continued from previous page
What does the money raised end up supporting?
BH: This year, the money is going to the Sean N. Parker Center for Allergy at Stanford, (as well as FAACT’s education and advocacy initiatives). I want to find a cure, as well as a cause. Right now, we treat food allergies with avoidance, but when I hear about other food allergy deaths, it seems most people knew their allergen, but it still got to them somehow. I want the money we raise to go towards raising awareness and the research for a cure.
Your son Steven also has a peanut allergy, and had been taking part in the peanut patch study at the Parker Center. Is he still involved?
BH: During the study he was having a bad time with his asthma, and his allergist gave him some medication he wasn’t supposed to be on, so unfortunately he was disqualified.
They also offered me the opportunity to do the oral immunotherapy, but having already lost a son, I couldn’t put him in a position where we were telling him to eat something we’ve always said is poison.
You’ve been instrumental in getting major sports teams in northern California to offer games with peanut-free sections. Why the sports emphasis?
BH: We’ve had food allergy-aware games with the Golden State Warriors basketball team, the San Francisco Giants baseball team, the San Jose SaberCats football team, among others.
It’s really touching when parents come up to me and say, “This is the first sporting event my kid has been able to come to because we’re always afraid of people eating peanuts next to him.”
BJ was into athletics, and we enjoy sports as a family. Also, I believe sports is another way for the food allergy cause to get visibility.
What do you want the general public to know about food allergies?
BH: People need to learn more about it, and do everything to be careful. My son, Steven, who is 19 now, had an anaphylactic reaction two years ago. We were eating at a restaurant we had eaten at before, at least 20 to 30 times. It turns out they had changed the recipe, but there wasn’t any warning and it wasn’t noted on the menu that there were peanuts in his soup. We had an auto-injector, because we had learned the importance of carrying one.
People with food allergies need to work together to educate society and the world about the dangers that come from accidental exposure.
You’ve learned a lot since BJ’s tragic death. What do you want parents of kids with food allergies to know?
BH: I want them to know that even if you’ve never had a reaction, food allergies can be fatal. Take them seriously and educate your child at an early age. Always carry your auto-injector. If you forget it at home, go get it. You only have one chance. Unfortunately, since my son died, there’s been several more deaths, and every time I read about one, it just breaks my heart.
There’s a family whose child died before BJ, and they were on “Good Morning America”, but I didn’t see it until after BJ’s death. There are still millions of people out there who aren’t hearing these stories. But if I had heard the story, would it have made a difference? I don’t know. It’s something that’s very hard to live with, and I’ll never find peace with it. But I also want people to know that there’s hope, and if we can raise funds, there will be a cure.
2015 Honorees in The Allergy Advocates Series:
Keeley McGuire: She’s Queen of the Lunchbox
Jennifer Jobrack: Meet FARE’s Champion of Stock Epinephrine Laws
Kyle Dine: Musician’s Musical Message: It’s OK To Be Allergic
Lisa Horne: The Ultimate Food Allergy Connector
Tiffany Glass Ferreira: Razor-Sharp Humor Makes the Food Allergy Case
2014 Honorees in The Allergy Advocates Series:
Lisa Rutter: A Force of Good for Food Allergy
Karen Harris: Food Allergy’s Educating Dynamo
Cathy Owens: The Nurse Who Is the Allergic Student’s Protector
Jenny Sprague: Courageous Woman who Unites Allergy Bloggers
Gina Mennett Lee: A Voice of Reason for Food Allergy at School and Daycare
Lianne Mandelbaum: A Force of Nature for Safe Travel with Allergies
Anne Russell: A Nurse Driven to Improve Food Allergy Education