Several years ago, I was flying on a Delta Airlines from Sacramento, CA to New Orleans, LA (with a stop in Atlanta, GA) and did not realize that Delta still served peanuts. We were in the air for several hours, getting ready to make our descent and they served peanuts (not Delta’s fault at this point because I had not told them about my allergy not realizing they still served peanuts). By that time it was too late, I was near the back of the plane and could feel my throat starting to close. I gave myself my epi-pen shot and upon landing was seen by medics. They checked all my vital signs and they said I could spend the night in the clinic at the airport or continue on to my next flight as the shot stopped my reaction even though I was still feeling the side affects. I decided to try to catch my other flight as I just wanted to get home. I boarded the next plane and explained to the flight attendant what happened, and told her I would not fly on this plane if they served peanuts. Her response was: “well don’t you have your epi-pen?”, as if a peanut allergy isn’t life threatening and it can be quickly fixed without any further problems or repercussions. I calmly told her no, I just used it on the previous Delta flight. (This was before I started to carry 2 epi-pens or auvi-qs with me at all times). She seemed annoyed and told me to go to my seat, and I told her to come tell me if they planned on serving peanuts as I was getting of the plane then. She came and told me they wouldn’t serve peanuts, but that this was a very special circumstance as if this really ruined her day not to be able to serve peanuts. I made it to New Orleans, and had a second anaphylactic reaction the next morning.
My story shows how crucial it is that airplanes start to carry epi-pens. On my second flight, I took a calculated risk, as I was stranded without a back-up epi-pen. I understand it can be an inconvenience to serve pretzels if you don’t already have them on board, but this is someone’s life at stake. As this was many years ago, people understood allergies less. I am grateful that many people here in the United States, in general, in many ways understand allergies a lot more than when this incident took place and when I was growing up.
I’m also fortunate to receive a Xolair shot every month, and this has truly saved my life. Before taking Xolair I had to wear a mask every time I flew on an airplane, and even sometimes during classes in college because many people did not understand or believe the severity of my allergy. While my Delta experience was less than optimal, I hope that airlines continue to show more empathy for people with severe allergies and other disabilities. On another side note: I just flew United Airlines and South African Airlines from the US to the Ivory Coast, and was still shocked that there was not a peanut or nut free meal option, yet there was a gluten free option. This infuriated me and is something I would like to work on to change in the future.
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