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Second chances….

I’m a big believer in second chances. Everything can’t be great all the time, right?!

A few weeks ago, my father in law wanted to take us all out to lunch to treat us. I spend that much time cooking, and don’t get me wrong, I love cooking, but sometimes, it’s really nice to have a day off and let someone else do the cooking.

We had a slight concern though, he wanted to take us to Harvester.

The last time we went to a Harvester, Callum had a bad reaction due to cross-contamination.

It made me a little nervous if honest!

But, in total fairness to Harvester, they contacted me within just a few days of my previous blog post about our experience of Harvester.

One of their customer care team asked me to explain what had happened, and our experience, in more detail, and then confirmed the branch was receiving additional training as a direct result of our feedback.

In addition, I was impressed to receive a phone call from their Head of Supplier Quality Assurance, Dean Roache. To his credit, he was apologetic, sympathetic, and completely understood my concerns. He explained that Harvester are undergoing a radical training programme, designed specifically around the changes to the labelling laws coming into effect in December 2014. This was to include cross-contamination, the issues surrounding allergies, and how to cater for them.

As a result, the allergen thresholds are now becoming much better understood across the company.

They have employed over 40 technologists in the past year alone, who have been flat out, working with staff to get them up to speed ahead of the December 2014 deadline.

They have updated their tills to incorporate a button that details allergies, so that when covers are sent through to the kitchen, all the details are readily available for each order.

I was impressed with their level of change, and willingness to improve to the highest standard they possibly could.

Dean promised to call me once the training was completed at the end of September, and I look forward to hearing how it has gone.

So, back to second chances!

I decided, based on the knowledge from my call with Dean, that I would give Harvester the benefit of the doubt, and see what would happen this time round. Lightening doesn’t strike twice…..

What a difference!

We had a wonderful time!

I’d called in advance the night before, to check whether they could cater for Callum’s needs, and immediately responded with exactly what Dean had been talking to me about. First point scored!

On arrival, they recognised me as the person who’d called the night before, and assigned an assistant manager to look after us, to ensure the experience was a positive one. Second point scored!

They did their upmost to keep Callum and Chloe happy for the duration of our time their, ensuring that Callum’s food, cutlery, crockery etc were safe and not contaminated. He had chicken, chips and peas, cooked in a special area of the grill to avoid cross-contamination. He loved it, and ate most of it, with no reaction! Third point scored!

The lady serving us, was able to banter with my father-in-law (who’s quite a character), and gave back as good as she got. He loved it! Fourth point scored.

When it came to pudding, Callum could only really have jelly, but it had mandarin pieces in it, which he can’t have! The waitress, god love her, took time out of her lunch break to separate the jelly away from the mandarin segments and rinse it off, so that it was as safe as it could possibly be for Callum. Fifth point scored!

In my eyes, the Harvester we went to in Kidlington thoroughly deserved a 5/5 rating. First class service, first class response to Callum and his requirements, and first class food!

Well done Harvester, you’ve totally restored my faith in you, and I hope that others follow the impressive precedent of the Kidlington branch!

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Uh oh….

We’ve been gearing up for an allergy review with Callum’s consultant at the beginning of August, and were asked to ‘trial’ a couple of foods ahead of the appointment, so that repeat allergy tests could be tailored accordingly.

One of the foods is strawberry.

Previously, when Callum has been given strawberry, he almost instantly got hives on his face. A pretty obvious indication that he’s having an immediate reaction.

This happened when he was 7 months old, so he’s not had strawberries since!

So, this time round, I thought I’d try him on a fruit smoothie, with strawberry being only one of the ingredients. I posted the recipe last week, and it was a big hit! Callum only had a very small amount, but seemed fine, and really enjoyed it.

When trialling a food, you are advised to repeat over 3 days so you can know for definite if a reaction is occurring or not.

Friday afternoon, I decided to make an ice-cream for day 2, again using similar ingredients to what I had used for the smoothie. (I’ll post the recipe for the ice-cream next week!).

