I feel so terrible about something that I did last week. I didn't do it intentionally, believe me. In fact, I didn't even realize how bad my action was until just a few days ago which makes me feel even worse. So I wanted to write an apology to my girlfriend as well as every parent and child that I endangered without even realizing it.
On Saturday, my girlfriend shared a story on Facebook. This story resonates deeply with her and her family because it is a topic that touches them personally.
It was about a little girl named Natalie Giorgi who went on a multi-family camping trip back in July. At the camp, she ate a Rice Krispie treat as she has had many times before. Only this time they were prepared differently. This time, the Rice Krispie treats were prepared with peanut products. Natalie had a peanut allergy and this bite of Rice Krispie treats tragically and suddenly ended her life. Her parents did everything they could to save her that day. They gave her Benadryl like they were supposed to. Her father, a physician, administered two doses of EPI-Pens that they carried with them. They administered a third dose that was obtained from the camp. But the bite of Rice Krispie treats was the beginning of the end for Natalie. Her last words were "I'm sorry mom." She was only 13 years old.
I can't imagine what the family is going through right now. I can't imagine the constant fear a parent lives with when they have a child with a severe allergy, be it peanut or anything else.
It was only on Saturday, when I read this story, that I truly realized what I had done.
You see, my son is autistic. Being autistic he has many sensory issues. The texture and smell of food is one of them. In fact, it's such a huge issue for him that he doesn't eat a variety of food. Imagine my delight when last week my son saw me eating an organic "Honey Oat" granola bar and asked if he could try it. He did and he loved it. This might not be a big issue for many parents but for a parent with an autistic child whose food intake is limited to just a handful of items, this is a MEGA moment.
So when he asked me if he could bring it to school for his morning snack I said yes without hesitation. I was so beyond excited that I wasn't thinking of anything else: nothing at all other than my son. I didn't think, not for one iota of a second, the potential danger I was posing.
When Emilio came back home from school on Thursday, he told me that his teacher allowed him to eat the granola bar but instructed him to never ever bring anything with peanuts again. When he told me I kicked myself because I knew better. In all these years that Emilio has gone to school, this was the very first time I gave him something with peanuts.
However, even though I was silently reprimanding myself that I should have known better, I truly didn't understand the impact of what I had done. Not until I read that story about Natalie on Saturday and how this danger also affects my girlfriend's family.
I cried afterwards because I felt so bad. I feel very remorseful for not having more awareness and understanding of what I had done. I am so sorry for the danger I may have put other children in. I am sorry for disrespecting my girlfriend and her family. I'm sorry for disrespecting other families whose children have a life threatening allergy. I am so very sorry for being selfish and thinking only of my son and not realizing how dangerous my actions were by allowing him to bring this granola bar with peanuts to school.
Natalie's parents are speaking out to raise awareness about the dangers of food allergies and how for many kids, it can kill them. This tragic story has certainly made me much more aware of the dangers of food allergies. I know that many parents live with this fear on a daily basis.
I feel incredible guilty for what I did but I will never make this mistake again. I'm sharing this story as much as I can to raise awareness as well. My thoughts and prayers are with Natalie's family.
To my girlfriend and to all families living with a potentially fatal food allergy, I offer my sincere apologies for making such a huge mistake.
As Maya Angelou said "When you know better, you do better", and I promise to do better.