“…I realize that the more I understand of other people’s difficulties, the less funny they are.” --Joel Stein
Many of you will recall that Joel Stein wrote a piece for the LA Times titled “Nut Allergies-A Yuppie Invention” last year questioning the increases in food allergies and attributing this to parents who need to feel special! The mixture of humor sprinkled with a few out of context facts and ridiculous conclusions outraged many of us who are raising food allergic children.
Anaphylaxis in a child is about as funny as a car accident, and I’ve yet to meet a parent who had a child diagnosed so they could feel special. Sadly now, the peanut-free tables are turned and Joel’s young son Laszlo was diagnosed with nut allergies. Joel Stein wrote about this in the August 9, 2010 issue of Time Magazine.
The blogs and message boards are ablaze over this, some include mean-spirited blog posts about karma while others seem frustrated that Joel Stein still doesn’t “get it” because he wrote that he would not be “banning nuts” from their home nor would they send him to a nut-free school.
The other thing that ruffled the feathers of some was the quotes in the article by allergist Rita Kachru, MD. They seemed to imply that she was not offended by Joel’s LA Times article where he stated that food allergies are a “Yuppie Invention” and “only an issue in rich, lefty communities.”
I called the Dr. Kachru and asked her if she would clarify her remarks and she was kind enough to do so. She said:
“I have never read the article in the LA Times by Joel Stein regarding food allergies. I was asked to answer some questions by him, after seeing his son for a food allergy. During the visit, he asked me if I was offended about his ignorance about food allergies, not whether I was offended about his prior article. Of course I'm not 'offended' by ignorance about food allergies, it's my job as an allergist to educate the public about food allergies and the very significant risks associated with them. I explained that I would be 'offended' if he was still ignorant about the importance and gravity of food allergies after our conversation."
She went on to explain that Joel really wanted to “redeem himself” with the Time article. These comments meshed with what his friend Heidi Miller wrote in her blog. So I decided to ask him to elaborate on a few issues. If he was really sorry about what he wrote, I was hoping he’d say so.
He said he’d be happy to answer a few questions but when I sent him the questions, he declined, explaining:
“I'm hardly an expert at any of this. So I don't have answers to your smart questions.”
Not sure if he was being sarcastic or not but either way, I hope that other parents are taking note of the fact that even someone who doesn’t believe in food allergies can find themselves in the emergency room with a child who is swollen, vomiting and struggling to breathe.