I realize not everyone knows my “Why.”
You may have stumbled upon my blog or my social media accounts and wondered, “Why is this woman so persistent about food allergies?” Here’s why.
On an October morning in 2013, I was being interviewed, along with several other food allergy moms, for a local newspaper article. We were at our friend’s home, who was an NYU nursing colleague of mine from my very first job as an RN.
My colleague and I lost touch, due to changing jobs and moving away. However, about 10 years later, we ran into each other and realized we were living on the same street! As fate would have it, we also became food allergy moms. Like our old days in the hospital, we joined forces, used our skills and got to work, this time educating others on the seriousness of food allergies. Our friendship didn’t miss a beat, even after all those years.
During the interview, the reporter was overwhelmed with our stories. He decided one article wasn’t enough. He wanted to do a series of articles to help educate readers on this growing public health concern. We were delighted! I left feeling accomplished and heard.
Word travels fast in our town, even faster in our tight knit food allergy community. On my way home, I received word about a local 14 year old boy who was fighting for his life in the ICU because of a severe anaphylactic reaction to peanuts.
My heart sank. The joy and satisfaction I felt after the interview quickly disappeared.
I remember thinking, “This can’t be happening. This is what we were just talking about with the reporter! We are failing our families whose lives depend on accurate food allergy education. We were too late.”
I learned his name: Giovanni Cipriano. I learned about his family and how connected they were (and still are) to the village where I live. I knew so many people who knew him as well as his parents.
Although we never met, I felt like I knew him too. Tragically, on October 18, 2013, Giovanni passed away. His story is shared here, as told by his mom. It is absolutely heart wrenching to read.
Giovanni’s Funeral Mass was held at our parish where my family belongs and volunteers. Because of being such an active parishioner, I decided to attend Giovanni’s Funeral Mass, and quietly represent the food allergic community.
I sat in our church, surrounded by Giovanni’s classmates, his family and friends, all of us filled with such awful sadness. With my heart wide open, I said a silent prayer and promised to do whatever I could to keep such a tragedy from happening again.
I could do more, and suddenly I knew this without a doubt.
It is about educating, advocating and supporting our families so they can raise their children safely, and live this food restricted life to the fullest.
And that is my “Why.”
My “Why” is greater than me, my child or my family. It is about an entire community.
My “Why” has taught me to find the strength and faith I never thought possible. Because of motherhood, being a nurse, an old friend and colleague, a little boy named Giovanni and his mom, Georgina, my worlds collided. In a moment of prayer, through heartbreak and determination, my “Why” emerged.
A while later, Giovanni’s mom organized an event in our area, in conjunction with an organization called Compassion 4 Anaphylaxis. Georgina and I finally met as two food allergy moms, for the first time. My family and I helped pin teal ribbons all over town, in memory of her son.
Our friendship was immediate. Our work together began.
Between Georgina’s Love for Giovanni Foundation and our Friends Helping Friends Food Allergy Support Group, we put our “Whys” together. We help others. We continue to share laughter, tears and frustrations, almost six years later.
My “Why” has given me so much more in return, a life enriched with friendship and grace. We will keep going, in Giovanni’s memory, and for all those families who have lost children to anaphylaxis from food allergies.
Until There Is Not One More. ❤