Tuesday, September 18, 2012

Maybe we're not on the same page....

This event happened a little over a year ago.  I have been meaning to blog about it but have not wanted to relive the memory.  But, I'm finally sitting down to tell about one of our biggest food allergy miscommunication/mishaps that we've had so far.  

In early August we had a small road trip for an out-of-town homeschool conference.  I was so excited because I love all things homeschool, especially the books and the curricula!

There were also several things we planned to do around town and even some allergy-friendly or gluten-free restaurants we hoped to try. 

We planned; we packed; we loaded; and we called ahead.  We felt ready for our weekend trip and the kids were excited to spend the weekend away and also see grandparents who were joining us for the event.

Prince Charming had to go out of town for a few weeks so I was going to stay at the hotel for a week with my parents helping.  We had fun outings planned to the zoo and aquarium to keep the kids busy before we headed back home to wait for Daddy to return.

We made the drive to the town safely and unloaded.  That night we went to a local gluten-free restaurant.  I had called ahead and confirmed some menu items and found some options for Bee.  I had spoken with both the manager and the chef and felt confident we would all be able to eat something.

I ordered Bee some gluten free spaghetti with sauce-NO CHEESE-and some veggies on the side-NO BUTTER.  I explained our situation to our server and asked for a manager.  I explained to the manager as well.  I repeatedly told them of the allergies, especially the dairy allergy.  They said it was no problem to make Bee some spaghetti with sauce and not put any cheese on top.  They also remembered my earlier phone calls.

When her order came out, I grabbed it first so I could cut up her noodles.  As I was cutting I noticed that my fork was getting sticky.  I wondered if the noodles were overcooked and sticking to my fork.  But the closer I looked the more I suspected that there was melted cheese stirred into her sauce.  I told everyone at the table that I thought there was cheese in her food.  Everyone seemed to think I was overreacting.

I kept insisting that I didn't feel her order was right.  So I asked our server who insisted that there was no cheese in the order.  I still didn't feel ok letting her eat.  I then asked for the manager and repeated my question.  She went to speak with the chef and came back, confirming my fear.  They had just added cheese topping to all of Bee's food even though I told them multiple times that she could not have cheese. 

I reiterated that Bee could not have cheese and that I had ordered hers without cheese.  The manager seemed unconcerned and said they would make her another order.  Then she just shrugged and asked, "What happens if she eats cheese?  She just gets itchy or something?"

No, actually.  She could die.  Thanks for your concern.

How uncaring and calloused toward our issues.  It was obvious that we were not on the same page and the manager was ignoring the severity even though I had explained our health concerns.  This was a restaurant for those with special dietary needs.  Why would the manager of this restaurant, of all places, be uneducated about dietary needs and the chef careless?  It made me wonder how many other orders had been wrong and if other food sensitive or food allergic individuals had experienced problems after eating there.

I decided that Bee was not going to be eating any food from this restaurant.  Thankfully, there was a grocery store next door where we bought her some pretzels, applesauce, and cookies that were safe for her.  We also grabbed a bottle of Benadryl as she was beginning to get itchy from her exposure to cheese from being at the table in the restaurant.

We went back to our hotel where I had a completely sleepless night.  By the next morning, I had a migraine and was too upset and anxious to enjoy our trip.  We spent the day doing things as a family and missed the entire homeschool convention because I did not want to be away from Bee.  That night we made the decision that after we took Prince Charming to the airport, I would go back home with the kids and my parents could spend time with them at home.  We were sad to cut our trip short, but never have I been so happy to see my own kitchen and pantry.

It just goes to show you that even though a restaurant may be a specialty one or cater to specific diets, they aren't always educated and you just might not get what you ordered (or you might get more than you ordered).  Even after my phone calls and my talks with the manager and chef, we were not all on the same page and they weren't taking any of our issues seriously.  Their careless and cavalier attitude was shocking.  After this experience, I was more motivated than ever to cook our meals at home.

No one understands the allergies better than I do and I truly cannot trust anyone with Bee's safety.  I remind myself of that night at the restaurant any time I'm feeling lax about the allergies or when I'm feeling comfortable.  Sometimes, no amount of planning can keep your child safe.  That's a truly terrifying thought.

Ever since that day, I make sure I have a bag full of medications and our emergency protocol given to us by our doctor.  Never leave home without being prepared.

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