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Real story: Jenson

Institute News
Monday, June 6, 2016 - 3:45pm

Jenson, with MCRI researcher Katie Allen

Mother Sally was grateful for the ambulance depot at the end of her street the day she fed her 11-month-old baby scrambled eggs. Little Jenson vomited and broke out in hives. His cry, Sally remembers, sounded hoarse. When he stopped crying and became floppy, Sally made the call.

“I was just standing out the front with him in my arms,” Sally recalls, as she waited for the ambulance she could hear coming.

Jenson started to improve on his own but was treated in hospital where he was diagnosed as anaphylactic. But exactly what he was allergic to – the egg or the milk – was uncertain.

It turned out Jenson was allergic to both.

Just one month later, at his 12-month immunisations, he joined the HealthNuts study, led by Katie Allen’s team at the Murdoch Children's.

Jenson’s egg allergy was the most serious. “The first time they did a raw egg challenge with him he suffered an anaphylactic reaction and had to be given adrenalin,” says Sally.

“Whilst that was incredibly scary, it was really good for me to see what he looked like because it was very different to the reaction I saw at home. It was very fast. It was a cough, then his face swelled. After that my husband and I knew what an anaphylactic reaction looked like, we knew what to do, and we knew that the adrenalin works. That was such a confidence builder.”

Around the time Jenson turned two, he was also testing positive to allergies for tree nuts including cashews and pistachios. While he still has these allergies, the regular testing by the HealthNuts team determined he can now tolerate baked egg.

Being involved with the HealthNuts study allowed Sally, a first-time mum, to better understand what her son was going through and to relax. Now Jenson is older, it’s easier because he can communicate when something hasn’t gone down well.

A recent cashew challenge tasted ‘egg white funny’, while a pomegranate didn’t taste so great either, Sally says.

“I said ‘is it cashew funny or different funny?’ He said ‘different funny. Kind of like, too much sugar funny’,” she laughs.

Meet Katie Allen and our other Brilliant Minds here.