We were at our next door neighbours house, they have 2 children who are very similar ages to Chloe and Callum, so they all get on really well!

The children had been playing in the paddling pool, and as it was a hot day, had the ice-cream to cool down.

Callum literally had 2-3 tastes of his ice-cream before he handed it to me, saying he wanted me to ‘hold it for me mummy’.  Thinking he was being his usual cheeky self, I told him to take it back because I wanted to eat one too (god did I feel guilty a few minutes later!). He refused to take it back, and then the symptoms started.

Very itchy, sore, and red eyes.

Really itchy and blotchy face.

Pulling at the throat.

Itchy ears.

Swelling of the face.

Aaaarrrgggghhhhh god dammit!!

I twigged pretty quickly what was going on (any parent to an allergic child will tell you that you are always on high alert, you can’t ever truly relax!), and before my poor neighbour really realised what was happened, I checked she was ok to look after Chloe, told Chloe what I was doing (she’s well used to Callum’s reactions and doesn’t freak out about them) scooped Callum up, and ran as fast as I could to our house, where I plied him with all of his drugs.

Then came the 5 minute wait to see if they would kick in.

Would it be epi-pen and 999….?

Thankfully, I caught it just in time!

The swelling didn’t get any worse, and he stopped being quite so itchy.

Once I was certain Callum was ok, I made my way back round to my lovely neighbour, who god bless her, had started to make tea for all the children, Chloe included!

It’s true what they say, when a crisis hits, you really do know who your true friends are!

(Thank you so much for your help Dette, it was very much appreciated!! x)

Callum fell asleep as we were walking round, I wasn’t worried though, as he usually does this after a major reaction. His obs were fine, and he wasn’t presenting with anything causing me alarm.

BUT, I am used to this, and trained! If this happens to your child, please seek guidance from a healthcare professional if you are at all unsure, it is better to be safe than sorry!

While Callum was asleep, the swelling came down, the red patches calmed, and although groggy on waking, appearances were normal.

By Saturday morning, he was back to his usual cheeky self, thank goodness!

I must confess, after him being ok on Thursday, with day 1 of trialling strawberries, I never expected him to react the way he did on day 2.

It just goes to show, you always have to be on full alert when dealing with allergies!

And one thing is for certain, strawberries are definitely staying OFF the menu!!

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Scrummy Fruity Smoothie….

It’s hot, it’s officially sweltering in the UK at the moment!!

The kids are totally not bothered by eating, I’m constantly getting ‘its too hot to eat mummy’, and I can’t say I blame them!

So, how to get them to eat something?! And more importantly, something good for them!

Callum needs extra nutrients and vitamins because of his restricted diet, so wherever I can get away with it, I make sure there’s plenty of fruit and veg on offer.

At the moment we’re trialling him with strawberries, and fingers crossed, so far, so good!

I made this fruit smoothie this afternoon, and it went down a storm! Best of all, not only is it packed full of flavour, it’s also full of vitamins and nutrients. Happy days!

You will need:

  • 1 punnet of strawberries, washed and hulled (chill in the fridge for 1hr)
  • 2 bananas, peeled and sliced (chill in the fridge for 1hr before preparing)
  • 1 tablespoon clear honey
  • 1 cup of milk (you can use any milk, I use either Oatly or Koko for Callum)

(You can add 1/2 cup of porridge oats if you want to make for breakfast!)

Method:

Add all the ingredients to a food processor, and blitz for 2-3 minutes until smooth.

Serve and enjoy!

Fruit smoothie

 

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Babysitting an allergic child….

There comes a time when you need to leave your child in the care of someone else, other than nursery/ child-minder/ school.

It’s good for you to have a break from all the stresses and strains of everyday life!

BUT, it comes with challenges!

You have to be able to truly trust who you leave them with, and know they are fully trained up, just in case the worst does actually happen.

You need to be able to ignore that little voice we all have in our heads, worrying about the ‘what ifs’ (and yep, that is the hardest to ignore!!)

