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FROM READERS: Woman creates group for parents of children with food allergies

Saturday, September 14, 2013 | 6:00 a.m. CDT; updated 3:46 p.m. CDT, Saturday, September 14, 2013
Amy Pope's daughter Nola, 2, is allergic to many foods, including soy, wheat, eggs, fish and beef. Hy-Vee worked with Pope to make a cake for Nola's second birthday that fits her dietary restrictions.

Amy Pope is founder of "Allergies and Healthy Kids of Columbia, MO," an online-based support group meant to connect parents of children with food allergies. She started the group after learning of the various foods to which her 2-year-old daughter is allergic.

COLUMBIA — From early on I knew there was something going on with my sweet and beautiful Nola. Something wasn’t quite right, but I just couldn’t put my finger on it. I spent her first year waiting out the first year. I can remember being at a bonfire with my family and saying to my brother-in-law, “I just have to get past the first year. Something changes once you get past the first year, and things get better.”

She was about 8-months old at the time. She wasn’t a completely unpleasant baby, but she wasn’t exactly happy. Then when she turned 1, I kept waiting for things to turn around. At 15 months old she got sick and was in the hospital for six days with 101 to 105 degree fevers, with an overall 10 days of fevers. At this point she had not grown in eight months and had diarrhea off and on for almost a year with it getting worse as time went on.

Thankfully, that hospital stay started getting the ball rolling on finding out what was going on. Why is it that in life more often than not it takes hardship to open eyes? We didn't find out right then why she got so sick, but some real good came out of it. If that was how we had to start her road to a healthy life, then great. I wouldn’t change a thing!

On April 12, 2013, we did Nola’s first endoscopy and colonoscopy. I was a wreck. Nola had to fast for 24 hours, endure those oh so pleasant enemas, and we had to get up at 4:45 a.m. to make it to the hospital in time for the procedures. Though I was nervous about sending my baby away to be scoped, I was more than anything excited. I knew they would find something. They had to! I needed answers!

The procedures went great. They found a few things, but would let me know what the lab finds.

Oh the dreaded waiting game! A week later I call to get the results. Nola’s labs came back with low enzymes for lactose, soy and sucrose. Yes! Answers! So, we start a diet free of lactose, soy and sucrose. We saw improvements very quickly. I was one happy mom!

I was so focused on this new diet and how much better my baby was doing, though, that I was a little blindsided by her follow up endoscopy results.

On June 21, 2013, my little girl goes under again to have another endoscopy. This time we thankfully don’t have to fast or do enemas. This time I’m a little more nervous because my sweet Nola had a bad reaction to the anesthesia with her prior procedure. They ease my worries and proceed with the procedure, while I wait to get my baby back into my arms.

After the procedure is done, the doctor (I think I love this guy by now for working so hard to help me find answers) comes out to tell me the findings so far. She showed signs of more food allergies. She already has a peanut allergy. The results come back that she does have a large amount of allergy cells in her esophagus. My slowly improving and spunky Nola is now on an allergy elimination diet. Her diet is free of dairy, soy, nuts, wheat, eggs, fish and beef.

This journey to find how to get Nola healthy brought me to create “Allergies and Healthy Kids of Columbia, MO.” It is a support group for families adjusting to living with food allergies. I started this group through meetup.com in hopes that I would come across other parents like me. Parents who are just discovering how allergies will affect the rest of their lives and are feeling overwhelmed and looking for community support. Parents who have been experiencing coping with a child with allergies for a while but could still use a shoulder to lean on from time to time.

We are just getting the group started, but in time as the group grows we will be doing more sharing of recipes, websites and allergy friendly restaurants. We offer allergy friendly play dates and parents' nights out. If you have a child with food allergies, please join our group. If you know someone that has a child with food allergies please refer them to our group.

Nola just turned 2 in mid-July. Thanks to Hy-Vee’s help, her birthday was a hit! Hy-Vee made Nola an amazing allergy friendly birthday cake, which she loved. They are not a “gluten free” bakery but will do everything they can to meet your needs. They also have a wonderful dietitian service at the Nifong location. If you tell their friendly dietitian, Paula Vandelicht, your dietary needs she will do her very best to help you find the right foods for you. Such a helpful service!

I look forward to running the group and spreading the word that this group is here for you. We are in need of donations to help with basic group upkeep. If you’re interested in donating money, services or time, please email me at amypope8@gmail.com. .

This story is part of a section of the Missourian called From Readers, which is dedicated to your voices and your stories. We hope you'll consider sharing. Here's how. Supervising editor is Joy Mayer.


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