Saturday, October 24, 2015

Teal Pumpkin Project

Fall is in full swing, cooler weather has arrived and the colors of autumn are at their peak here in northwestern NJ. As a result I had several blog posts that I had planned to write this coming week that included seasonal craft projects and recipes. However I just received an email from one of my best friends that stopped me in my tracks and made me rethink everything. It was one of those emails that got my mind spinning with a ton of thoughts and ideas and my fingers just started to type away at the keyboard as I researched information.
Let me start by giving you a little background. Like me, this friend began her professional career as a pediatric nurse at a children's hospital. Over the years we had the opportunity and privilege to care for many children and families who were facing a multitude of life changing diagnoses. We cared for children with cancer, cystic fibrosis, renal disease, diabetes, neurological disorders and a multitude of other conditions as well. As a health care professional you learn that a diagnosis ultimately impacts the entire family, not just the client. Having a supportive family, friends and community can make dealing with any life change easier. As pediatric nurses, there are many organizations and causes that are near and dear to our hearts, and I have done volunteer work for several of them over the course of my career.
Despite the fact that we, and many of our friends, work in fields that deal with these conditions, when someone close to you faces a new diagnosis, even your many years of professional training can not fully prepare you for the multitude of life changes you must adapt to.This particular friend's oldest son was recently diagnosed with celiac disease. Celiac disease is an autoimmune disorder where the ingestion of gluten leads to damage in the small intestine. It is estimated to affect 1 in 100 people worldwide. If undiagnosed and not treated, people are at risk for long-term health complications. When people with celiac disease eat gluten, which is a protein found in wheat, rye and barley, their body mounts an immune response that attacks the small intestine. Currently the only treatment for celiac disease is to adhere to a strict gluten free diet. The challenge arises in the fact that there are many hidden sources of gluten and many processed foods may contain wheat, barley or rye. Gluten can  also be found in items like cosmetics, skin and hair products, toothpaste, chewing gum, glue on stamps and envelopes and some modeling clay. Even ingesting gluten free foods that have been prepared around other items containing gluten can be dangerous for people with celiac disease. Needless to say, Halloween can be a challenging holiday for children with this condition.
Since Halloween is one week from today, I decided to change what I had planned to write about in today's post and instead share with you some information about the project my friend just emailed to me. The campaign is called The Teal Pumpkin Project and it was launched by Food and Allergy Research & Education (FARE) in 2014. According to FARE's website, "The goal of the Teal Pumpkin Project is to raise awareness of food allergies and promote the inclusion of all trick-or-treaters throughout the Halloween season. FARE's Teal Pumpkin Project promotes safety, inclusion and respect of individuals managing food allergies. This nationwide movement offers an alternative for kids with food allergies, as well as other children for whom candy is not an option and keeps Halloween a fun, positive experience for all!" Although we already purchased some items to hand out next week, I plan to add some new options to the treats we will have available for trick or treaters that come to our home next Saturday. I've printed one of the free downloads that is available on FARE's website and will be hanging it on our door. As a pediatric nurse and the friend of a family who is dealing with the new diagnosis of celiac disease, I encourage you to visit FARE's website and take a look at all of the wonderful ideas they have. Our family has taken  The Teal Pumpkin Project Pledge and I hope you will too!

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