Celiac.com 04/24/2018 - Did you know in 2017 alone, the United States had OVER TENS OF THOUSANDS of people evacuate their homes due to natural disasters such as fires, floods, hurricanes, tornadoes and tsunamis? Most evacuation sites are not equipped to feed your family the safe gluten free foods that are required to stay healthy. Are you prepared in case of an emergency? Do you have your Gluten Free Emergency Food Bag ready to grab and go?
That’s where the story takes a dangerous turn….about 3:15am. I awoke to the TV blaring loudly, along with the lights shining brightly. Our power was back on! I proceeded to walk throughout the house turning everything off at exactly the same time our neighbor, who was told to evacuate our street, saw me through our window, assuming I knew that our hillside was ablaze with flames. Flames that were shooting 50 feet into the air. I went back to bed and fell fast asleep. The fire department was assured we had left because our house was dark and quiet again. Two hours had passed. I suddenly awoke to screams coming from a family member yelling, “fire, fire, fire”! Flames were shooting straight up into the sky, just blocks from our house. We lived on a private drive with only one way in and one way out. The entrance to our street was full of smoke and the fire fighters were doing their best to save our neighbors homes. We literally had enough time to grab our dogs, pile into the car, and speed to safety. As we were coming down our street, fire trucks passed us with sirens blaring, and I wondered if I would ever see my house and our possessions ever again. Where do we go? Who do we turn to? Are shelters a safe option?
When our daughter was almost three years old, we left the West Coast and relocated to Northern Illinois. A place where severe weather is a common occurrence. Since the age of two, I noticed that my daughter appeared gaunt, had an incredibly distended belly, along with gas, stomach pain, low weight, slow growth, unusual looking stool, and a dislike for pizza, hotdog buns, crackers, Toast, etc. The phone call from our doctor overwhelmed me. She was diagnosed with Celiac Disease. I broke down into tears sobbing. What am I going to feed my child? Gluten is everywhere.
After being scoped at Children's Hospital of Chicago, and my daughters Celiac Disease officially confirmed, I worried about her getting all the nutrients her under nourished body so desperately needed. I already knew she had a peanut allergy from blood tests, but just assumed she would be safe with other nuts. I was so horribly wrong. After feeding her a small bite of a pistachio, which she immediately spit out, nuts would become her enemy. Her anaphylactic reaction came within minutes of taking a bite of that pistachio. She was complaining of horrible stomach cramps when the vomiting set in. She then went limp and starting welting. We called 911.
Now we never leave home without our Epipens and our gluten free food supplies. We analyze every food label. We are hyper vigilant about cross contamination. We are constantly looking for welts and praying for no stomach pain. We are always prepared and on guard. It's just what we do now. Anything to protect our child, our love...like so many other parents out there have to do every moment of ever day!
Then, my second brush with a natural disaster happened, without any notice, leaving us once again scrambling to find a safe place to shelter. It was a warm and muggy summer morning, and my husband was away on a business trip leaving my young daughter and me to enjoy our summer day. Our Severe Weather Alert Radio was going off, again, as I continued getting our daughter ready for gymnastics. Having gotten used to the (what seemed to be daily) “Severe Thunderstorm warning,” I didn’t pay much attention to it. I continued downstairs with my daughter and our dog, when I caught a glimpse out the window of an incredibly black looking cloud. By the time I got downstairs, I saw the cover to our grill literally shoot straight up into the air. Because we didn’t have a fenced in yard, I quickly ran outside and chased the cover, when subsequently, I saw my neighbor’s lawn furniture blow pass me. I quickly realized I made a big mistake going outside. As I ran back inside, I heard debris hitting the front of our home. Our dog was the first one to the basement door! As we sat huddled in the dark corner of our basement, I was once again thinking where are we going to go if our house is destroyed. I was not prepared, and I should have been. I should have learned my lesson the first time. Once the storm passed, we quickly realized we were without power and most of our trees were destroyed. We were lucky that our house had minimal damage, but that wasn’t true for most of the area surrounding us. We were without power for five days. We lost most of our food - our gluten free food.
That is when I knew we had to be prepared. No more winging it. We couldn’t take a chance like that ever again. We were “lucky” one too many times. We were very fortunate that we did not lose our home to the Los Angeles wildfire, and only had minimal damage from the severe storm which hit our home in Illinois.
In 2017 alone, FEMA (Federal Emergency Management Agency) had 137 natural disasters declared within the United States. According to FEMA, around 50% of the United States population isn’t prepared for a natural disaster. These disasters can happen anywhere, anytime and some without notice. It’s hard enough being a parent, let alone being a parent of a gluten free family member. Now, add a natural disaster on top of that. Are you prepared?
You can find my Gluten Free Emergency Food Bags and other useful products at www.allergynavigator.com.