Dear Malia

President Obama's signing of the School Access to Emergency Epinephrine Act yesterday included a surprise announcement. The President revealed that his 15 year old daughter Malia has a peanut allergy. After school I told my kiddo that he had something in common with the President's daughter. His eyes got big at the news. "She has a food allergy, too?" He decided to write her a letter.

Dear Malia,
My mom told me your dad Barack Obama said you have a peanut allergy. In fact I have these allergies too:  milk, lamb, shellfish, eggs, beef, garlic, black beans and cumin. Do you have an Epi-Pen? I'm in 4th grade and I've started carrying my own Epi-Pen this year. 
Are peanuts allowed in the White House? What is your favorite food? My favorite food is pizza. My mom makes it safe for me to eat. Do you want to come have pizza with us? We are in Florida if you want to have dinner with us.

I'm pretty sure she won't be able to come, but I'm hoping my son will get a response from the White House!

During his excitement, I almost missed another obvious parallel. I have something in common with Michelle Obama. The First Lady also knows the fear of having an excruciatingly vulnerable child. She too spends her life on guard against the mistake that could make her child stop breathing.

I'm not surprised that the Obama family chose not to share Malia's private medical information before now. I've only had to deal with the occasional internet troll who feels eating PB&J is a constitutional right or suggests Darwinism is the cure for food allergies, though I know others who have faced far worse. Their family already has legions of nutjobs actively wishing them ill. Allowing Malia's personal kryptonite to be public information could not have been a decision that was made lightly, and I am grateful that President Obama decided to stand in solidarity with other American families living with food allergies.

John Kruzel of Slate has suggested that Malia Obama would be an outstanding advocate for the food allergy community. I would also be very pleased to see a gifted, well-educated and highly connected young woman such as her take up this cause. Ultimately, though, it is Malia's decision whether she wants to make her personal life political, and we should respect any teenager, including the daughter of the president, who does not wish to do so.

On the other hand, there's a new food allergy mom in town. One who has already spent her time in the White House working to improve children's health with better nutrition and excercise. Someone who is a perfect fit for this issue.

I want to see Michelle Obama on Sesame Street, explaining food allergies to Elmo and discussing how kids can help keep their friends safe. I want to see her in public service announcements telling parents of children with food allergies that they are not alone. I want the First Lady to advocate for a registered nurse in every school in this country, not just the ones in wealthy districts.

Even more importantly, I'd like to see President Obama put some serious political capitol toward increasing funding for scientific research. It's been over five years since the Centers for Disease Control announced that the increase in food allergies in children had reached epidemic proportions and it is long past time we started treating food allergies as a national health crisis.

So I'd like to welcome the Obama family to the food allergy community. We are all here for you and we would be very grateful if you would stand up for us as well.

Finally, I have the winner of the Allermates Gear Giveaway. Congratulations to vierkajet, I will be sending you an email to get your snail mail address!


Unknown said...

Nicely put! I agree that it must have been a difficult decision for the Obama family to disclose Malia's allergy. I do hope our First Lady is comfortable sharing a bit about how she manages food allergy within her family.

Alisa said...

Your son is amazing - this is the sweetest thing I've read all week.

Progress indeed, but your pleas definitely have merit!

Life WIthout Six said...

I think it is amazing that the First Family was able to keep her peanut allergy from the press. It must have been such a tough decision to share with the world.

Flagmichael said...

While I am sad for her allergy, the more public awareness there is of food allergies the better for all of us. Many people think of food allergies as something that just makes people itchy, not that is a hospital stay... or worse.