One very positive thing came from returning to work, though: ADVOCACY.
On any given day at work, I am placed in close proximity to an average of 300 people. Of those 300, I generally get the chance to converse in some depth with no less than ten of them. On a good day, I may get a decent conversation going with as many as thirty total strangers. (Why yes, they DO look for friendly people to be Flight Attendants!)
Why is that a good thing?
Well, when your life is strictly regimented by the demands of FPIES and other food allergies and intolerances, it is an absolute given that at some point, those subjects will come up in the conversation! I try not to just blurt out our difficulties; it’s too “victim-ish”…too…earnest to suit my personality.
But when someone sees me cleaning my breast pump equipment and kindly asks “How old is your baby?”, I’m honest and tell them “Almost two years old.” THAT gets a lot of gasps and “OMG why are you still nursing?!” (I don’t go into the WHO recommendations on nursing; Americans are squeamish about extended breastfeeding in general, and I have bigger fish to fry – so to speak!)
When someone mentions a food intolerance of their own, it easily lends itself to mentioning our own issues. Likewise when a fellow co-worker offers me a bite to eat or invites me to join them in a meal on downtime.
I didn’t intend to talk about FPIES, Fructose Malabsorption, Histamine Intolerance, and IgE’s and Epi-pens with every single person I spoke with while at work last week…but in the end, I did. It’s a small thing, but that is another 45 or so people who now know about FPIES that had never heard of it before.
With any luck, those 45 people will remember what I told them, and be able to help someone they meet along the way who talks about their childs horrible reactions to foods. They’ll be able to tell their friend, family member, acquaintance, or random stranger “You know, I talked to a lady one time who told me about her sons food issues. It sounds a lot like what you’re dealing with. What was it called again…something PIES.”
Hey, it’s not perfect, but it’s something to put into a Google search engine. And maybe it’s enough to help a struggling family find some answers before their child spends too much time in the ER.
Food Allergy Awareness, FPIES Awareness, well, it’s sort of a “pay it forward” kind of deal.
We all have a voice to use. Whether it is through large numbers of random stranger encounters at work, through social media, at our schools or offices, or some other means, we ALL have the ability to use our voices for FPIES and Food Allergy Awareness.
This week, I’d like to encourage everyone to use their voices for this fantastic cause.
It’s not hard! Really! You don’t have to be a social butterfly or an especially gregarious person for this challenge. (Of course, if you are, that’s fantastic!)
If you aren’t comfortable striking up conversations with people to spread awareness, focus on your strengths.
Are you a whiz at Facebook and Twitter? Great! Share links and stories this week!
Do you have a large circle of friends that you’ve ignored since your FPIES diagnosis? Invite them out for coffee and share your story!
Still so shy you can’t speak up? Wear a T-shirt from the FPIES Foundation that says it all for you!
Just don’t have time for all these conversations? Take some fliers down to your pediatricians office and ask to leave them out for other patients to peruse. (For that matter, take the fliers anywhere – bulletin boards at work, grocery stores, convenience stores, etc. You never know who will let you put some fliers out for awareness raising!)
Planning your kiddos birthday party? Consider asking for donations to be made to the FPIES Foundation in lieu of gifts.
Of course, if you’re especially ambitious, you could actually put together a full-on awareness raising/fund raising event. It doesn’t have to happen this week; awareness and fund raising can happen any time!
There are a million little ways you can use your voice this week.
Print something from the FPIES Foundation’s Flier Page.
I’ll even make it somewhat easy for you: “Like” my Facebook page and “Follow” my posts. This week I’ll share lots of links and awareness raising info that you can simply “share” – without having to seek it out!
This week is just one week of the year. You are just one person.
But it’s amazing what one person can accomplish in one week.
Let’s all work together this week to spread the word about FPIES and Food Allergies!