Everyone has a “friend of a friend” story. This one is mine. Two years ago today, a friend of a friend of mine had one of the most alarmingly strong allergic reaction to nuts I had ever heard of. Much like “everyone has a friend of a friend story”, everyone also knows someone who has a nut allergy. It’s extremely common. But the nut allergy story I’m about to drop on you is horrific.
When I think of nut allergies, I think of skin reactions, tingling around the mouth, tightening of the throat, etc. Something that can be taken care of easily via the ever so handy epi pen. I have quite a few friends with this allergy, but too many of them seem to be nonplussed by the severity of it.
Before I get into the story, I thought I’d introduce Lindsey.
I’m hoping everyone has that one friend who would do anything for you and be there through the hardest moments in your life. I guess you never really know until you are thrown into that situation, but Lindsey is that person for her best friend and work wife, Amy. I have known Lindsey for roughly three years and without hyperbole, she is probably thee most selfless person I know. It’s an absolute honour to be able to say that she is my friend.
I’ve taken a snippet from a message Lindsey wrote earlier this month as it best explains Amy’s story and struggle from the outcome of her nut allergy.
In April 2014, when Amy was 26, she went to Budapest for the weekend with some friends. One night they went out for dinner and she ordered Mediterranean chicken with rice. Doesn’t sound that remarkable, right? However, taking just one bite of that dish completely devastated her life. Why? Her nut allergy wasn’t taken seriously.
Don’t get me wrong – no one took Amy’s allergy more seriously than Amy. Everywhere she went she carried epi pens and medical cards in every language to show restaurant staff. Unfortunately this one waiter assured her that her food was completely nut-free, although it wasn’t. Within minutes of eating a mouthful, Amy’s throat quickly swelled up, despite her administering two epi pens. Her brain deprived of oxygen for six minutes, she went into cardiac arrest on the pavement outside the restaurant shortly after. What followed was a three-week induced coma to decrease brain swelling, months in an intensive care unit, countless infections, a collapsed lung and three bouts of septicaemia.
Almost two years later my beautiful friend is in a wheelchair, unable to walk or talk. She lives in a care home where she is fed through a tube and is unable to wash herself.
That single bite of food caused Amy May to become severely brain damaged. And enclosed inside her helpless body with its fragile limbs and twisted hands is complete awareness. She remembers everything and understands exactly what has happened to her. After she woke up, it took around a year for her to stop crying every day.
Yet Amy’s story hasn’t ended yet – it’s ongoing because she is one determined young lady. In 23 months she’s gone from being virtually vegetative to laughing, swallowing, communicating and having a number of therapies to help get the old Amy back. I’m so proud of her.
Amy May Shead. To you, her name is unfamiliar – but to me and so many others it’s a mantra of true bravery and resilience.
So, that’s Amy May’s story. Why it needs to be known is simple. People have to understand that allergies ARE serious. It’s not always a fad. Flippancy could literally kill someone, or ruin their life as they know it.
Please pass on the message.
Not only has Lindsey been there every step of the way through Amy’s recovery by visiting her constantly, reading to her, singing Hakuna Matata to her, celebrating her birthdays, organizing fundraisers at their work, she’s running the London Marathon next week to raise funds to go towards her care.
Although I’ve never met Amy, I can just imagine how awesome of a person she is to be around and how addictive her personality must be. She is so well loved at her work, ITV, and in all of her relationships.
If you know someone, or know a friend of a friend, who has allergies to this severity, please donate to the Amy May Shead fund and/or help sponsor Lindsey in her run. As much as Lindsey is doing this for Amy, I know she’s also trying to bring awareness to the world that allergies are not to be messed with.
Some important links!