Henry has never consumed or directly handled a peanut or tree nut; yet he has gone into anaphylaxis several times and required numerous hospital admissions. Each of these anaphylactic reactions have occurred from him encountering minuscule traces, either airborne or from touching a surface with peanut/nut residue. Henry is also allergic to legumes, dust mites and tree pollens.
Since diagnosis, Henry’s family has had to meticulously plan meals and the places they visit, which has naturally had a significant impact on them all.
Henry’s mum, Mariken explains, “Henry is very resilient and takes everything in his stride. He is very sensible, but we must be vigilant at all times. If we are out and he has a reaction, it can be very difficult to work out what has triggered the reaction. It could simply be that he has put his hand on something with traces of an allergen. This means we are constantly on red alert.”
“Henry always needs to be vigilant; we always take our own food and are always wiping and washing hands for risk of him coming into contact with an allergen. This means the family tend to eat at home and if they do go out, we bring our own food, including parties and play dates. Henry also wears gloves when travelling on public transport or in areas of high risk.
Henry is fortunate to have a great peer group who look out for him. However, other parents are naturally cautious about having Henry over to their house, due to the high risk of cross contamination, so Henry tends to have play dates at his house. Sleep overs, holiday camps and school residential trips are not something that Henry can safely take part in.
‘’This is why we were so happy when we discovered that Over The Wall provided a camp specifically for children with allergies.” explains Mariken.
Attending Allergy Family Camp
As a family of four, Mariken, Henry, his dad and his brother all attended Allergy Family Camp in 2019.
“Camp was amazing – and not just for Henry – for us all.” says Mariken, “Henry got a huge buzz and sense of empowerment from the activities. He loved the rock climbing and zip wire- the experience was very confidence-building. Also, the volunteers were simply amazing. Diarmuid was our clinical volunteer, and not only was he fun, we felt so confident that if anything happened – he would be ready. We felt absolutely safe in Over The Wall’s hands.”
After being at the camp for a short while, you could see how positive the experience was, Henry realised – ‘I’m hanging out with children, who all have the same thing as me…!’ And for him to be able to approach a buffet without any caution, and eat anything he wanted, well it just blew his mind.”
“Some people don’t have a true understanding of allergies, they don’t realise that if something goes wrong, Henry doesn’t just get sick, or unwell for a period of time, he could die and that’s a big worry for us to constantly carry. At camp, that worry wasn’t there.”
As well as having a positive impact on Henry, Mariken was overwhelmed with the positive impact on her and her husband. She explains, “Camp provides this unique space where you are able to meet other parents with similar struggles. It felt great to know that there are other people out there, that are always wiping surfaces, always cooking their own foods and forever analysing ingredients. Like Henry, we realised that we aren’t alone. Other parents can be guilty of thinking you are being neurotic or crazy, so it was really great to spend time with people who fully understand each other.”
“Most of all, Over The Wall camp helped Henry to look at his allergy in a different, more positive way. At camp, he actually thought- without this allergy, we wouldn’t be where we are, having this amazing time! Camp allowed Henry to gain a kind of ownership and confidence in his own condition. It empowered him to understand that he is in control of it, and that is huge.”