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Tuesday, July 31, 2012

Living with Food Allergies - Back to School Guest Speaker, Natalie Honodel


I am pleased to share the following story from a young lady who lives with nut and peanut allergies.  She recently contacted me to see if I was still interested in having young guest bloggers who were willing to share their personal stories.  Of course!     
As 'back to school prep' is upon many of us, Natalie's story and pictures are perfect timing.  This week alone has offered me two opportunities with Kristin Beltaos, owner of A Gift of Miles, to speak on this very topic, but in very different venues.  Yesterday we spoke with Sandy Fowler from Heart Filled Holidays about Back To School Prep and on Saturday, we present our webinar How To Keep Your Food Allergic Child Safe At School.  
Now, I have the wonderful opportunity to present this personal story from someone living with food allergies.  Natalie is 18, has finished all of her public schooling and feels that her personal experiences motivate her to write about the social aspects of having food allergies from two perspectives: 
1. Being the ONLY individual among friends WITH food allergies
2.  How friends react to having a friend with food allergies

 Greetings everyone! My name is Natalie and I am so very excited to be sharing my story with you! I have grown up with a number of food allergies including a tree nut allergy and a peanut allergy. What better way to introduce myself to you than to show you a picture of one of my skin tests! 

A LITTLE skin testing - unbelievable!
Well now that we are acquainted, I want to share with you the most valuable thing my parents instilled in me during school. Any guesses? It was probably the hardest thing for them to do and yet the best thing they could have done.
 INDEPENDENCE.
My parents realized that as I got older they could not always be with me. They did not want to become the parents hiding outside with binoculars while I was at homecoming or calling every hour when I was at sleepovers. 
When I was in elementary school they were extremely involved. I cannot remember a party or field trip that I did not have at least one family member at. 
As middle school approached I started to take on more responsibility with my food allergies. My mom would go over with me what to avoid, how to tell people about my allergies, and what to do when I started to feel a reaction. Now, of course, they would still inform my school and teachers, but I needed to start paying attention. I am SO THANKFUL for this. 
I know that because of the independence they gave me, I was able to live a much safer life in high school. I made sure all of my friends knew about my allergies, and many times they were just as aware of risks as I was. Just this past weekend my friend and I went to dinner and very first thing SHE warned the waiter about my allergy!
March - Allergic Reaction
I want to be clear that there were still times I would have reactions.  As much as I hate the picture I am going to show you, it has become such a valuable tool for me to help teach others about food allergies.
That picture is from a reaction I had in March. Show someone that and the point will start to hit home! It happened fast and required urgent medical care. Just to give you a contrast, this picture was taken about a week later...
I want to leave you with a few points:
1.       Educate your kids on food allergies! When you are not with them they need to be responsible for making sure they are safe and healthy.
2.       Give them the tools they need in case of an emergency. I make sure to have two Epi-Pens, Benadryl(capsule and liquid form), and my rescue inhaler. I also have a mediband that I use when I am working out and a bracelet I wear from day to day.
Natalie - A wonderful advocate for our kids
3.       Food allergies are a part of life, but do not define life! I had an incredible high school experience regardless of my allergies. I did not let them hold me back or stop me from getting involved.
Thank you for reading and I am wishing you a happy, healthy, reaction free school year!

It is through the honesty and ability of young people such as this young lady to share their stories which will encourage my children and many others to safely manage their food allergies with independance and confidence.  
If you know of other young advocates who would like to share their stories too, please don't hesitate to send them my way!
Thanks, Natalie!  Well shared~


12 comments:

  1. thanks for the post, and the honesty Natalie. I do feel children like you have to learn to live in the real world and manage your allergies and understand the risks involved with every day life. All credit to your parents for allowing you to grow up responsible for yourself.
    I did a post yesterday on my daughter helping to teach my grandson to learn for himself how to cope. http://fun-as-a-gran.blogspot.co.uk/2012/07/helping-educate-bob-about-his-allergies.html

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    1. Thanks for taking time to post! And thanks for doing your part in helping those of us in the food allergy world~

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