits filled, we stand outside the oncology department as we wait for the elevator to the parking deck.

Again, taking a deep breath, I take a minute to be thankful.

The following day, we celebrate with strawberry ice cream as the milk allergy is officially gone. 

Linking up with Erica M's newest venture, the Hangout Grid on Yeah Write

Also linking up with Shell, as I pour it all out. 


  1. I remember the same kind of moment when my oldest was diagnosed with the allergies, exzema, and asthma. I was so upset for him until I realized - it could be so much worse. Now, at twelve, he has outgrown most of what afflicted him as a small child.

  2. Allergies can be so overwhelming. My niece is allergic to milk and my best friend is now going through all you described with her daughter. I can't being to imagine what it must feel like when faced with feeding everyone. Blessings to you and having great news to share!

  3. Great news! What a pain that must have been for you as the food-provider. Enjoy your ice cream!

  4. Congrats on the milk allergy loss! My close friend's son has severe allergies, too. It's so hard for them...I can't imagine the challenge you face on a daily basis!

  5. First of all, congrats on finally being done with the milk allergy! Is it possible she'll outgrow the other allergies? I don't know how I'd manage over here excludign all that food. At least there are a lot of substitute options now that more and more kids seem to be diagnosed with various food allergies.

    And - thank you - this scene at the hospital definitely puts things in perspective. I think I needed that, and I feel a bit guilty complaining about my son's dairy aversion.

  6. Oh, what a happy ending to this tale!! So happy for your whole family. Sick kids break my heart and I can only imagine how you felt moonlighting as those worried parents for a day. Nice piece, Erin

  7. I'm so glad she can enjoy ice cream now! Yay! :)

  8. Love the photo at the end of the post because it is the epitome of joy. You twist together such worry and relief so vividly...great post. I'm certainly happy for the outcome.

  9. I'm not sure why, but this made me cry a little! I think because Maevie did well...and you made me feel how hard the problems are that other families have. Go Shiny! Drink your milk. Eat your ice cream.


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