Year-End Wrap Up
By Henry Ehrlich, editor
AsthmaAllergiesChildren.com has now been on the web for about 6 months, and I thought it would be appropriate to write my own guest editorial. If the editor can’t occasionally editorialize, what’s the point?
First let me thank my co-authors Dr. Larry Chiaramonte and Dr. (cousin) Paul Ehrlich for their growing enthusiasm for this project. They have devoted their careers to making life better for children with allergies and asthma, and that devotion is contagious. I caught it. Larry is an exceptional doctor. He is old enough to sit on his laurels, but he schleps into the South Bronx several times each week to work with “the worst of the worst”—people whose asthma is debilitating—at Urban Health. He also has a relentless devotion to finding structural solutions to the challenge of delivering high-quality asthma care to inner city populations. Paul continues to thrive and learn from his stethoscope-to-chest work with patients in a variety of settings. I’ve been familiar with his main office at Asthma and Allergy Associates of Murray Hill for a million years, but it takes seeing him on his weekly visit to New York Eye and Ear in Williamsburg, Brooklyn to appreciate the difference his brand of effective medical care can make in the lives of kids and their families, especially in an insular community. I am thinking particularly of a Hasidic woman whose little boy’s nose cascaded mucus until Dr. Ehrlich taught her to irrigate the little schnoz with saline solution, among other things. Now when he speaks Yiddish—still no English—he doesn’t sound stuffy. More important, an enormous burden has been lifted from his worried family’s existence.
I would also like to salute Kathy Franklin for her work on Food Allergy Corner. Good as it is, however, she is really in her glory running the parent support group at Paul’s office every month. I had read about food allergy. I had written about it. But I never understood the profound effect it has on children and their parents until I started going to the meetings. Life-threatening food allergies are somebody else’s problem until they are your problem, and then they are all-consuming. And, as we wrote in our book, for all the publicity food allergies have received, “they” still don’t understand. Kathy does understand. Each month, she goes back to the bottom on the ladder with several newly shell-shocked parents, and helps them find the first rung; when they meet Kathy, they realize they are not alone. She knows the whole ladder, and she helps them climb.
Bear with me while I discuss food allergy a bit more. Several months ago, we published a recipe for lemon cake with blueberry topping by cookbook author Linda Coss. I asked my daughter to whip it up for Thanksgiving, hoping to get my very articulate peanut-allergic nephew to “review” it. But when the time came, he demurred. “I’m a very picky eater.” In our family, that makes him one of a kind. I knew he was picky when he was little, but he’s now in his mid-teens, and it wasn’t until he said it that I appreciated how wary and circumscribed kids like my nephew can become. From a very early age, kids learn that there are parts of life that will never easily open up to them. Paul and I met Dr. Magnus Wickman from Sweden not long ago, who described how he is driven to find ways of opening up the lives of his young patients by expanding their culinary horizons so they don’t view the world beyond the front door as teenage no-man’s land. He has his work cut out for him, and so do the rest of us. By the way, the dessert was delicious.
Finally I’d like to thank our distinguished guest editorialists, Dr. Mark Ballow, president of the AAAAI; Dr. David Liu of Kaiser Permanente and a prolific writer; Dr. Xiu-Min Li, Sally Noone, and Dr. Julie Wang (all from Mt. Sinai, who are doing cutting-edge work); Dr. Thomas Plaut, who allowed us to publish his asthma action plan for small children for the first time; insect sting expert Dr. Robert Reisman of the University of Buffalo; novelist Caroline Leavitt, whose new book Pictures of You is now out, a real page turner, in which the author’s childhood asthma wheezes steadily in the background; the other Dr. Chiaramonte, Joseph, who shared his insights into clinical judgment; David Van Sickle, PhD, whose iPhone app will change the way asthma is studied and treated; Dr. Frank Adams of NYU and the NYPD, and finally, the allergist’s allergist, Dr. Harold Nelson of National Jewish Medical Center in Denver. All in all, a distinguished roster, and we will endeavor to keep up that standard.
Happy New Year.