“As I’m sitting here trying to scratch off last nights residual glue left over from my chest heart rate tabs, I am left feeling more angry than concerned.
My night out at dinner started like an other. Informing the staff and supervisors on duty of my anaphylactic condition (all nuts except almonds). My wife and i were having a 3 course dinner. Entree and mains were fine (actually quite delicious) though i still test every ingredient on the plate just to be sure – kind of worth the gamble in my opinion.
Then came dessert.
It was a lava cake in a chocolate cup and a side of vanilla bean ice-cream. I tested everything and ate everything separately (just a thing i do – like eating the filling of the inside of a pie, then the case – which ironically may have saved my life in this case).
I took a bite of the chocolate cup and knew straight away it wasn’t right (i’m guessing hazelnut mixed in the chocolate base, which probably was bought in and not made on site). I spat out the contents and had two antihistamines (which i recommend to carry with your epipen)
The reaction seemed to settle so we went home. When we arrived i went straight to the toilet and was sick and had diarrhoea (note – this is the sigh your child is having an anaphylatic response as your body is trying to reject what’s in your body by any mean possible). When this occurred i knew it has escalated and told my wife to call the ambulance i gave myself my epipen and waited. Turns out the antihistamines were helping but when i was sick i threw up the tablets and i broke out in a full body rash.
The ambulance arrived incredibly fast (like 3minutes) and we proceeded to hospital. I am also a chronic asthmatic and on this day had a cold. On the way my airways started to tighten and was given a shot of adrenaline however my condition didn’t change and was i given another shot. Now by this stage i was shaking quite a lot, however this is because of the adrenaline. For the parents out there this is perfectly normal if you see your child shaking after adrenaline.
We arrived and i was taken to emergency where i was strapped up to a number of machines and was given steroids and prednisolone. I also was put on the nebuliser to help with my breathing. Over the next 3 hours my condition settled and was monitored. The hospital staff were fantastic considering the people that were coming into emergency. Nearly 70% of the patients that came in that night were ice/drug related incidents – unbelievable! Hats off to them.
I was then moved to short stay until the next day as they wanted to keep me for 12 hours so there was no relapse. Unfortunately when i was given breakfast i was given cereal which ‘may contain traces of nuts’. A little slip up but i was too exhausted to be angry (i did tell them though).
I will be contacting the venue personal and speaking with the executive chef. i am now 32 years old and this has been my fourth major incident. I have reached a point where i’m not scared anymore but more frustrated. My family and friends all say how calm i am during a reaction. It’s hard to explain but i’m more angry i’m getting a reaction then scared. I have my system and plan in place and follow it exactly.
1) I inform everyone i’m close with of my condition, work colleagues included. How to use, what to do (incase i lose the ability to talk – this has happened) and who to call.
2) I tell staff, supervisors and Chef (when possible) and state “i have an anaphylactic medical condition and cannot consume nuts – its basically poison and will kill me”. This then determines how educated the team is. If they look worried, unsure or seem to take it seriously we inform them we will leave. Yes it’s a pain but the risk is worth it.
3) I never use the word ‘allergy’ as i’m sure you are all aware is in a completely different ball game as anaphylaxis.
4) I carry my epipen and antihistamine with me everywhere.
5) if i use my epipen, i call an ambulance – no exceptions.
6) I still test my food everywhere i go, even if i have eaten there before and even if they inform me its safe.
Despite all this, mistakes are made and even i slip up as well with my steps. This is apart of who i am and i have to change my eating habits everyday despite the world around me. I wanted to share this story with you, not to scare you but remind you that you can lead a somewhat normal life. There are people out there much worse off than i and i remind myself of that when i get this angry.
For the mums and dads out there, it’s incredibly difficult to eat out today but the one thing on our side is we are much more informed today than 20 years ago when individuals like my mum had to go through this basically by herself. She is the reason i take so much care today because she made me feel special and not different from a young age.
I was the little guy that got extra treats at the party (that mum made of course lol) and had my own menu where ever i went.
Believe it or not my background is in the hospitality industry. For the last 18 years i have been managing, cafes, bars, hotels, restaurants and been an event coordinator. Now i started my own hospitality coaching business to help business operators create exceptional customer experiences. A large part of my business is helping owners understand todays customers demands and expectations. I highlight changing nutritional trends and allergy understanding. It’s a highly competitive advantage to understand these trends and make your customers feel safe and cared for.
It’s a tough situation for me to be in as i see both sides of the fence. I see the staff who didn’t inform the Chef correctly and he is absolutely gutted. I see managers who roll there eyes at the thought and chefs who don’t take it seriously. However i do see customers who cannot understand when i say – “we cannot guarantee 100% as we do you nuts in our restaurant. We will do everything we can to ensure no cross-contamination is made”. That is all we can do and all we should ever say. Saying that it is completely safe is negligent in my opinion – there is ALWAYS a risk. Like driving a car and saying i wont be in a crash despite the odds.
Now i hope you can see my point in this, It does take correct communication on both parties but there are no guarantees. Ill probably never travel to China in my life, ill never eat out at certain restaurants and ill continue to be on my edge every-time i eat out. It’s an incredibly scary condition but it means I just need to change my lifestyle and not who i am. ill continue to build more information around this condition with business owners around Australian and then on a world scale.
It still is incredible to me how much more informed we are today. My mother would have laughed at the idea when i was young that i would work in the hospitality industry and eat out at all these different food outlets but its because of groups like these and having a plan in place that i can share my story. Who knows what the future holds – perhaps a cure, perhaps not. All I know i have come this far for a reason and hope i can help owners understand and provide hope for this condition” – Josh