The LAST thing I expected was a 'peanut incident.' Sitting there in the Emergency Room waiting area with a bad cold, my sense of smell and hearing was practically nonexistent, even if you wafted perfume or something pungent right in front of my face.
After about five minutes of sitting in my chair, my face and upper lip began to itch and I casually scratched, thinking it was just my overactive immune system telling me I was tired. I pulled out my lip balm, and rubbed it over the peeling area under my nose and onto my lips hoping that would lend some relief. It didn't. Within about a minute, I felt like my cold had suddenly gotten worse....the sniffling and congestion was also causing me to cough and my asthma was starting to act up. Strange, the cold symptoms weren't as noticeable before I got there...
I quickly scanned the room of about 15 people as my friend went to Triage to fill out paperwork. My eye caught hold of a little girl running around the room with an open bag of GASP! some sort of snack.
Remembering the vending machines that caught my eye as I walked into the room, my eyes narrowed and followed her as she ran around to three different family members in the room, innocently offering what was in the bag. I felt like a falcon, watching from a distance as I saw the almost already finished little dark blue and clear bag with the 'PLANTERS' insignia at the top...and overheard the woman she offered to decline in Spanish, along with the broken-English word that hits me like an imaginary bullet and brings my ears to full attention with the same instincts of a four-legged animal poised for survival--"...peanut...."
I literally jumped out of my chair, walked right into the other triage room, past the guard without saying a word. The triage nurse looked taken aback and said, "you have to register with security before coming back--" to which I cut her off and told her, "Peanut allergy...I have a peanut allergy and my friend is back here with you guys. There is a little girl running around eating a bag of peanuts in the waiting area!! I need to stay back here." She immediately said "ok" and that was that.
As peanut allergy sufferers or soy allergy sufferers, we have to constantly be on the alert, NO MATTER WHERE WE ARE. This just goes to show that the place you think may be the safest could also be the battleground.
I sat in the Triage waiting area staring at the signs and warnings about flu symptoms and wearing a mask. I wondered WHYYYY DO VENDING MACHINES CARRY PEANUTS IN HOSPITAL VENDING MACHINES?
But then I thought about people with severe allergies to eggs, milk or wheat. If specific foods were banned in hospitals, then most others would have to be banned as well, or at least the ones in The Top Eight. You would think that designating a room food-free would make sense since hospitals are smoke-free? People die a long slow death from cigarettes, yet a food allergy reaction can kill some of us within minutes!
After about an hour of waiting in the Triage room, one of the two nurses opened the door and said to me, "the little girl's gone..." as if I was fearful of the little girl and not the tiny microscopic particles of peanut dust now floating in the other room. So I said, "Does it still smell like peanuts in there?" To which they kind of looked at each other and closed the door without answering. I guess they decided I wasn't going back in there and didn't want to argue.
I am telling this story as a lesson. Make your voice heard. Tell people if something puts you in danger. NEVER sacrifice your health just to follow "the rules." When people don't understand, it is not them suffering, it is YOU.
The only thing WE, as food allergy sufferers can do, is be aware at all times, what air space we are in (and if there is proper ventilation of our allergens are served), what is touching our skin (when people hand us stuff or vice versa) and what we are touching or leaning on (tables, doorknobs, magazines, etc.) Awareness, for us, takes on an entire new meaning and if you are proactive about your health, others will be, too.