Letter to Hospital Regarding PA

Posted on: Mon, 04/07/2003 - 4:42am
MeCash's picture
Joined: 04/18/2001 - 09:00

After over six long months of mulling over our experiences with a hospital stay where I discovered my daughter was PA (but they didn't), I wrote the following letter to both their pediatric department head and the legal department. I don't know if it will make any difference, but I wonder what you all think and will post any response if I get one.

Dear Sir or Madam:

In September, 2002, my daughter, (*****)DOB: 11/8/00) was admitted to your facility with a strep infection in her lymph node. Our overall experience with your facility was a good one, with only one exception of which I would like to bring to your immediate attention.

**** had originally been admitted by her pediatrician, Dr. ****, to Columbia Reston Hospital, who did not feel they had the appropriate specialists to deal with diagnosing the enlarged lymph node and therefore transferred her to Fairfax. Her transfer occurred before lunchtime. By the time we got to Fairfax hospital and were admitted, it was after lunch. My daughter was extremely hungry by this time and my husband asked if there was any food she could have. Keep in mind, my daughter was 21 months old at the time.

The pediatric staff informed my husband that there was peanut butter and crackers in the snack room which she could have and juices in the refrigerator. While I was getting stuff from the car, he gave her some peanut butter and crackers to assuage her hunger issues. Shortly after she broke out in hives on her face. I questioned the nurse as to the antibiotic, whether or not it was the same, pointed out the hives and they said they would monitor her. I was, at the time, unaware of the peanut exposure.

Considering that Inova Fairfax Hospital is one of the best reputed facilities in the Washington metropolitan area, I find it hard to believe that a known food allergen is the only option as a snack in the pediatric department. At the time, I was unaware that my daughter was 4++ allergic to peanuts. My son, who is 5 years older than her, is anaphylactic allergic to peanuts and I was hoping by avoidance that the allergy would spare her, but I had no such luck.

With peanut allergies on the rise in this country and also with it being one of the most dangerous of food allergens presently known, it seems incongruous to me that peanuts or any peanut containing product would even be offered, let alone the only option, to any child whose allergy status is not fully known.

I also feel that it is the responsibility of a hospital facility to act responsibly when treating a child, especially a pediatric patient, and provide allergen-free alternatives in both regular kitchen made meals and snack rooms. It is irresponsible of a pediatric facility to even have any peanut containing products on their floor, considering some children are so allergic that even being in the vicinity of peanuts or touching toys in the play room which have been handled by children who have eaten peanuts could cause a life threatening reaction.

Peanuts are not the only known food allergen, however, it is one of the most deadly. Luckily, my daughter's first exposure to peanuts did not turn out to be a life threatening situation. However, it could have. I plainly believe that it is a mistake for your pediatric department not to recognize the severity of this growing allergy and make accommodations to protect all the children who come in and out of the facility.

Schools are making changes in the way they treat this issue by providing peanut-free zones and ensuring that no cross-contamination issues occur in their cafeterias. Ballparks are making changes and setting up designated peanut free zones. These all work fine and well for people with known food allergies.

In a hospital situation, it is often impossible to know if an infant, toddler or young child has an allergy to certain medicines or food. It probably would have been assumed my daughter was allergic to the antibiotic, had anyone placed any real concern about her hives and actually monitored her seriously in that regard.

I do not condemn your facility or any of it's staff, who I believe did an exemplary job treating my daughter for her infection and providing a facility which had enough entertainment options to keep her busy for the five (5) days we were there. However, I do think some changes should be considered as to how food allergies are handled in the pediatric department, and think you should seriously reconsider having anything peanut related as a snack option in that department (outside of snack machines, which are enclosed and generally not accessible to small children). There should be, at the very least, a section of snack foods which are free of known allergens and possible cross contaminations issues and fully labeled to disclose any potential allergens for those with known food allergies, such as to peanuts, tree nuts, wheat, soy, milk, egg, etc..

If major food manufacturers are required to label their products for potential food allergens, why is a hospital not responsible for providing alternatives for those same people who it claims to be trying to assist?

While you and the staff at Inova Fairfax Hospital work hard to maintain the health and well-being of your patients, you have a potential time-bomb just waiting to explode in your very own snack room. In the interests of your patients, and in the financial interests of your organization in avoiding legal issues in the future, I would highly suggest that you reconsider the status of the snacks provided in your pediatric department and on that floor altogether.


I tried to make this letter as reasonable as possible. I don't want it to just get thrown into the round file as irrational ravings of a lunatic mom, so it took me a lot of thought and time (getting over being angry) to put it together.

While I realize I could back it up with more facts and statistics, I didn't necessarily think that necessary on my first attempt to communicate my disappointment with their inadequate allergen protocol.

And, on the same note, I could have pummeled my own husband who plainly went against my concerns and gave her the peanut butter while I wasn't there and didn't TELL me about it until after she was home and exposed to peanuts a SECOND time (with the same reaction, hence 2 and 2 were places together). He had been in denial about my son being PA and didn't think his daughter would be (different dads), but has now come around fully and is supportive.

Anyway.. let me know what you guys think, because I value your opinions and this Board! YAY peanutallergy.com, I've learned SO much from you people!

Posted on: Mon, 04/07/2003 - 5:12am
river's picture
Joined: 07/15/1999 - 09:00

Bravo Melanie!
Your letter looks great!
(Wow, I can't believe how many North American Hospitals are living in the Dark Ages.)

Posted on: Mon, 04/07/2003 - 9:58am
Dawn's picture
Joined: 02/22/1999 - 09:00

Great job, Melanie! You should be proud of your well written and quite reasonable letter. I sure hope you get a response! Please be sure to let us know.

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