Trust. Confidence. Care. Love. Respect. Encouragement.
These are all words that spring to mind when I reflect on the relationship Osh and we, his parents, have had with Acorns Parc Nantgarw since they first met us back in June 2015. Now it’s Osh’s last day, after 3 years of attending Monday to Friday and I’m doing my best not to dissolve into a sobbing mess at any given moment!
Sending Osh to nursery was a huge deal for us, but ultimately it has been such a positive experience.
Would they “get it”?
As parents, you are naturally anxious about entrusting your precious superstar into the hands and care of people you generally don’t know. However, the added dimension of trusting those people to treat our child’s allergy status as seriously as we did, to us, was overwhelming.
Would staff understand that if Osh was exposed to a milk product, he could potentially die?
Would they understand the importance of keeping his eczema-prone skin moisturised to help prevent development of further food sensitivity due to absorption through broken skin?
These and a thousand other doubts, concerns and questions filled our minds when preparing to start Osh in nursery. How could a nursery possibly understand and manage Osh’s needs, when we were still coming to terms with them and learning how to keep him safe ourselves?
It would have been so easy to make a decision not to send Osh to nursery, to avoid placing him in this controlled, yet still risky, situation until school came knocking on the door. However, we have always felt strongly that, however difficult for us (and sometimes him), Osh needs to experience as much of life as possible to enable him to grow and learn about the world. So, we signed Osh up and went about adapting to our new routine.
We had lots of queries and concerns in the early days. Actually, when I think about it, we’ve been asking these poor guys a hundred questions a day for the whole of Osh’s time with them! But no matter what our queries have been, we have always been treated with respect and any concerns patiently heard. We have always been able to talk openly with staff and ask for more information on activities/materials/foods to reassure ourselves of their safety and suitability for Osh.
The team have always gone out of their way to find solutions to include Osh and so that he can join in with all activities/mealtimes. For an allergy parent, this is priceless. After Osh had a severe reaction following an exposure to dairy at nursery (see ‘Hiccups’ below), we naturally needed to seek out answers around what had happened. We had a discussion with a director of the Acorns group and Parc Nantgarw manager, Angeleen which centred around us trying to establish how the incident had happened, whether anything could have been done to prevent it and if anything could be changed moving forward.
Most importantly, we came away feeling satisfied that we had covered what we needed to, which was really important to us at that time.
Along the way over the last 3 years, we’ve been able to collaborate with the chefs on personalised menus for Osh. If they’ve wanted to try a new ingredient in one of his dishes, they have always checked with us first. If we stumble across a new product that Osh can eat, they’ll incorporate it into his menu and find ways to use it innovatively. We’ve also learned a lot from them and gained quite a few food ideas to try at home which is always a bonus!
3 days before Osh’s 2nd birthday, he accidentally ate some dairy cheese whilst at Acorns and over the following 90 minute period, suffered his first “full-blown” anaphylactic reaction. He was rushed to hospital, treated in A&E and kept in for observation and treatment overnight and for half of the following day. He consequently spent his 2nd birthday half-way through a 5 day course of oral steroids and on the other side of an experience we all found traumatic and scary at the time.
Over 2 years on from this and on reflecting, here are the real positives I take from it:
- Staff called me straight away (I was at work) and told me what had happened. They told me how Osh was at that time and told me what they had done to treat him.
- Because of the actions of the nursery staff, we managed to get Osh to hospital and treated effectively.
- Osh learned how an anaphylactic reaction feels to him.
- We and nursery staff learned what Osh’s anaphylactic reaction looked like.
- Osh learned through this experience, as did we, that he will be looked after if he has a bad reaction, that he can come through it and be okay.
When chatting to staff earlier this week, they all expressed the same feeling: that the ‘cheese incident’ would always stay in their minds and they alluded to how tough an experience it had been for them to go through.
It’s clear that they genuinely care for Osh and want to keep him safe and this is what a parent of a child with severe allergies needs to know.
We are positive but nervous about Osh’s next milestone and the challenges that attending school will present for him in the context of his allergies. However, I don’t think we would be able to approach this as calmly as we are doing if Osh had not been cared for in the way he has been at Acorns. I will never be able to fully express in words the extent of our respect for this nursery team or our gratitude for their understanding of Osh and his needs.
To anyone who is battling with the same fears as we were 3 years ago: it’s always going to be an anxious time when you have to trust others to keep your child safe when surrounded by allergens that could threaten their life. But from our experience, you can trust the Acorns team. They get it.