continued “They worked with us to develop a comprehensive policy,” he added. “We realized the school doesn’t have to be peanut free, but it needs to be peanut safe.
“I put myself in their shoes,” McDonald said of the Thompsons. “They send their son to school every day expecting him to be safe. All parents should be able to do that.”
That’s difficult for Ethan’s parents.
“I fear for Ethan’s life every day,” Ursula said. “Food is not a friend. All it takes is one mistake.”
Ethan’s allergies have also affected his social life. Before Ethan can visit a friend, those parents must be educated about the dangers he faces.
“It’s only been the last couple of years that we’ve allowed Ethan to visit friends. He’s missed a lot of birthday parties,” Ursula said. “We always have to call the parents and ask them to wipe down their counters, use paper plates, things like that. They need to know how to use the Epi-pen.”
An Epi-pen is an epinephrine autoinjector, a medical device used to deliver epinephrine to avoid or treat the onset of anaphylactic shock.
“We’ve been very blessed,” she added. “His classmates and their parents have been wonderful, very understanding. His friends know Ethan’s condition and they know not to eat things like candy bars with nuts near him.”
Ethan said his friends understand.
“They don’t really care,” he said. “It’s no big deal to them.”
Allergies, especially peanut allergies, seem to be increasing in the United States. There are 15 million people with food allergies in the U.S., according to the Food Allergy & Anaphylaxis Network. The prevalence of peanut allergy among children tripled between 1997 and 2008.
McDonald said while Ethan is the first Ti student with severe allergies, there are several more in the elementary school. The school’s experience with Ethan has allowed the district to adjust and prepare for the other students.
“We never dealt with this 5-10 years ago,” McDonald said, “but food allergies seem to be more common. It’s important we do all we can to make our students safe.”
Ethan’s mother hopes his story will help raise awareness and help other families.
“It really means so much to me to get Ethan’s story out, to educate our communities, to advocate for these children and to acknowledge the severity of food allergies,” Ursula said. “Ethan has and will continue to face many obstacles. Everyday I'm amazed by his strength and courage. He is my hero.”