08-18 First appointment for OIT in Ontario, Canada
The receptionist is cheery and there is a bustle of academic activity that makes me feel like we are in the right place.
The waiting room has a quaint, clinical feeling to it. Gray walls, the colour of a deep slate clash with the bright floor-mat. There are books, toys, and a really old play-phone all sprawled onto the floor. The pattern of the toys leads me to believe that they were each left immediately when the child, who selected them, was summoned to the outlying rooms. This waiting room is really quiet, considering the amount of people in here. There are two large flat screen televisions simultaneously singing a familiar background tune. I cannot believe that those ‘pups on a roll’ and their chipper theme song are actually calming my nerves a bit.
Doctors and nurses are whipping through, calling patients’ names while cradling their laptops filled with our potential plans to freedom.
A pre-teen boy sits to our left, his arm littered with the familiar pen marks labeling his suspected allergens. I am happy he is sitting snuggly between his parents. Their faces are trying to hide fear with the uncontrollable need to fake optimism, even though I am sure, they know the odds are against them. As we sit waiting for our turn, I witness those bumps raise their dislike for the oily substances disturbing their safe existence. There is one red bump in particular that is really lighting up, I wonder what the scrawls on that poor arm stand for. I can see the parents alarmed faces and I absorb their worry, all the way across this room.
“Sophia?” – It’s our turn.
As soon as we enter the next room, I notice how much brighter it is in here. There are lovely large windows that attempt to combat the continued gray colour scheme. I detect the vials of allergy serums, row after row, there must be 50 or more there. How can there be so many different allergies? I sense Sosi eyeing up the rows of serums as she quickly glues herself to my leg.
I peel her off and gently negotiate my eldest to sit on my lap while the lovely nurse explains how the skin testing will work. The process is the same. Clean off the arm with an alcohol wipe, take a standard black pen and mark four letters on her arms.
C = Control
I can tell by Sosi’s stiff body language that she is not interested in these itchy red bumps today. Guaranteed her negative reaction is directly linked to last week when our local allergist ordered blood-work. We agreed to check her numbers for peanut and milk allergy as her skin test for milk went way down (that is, her measurements were much lower). The blood-work was a traumatic experience, to say the least.
However, those blood tests revealed that Sosi is indeed eligible for the OIT and now here we are. Sosi is wriggling and protesting the scratches which she has never done before. It takes two attempts and some really calm reassuring words from her Dad and a big bear hug from Mom, but we get it done.
We thank the nurse for her patience as we are whisked to another room just across the building. We sit here for only a few moments to wait for the paediatric allergist. While we wait, the presence of the peanut and milk allergen scratched into Sosi’s arm are evidently not a welcome presence.
Dr. G comes in and greets us with a knowing smile and strong handshake. He tries to say hello to Sophia, but she is not feeling too cheerful at the moment. I glance down at her arms, and it is no wonder. She tells me, “Mommy, my arms are itchy!” The fact once again becomes indisputable as those bumps are more pronounced each time I sneak a peek.
We begin a ping pong exchange of questions and answers while trying to contain the energy of two toddlers inside this box of an office. I express my worries and hopes for possible solutions that will support our vision for Sophia’s life of living with food allergies. We are also reminded that this treatment is not covered by OHIP and even though in our province medication for children is free, this is not. The pricetag is steep but our family considers it well worth it.
This is what I have learned so far. OIT stands for Oral Immunotherapy. OIT is the process of slowly introducing a known allergen into our daughter’s system over a long period of time. In our case, it will take 6+months of visiting the allergist clinic every other week for 12 sessions, so 24 weeks, approximately 6 months. It may take longer considering Canadian weather and road conditions and the fact that each visit Sosi needs to feel completely healthy, no colds or coughs since we need to make sure her lungs are clear for monitoring during the suspension tests.
The suspensions are Sosi’s medicated and precisely measured peanut allergen doses. She will have a certain amount at each visit and then continue on as per Dr. M’s recommendation. We will know more about the specifics after we complete one more set of blood-work (this time we have discovered a lotion that numbs the skin if applied 30 minutes before the appointment), we are really hoping this helps.
Next steps, we have completed an online application after watching a documentary that lightly touches on the idea of OIT. We are now waiting for our call back to book a 2-hour counselling session at the Paediatric Allergist’s office. It is mandatory that both parents attend and it best to leave the child at home unless they are over the age of 5, GDad and Nanny to the babysitting rescue!
As an allergy mom, I assure you that I will keep you posted on our progress.
Mel aka Sosi’s Mom
The names of those involved in the paediatric clinic etc. have been changed in this post, and will be in future posts, privacy and all that.
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