Believe me, it’s not easy!

Jon and I had planned a mummy and daddy day last Friday, that had been months in the organising. We were spending the day in London with friends, seeing the sights, and having a nice wander round, with a stop off at a few pubs en route. Then, heading on to see Robbie Williams in concert in the evening. (I’m a huge fan and make no apologies for it!)

Gram very kindly stepped in to look after Callum, and then Chloe once she finished school, and was joined a little later by our lovely friend Vicky.

Callum was very sad to see us go, and certainly made me feel quite guilty about leaving him. But I was assured that within 5 minutes of us leaving, he was quite happy and his usual chirpy self.

Children are very astute, and it wouldn’t surprise me if he picked up on my anxieties of leaving him, even when with someone I trust completely.

Jon and I had such a lovely, relaxed and chilled out time, visiting the places we used to go to pre children, and reminiscing.

Lunch and dinner were such a different experience!

No worrying about any ‘safe’ foods on the menu!

No issues with cross-contamination!

No ignoring of what I wanted to really eat, just so little dude could eat something and share with me!

Days off with allergies are rare, but boy are they good when you get them!!

If you’re worrying about time away from your little one, there’s a few things you can do to make things as easy as possible for you:

  • Have a checklist of all the meds that will need to be administered while you are away. Make sure all details are included, when they are needed, how to take them, and where they are kept.
  • Make sure the carer is fully aware of and reminded of allergies (things may have changed since they last looked after your little one)
  • Provide ‘safe’ foods for snacks etc. and where possible, make sure a ‘safe’ lunch/ dinner is ready, to ensure minimal chances of issues occurring
  • Line up back up support, close by, just in case anything does happen. It will give you and also the carer peace of mind
  • Make sure the carer has your mobile number, and at least the mobile number of one other person you will be out with (in case your battery goes!)

The most important thing to remember though, HAVE FUN!!

My god you will have earned the time off, don’t use the time worrying and stressing. It’s the best opportunity for total down time, and a chance to recharge those very worn batteries.

At least it was in our case!

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Missing out….

Callum is one lucky kiddo, there’s no doubt about it. The support he receives from family and friends as he negotiates his difficult journey through the allergy world is simply wonderful.

Everyone is aware of what he goes through, and they do their upmost to make things as easy as possible for him.

Take this afternoon as an example. Callum’s daddy is working the early shift this week, and once he’d finished for the day, called me to find out what we needed so we could have a BBQ that was also safe for Callum.

He did a fab job, there’s enough for a feast!

He even went one further and treated the whole family to an array of ice creams.

Yep, he’s a good one! :)

There was even a ‘special’ package for Callum!

Jon had seen me previously give Callum ‘Oreo’ biscuits, which are dairy free, and whilst getting the ice creams, came across the Oreo ice creams.

(I know, sweet isn’t it!)

But, as an allergy mum, you never take things for granted, and I duly checked the ingredients before Callum could be given it. The one time you don’t, is the time you wished to god you had!

Thank goodness I did!

The biscuits are safe, but the ice creams most definitely are NOT, as they contain buttermilk.

Jon’s immediate reaction was ‘well why would they do that?’.

It’s a fair question, why would they? What is the point in having a great dairy free product, and then creating an ice cream based on it, that isn’t?

It’s all down to how you make ice cream.

In order for it to work, and freeze without crystallizing, you need to have some form of fat content to keep all the ingredients bound together. The buttermilk will be the ingredient that causes this to happen.

Poor Callum, his face fell as he realised he wouldn’t be getting the special ice cream his daddy had so kindly found for him (and I felt so sorry for Jon too, as it was a lovely thing he’d tried to do for Callum!), but we’ve trained Callum well, and he knows that if we say it will make him poorly, he understands we’re only keeping him safe.

To make up for it, he got a huge lollipop!

Not quite the same thing as an ice cream, but still a pretty cool prize in a 2 year olds eyes.