We were on vacation with family and friends in Colorado when Harrison, our son, had his first taste of peanut butter. We had arrived the previous evening after a long day of travel with our two young children. The kids were playing outside with their friends, and another mom handed out some Ritz bits and juice. After his snack, Harrison began to cry. He had just turned 2 and I thought he was tired from the trip and the morning of play. I noticed some red blotches forming on his skin, but I thought his eczema had flared up from running around in the grass. He kept crying. Something seemed off. He was too young to tell me why he was crying, and I was beginning to be concerned. I picked him up and ran, carrying him to the local infirmary. The nurse took one look at him and said, “That is not eczema, those are hives.” I had heard of kids being allergic to peanuts and asked if this could be an allergic reaction. This was in 2000, before the exponential rise of peanut allergy had entered everyday American life. Harrison was given Benadryl, and the reaction subsided.
When we returned home I called our pediatrician and she recommended we see an allergist. At Harrison’s first allergist appointment, his peanut allergy was confirmed and we were given a prescription for an EpiPen. I was told to fill the prescription immediately and to never leave home without it. At that time, it was the “treatment” for peanut allergy. Avoid consumption and carry an EpiPen. So we dutifully returned to the allergist once a year for several years, confirming his allergy and renewing the EpiPen prescription. All the while I thought there must be something else we could do.
When Harrison was 9, after a traumatic allergy experience, I started asking around to see if I could find an allergist who was at least willing to think outside the box when it came to treatment. I had read about immunotherapy at Duke University and other experimental treatments in various places around the country, and I could not believe the world-renowned Texas Medical Center in Houston provided nothing for people with food allergies. Ultimately, we landed in the office of Dr. Carla Davis at Texas Children’s Hospital. It was January 2008, and that visit marked the beginning of a relationship and a journey that culminated in the 2015 launch of the Food Allergy Clinic at Texas Children’s. From the moment we met Dr. Davis, it was clear she wanted to do more than refill an EpiPen. At that time, there was no program for treatment of food allergies at Texas Children’s, but with a determined persistence, Dr. Davis became committed to that goal. Over the next couple of years, we were able to enlist support and funding from several other interested families, and with the arrival of Dr. Jordan Orange as chief of Immunology, Allergy and Rheumatology in 2012, the goal of starting a food allergy program began to look attainable. With the support of Dr. Orange, Dr. Davis worked tirelessly to create a program encompassing cutting-edge research and patient care for children with food allergies.
Since the 2015 launch, the Food Allergy Program at Texas Children’s has seen over 1,000 children and enrolled patients in three separate clinical trials involving peanut immunotherapy. We are thrilled that Harrison is one of those patients. Harrison is now a senior in high school, applying to college. Thanks to the work being done at Texas Children’s, we have hope that Harrison will be able to eat in a college dining hall without fear of a life-threatening reaction. Further, we believe the work being done at Texas Children’s will similarly impact the lives of thousands of other children in the coming years. We are so grateful to Dr. Davis and all of the others at Texas Children’s who have worked so hard to make this possible.
If you’re interested in joining us for our 2nd annual Cooking Up a Cure, an event that supports the rapidly growing food allergy program at Texas Children’s hospital, please visit here. The program provides cutting edge research, education and patient care to children suffering from food allergies, and has quickly become a model program for other hospitals and programs around the country and internationally. The memorable evening held at the industrial chic Astorian loft will feature food prepared by Houston’s top chefs. We encourage you to buy tickets early, as we sold out quickly last year.