Tuesday, March 2, 2010

Going Nuts (part one)

After my initial post, life got a little hectic as we planned a mini-vacation to Atlanta to attend my brother's wedding. Getting all the school work completed, and purchasing essentials we would need for our trip took most of my "extra" writing time. But here I am... and I have a lot to tell you!!

First, I'm not sure why drama tends to attach itself to a few chosen individuals. There are actually people out there who seem to skate through life un-scathed by dramatic, earth-shattering events. This is not about one of those people. No, this is about me and my poor family, who by default, must be on drama's hit list!

Let me start at the beginning. My youngest son, Joey, is severely allergic to nuts. This is our normal. We have learned how to deal with this disability, and have become accustomed to checking food labels and only eating out at restaurants whose employees have an understanding about food allergies. We live in a nut-free house. I use soy butter instead of Peanut butter and avoid most bakeries all together. I eat Reeses Peanut Butter Cups only when I am on a business trip. I ask questions like, "What type of oil do you use?" I carry Benedryl and two epinephrine pins with me, wherever I go with my son...just in case. Fortunately, we live our lives relatively close to the nearest ER, should an unexpected exposure to nuts occur. So I don't worry too much. Not too, too much. But I remain on guard. It is just one of those things that has become a part of our lives.

My husband and I have traveled apart for various business reasons throughout the last several years. We both always ask whatever airline we are traveling with what their policy is for someone who is severely allergic to nuts. Generally we have had very encouraging responses from most flight attendants! Alternative snacks to the packets of nuts are used on many airlines, and on airlines such as Jet Blue and United, a courtesy announcement is made prior to take off that there is a person on board with a severe nut allergy. While they can not ask people to NOT eat their nutty snacks, after this announcement most people are kind enough to substitute their peanut trail mix for something else...or (God forbid) not eat for two hours. Why we as a society have the need to constantly snack is, in itself, blog-worthy...but I digress.

Most people in today's business of public service just get it. They understand that this allergy is out there and that it could be a life-threatening issue. Most people. I thought. That was until this past week.

We booked our flight to Atlanta through Delta Airlines. ( I have flown American, United, Jet Blue, and Alaska over the last 5 years, but evidently NOT Delta.) We became aware of their nut policy one week prior to our trip. Their policy states that the flight attendant, upon learning of an individual with a nut allergy, will create a three row buffer zone. This zone is the area in which they will not hand out packs of peanuts. They will let these people know of the allergy, but can not enforce that they not eat their own snacks containing nuts. This is what is written (paraphrased) if you go to Delta's web site and look up peanut policy. BUT if you call and speak to an actual human, like we did, you may get a slightly less clear picture of what happens.

We were told that this procedure is actually left up to the discretion of the fight crew of the specific flight we are on. There are even blogs online in which others have stated that this policy would only be enforced IF the allergic person carried with them a doctor's note stating that theirs was a life-threatening allergy. This did not give either my husband or I the warm fuzzies...so we quickly decided that changing our tickets to another airline would be the safest thing for Joey. Luckily (or so I thought...) I had purchased travel insurance for anything medical (it is the flu season) that may have come up, forcing us change to our plans.

We researched airline after airline, and their policies about traveling with nut allergies. Jet Blue has my vote as the BEST airline to travel with when you have a food allergy. They have been super in the past! But they don't fly to the state of Georgia. Coincidence? I think not! We ended up liking US Airways, the best. The price, the times of the flights, and the fact that their customer service TWICE told us by phone that they served NO NUT products on board AND would be happy to make an on-board courtesy announcement. (If you have no idea what that is, it goes something like, "We have a child /person on board today with a severe nut allergy. While this airline serves nothing containing nuts, we are bringing this to your attention, so that you will be mindful before eating anything brought on board containing nuts. We sure would appreciate if you decided to not eat those items while traveling with us today." Something like that...because they CAN'T tell the passengers not to eat nuts, but they can nudge a little.)

Cutting to the chase, Delta told us that while they were disappointed that we were unhappy with their policy they would not refund our money. Period. Then upon contacting Travelocity, they also tried to get Delta to refund our money...to which they responded, "NO!"

My next course of action was to contact the travel insurance we purchased. To my surprise this little, life-threatening allergy did not qualify as a medical need to cancel the trip. Evidently the insurance would only kick in IF in fact there WAS an event that CAUSED a medical emergency. So, trying to prevent the anaphylactic reaction was not covered, but actually going into anaphylactic shock WOULD BE. Got it...

We were literally stuck between a nut and a hard place. We had to get to Atlanta. So we proceeded to book myself, my 71 year old disabled mother, and Joey on US Airways. My husband and my oldest would stay with Delta, since we couldn't afford to "eat" the price of all 5 tickets! This little detour would cost us an additional $1100. This also meant the three of us had to travel out of Long Beach, while the other two went out of Orange County. Good thing we have that money tree flourishing in the backyard, huh?!

The day of travel came. We split up in two directions. I had my backpack packed with safe food for Joey and all his allergy meds. All the while praying that things would go as planned. My anxiety was a 9 on a scale of 10, but all went well. Everything went great! We had two flights that day. Both crews were fabulous!! Not a hitch in how we hoped things would work out. In fact I sat next to a lady and her husband who brought PB &J for their lunch, and I offered to buy them lunch on board. (This is something I have offered in the past to anyone who was kind enough to put away their peanutty foods). They accepted. We landed in Atlanta and had a wonderful five days of pre-wedding parties, exploring Atlanta and its very full history, and falling in love with the Southern hospitality we have heard so much about. It was good. All of it!
Until the day we had to return.

(To be continued...)

1 comment:

  1. Don't leave us hanging!

    All I have to say is unbelievable. I don't have kids with nut allergies, but I would certainly be sensitive to those who do.