Mom of child with food allergy shares reflections and hopes
Aimmune’s Chicago-based Area Director for the Midwest, Deborah Sanchez, can call on 20 years’ experience in the health sector to inspire her team in their interactions with health care professionals. Her bubbly personality and dynamic, results-oriented approach come in handy too. But at the most fundamental level, she’s the mom of a child with a peanut allergy.
Deborah readily admits that her experience with daughter, Zoey, is of help to her team. "I can give them unique insights into the conversations they should be having," she explains. "I can provide a personal perspective too, which hopefully helps them speak with authenticity in outlining what parents and the wider allergy community may need."
Greater understanding and awareness top that list. "There’s an assumption that parents are comfortable with avoidance alone," Deborah says. "In my opinion, we’re not. There’s a significant burden associated with this for many people with food allergies and their families. We’re constantly looking at food packaging labels, forever asking questions in restaurants and other social settings."
Zoey, of course, is just like any other eight-year-old. She loves playing soccer and tennis. Drawing is a real passion – especially dragons. But she’s also fully aware of her condition, which first manifested itself at the age of 11 months. And she’s known what questions to ask about food since the day she started kindergarten at the age of three. "Although I know she will always need to practice avoidance and carry epinephrine, I am hopeful for continued food allergy awareness and research," Deborah says. "We’re lucky that she only has an allergy to peanuts. I totally understand how it may be more difficult for parents of kids with multiple allergies."
Deborah’s knowledge in this area has obviously increased enormously since she joined Aimmune in January 2020. It was a job she actively pursued, having seen the company’s work in the food allergy space and, more recently, in GI and metabolic-related diseases. Understanding is one thing, though. Now she wants to be part of actively addressing the problem.
"For us, things are definitely getting better. The school, activity centers, summer camps… they all ask about food allergies these days. Stigmatization is less of an issue too. It’s something that’s become normalized in society, mainly because so many kids have food allergies. But there’s more to be done. While avoidance remains the primary standard of care, as a parent of a child with a food allergy, management and maintenance are additional goals."