BY ALEX GINTER AND MARY RINGWALD
The amount of daily activities that a Bellarmine student has to manage is like a math equation. Studying, extracurricular activities and maybe an athletic team all add up to students’ daily routines. Now, imagine if you had to add watching what you eat to the equation.
Freshman field hockey defender Storm Thompson deals with severe food allergies on a regular basis, but that does not stop her from being a typical college freshman. Thompson was diagnosed with severe allergies when at age 15 after she ate a Nutella-dipped strawberry while nannying over the summer.
“By the time their mom got home, my eyes had swollen, I had gotten a few hives on my stomach and eventually I stopped being able to breathe,” said Thompson. “When I went to the hospital, I had to get allergy tested, and it turns out I was allergic to stuff I had eaten my entire life.”
Her allergies include a variety of foods that are in most college students’ diets. Thompson can’t have dairy products, egg yolks, tree nuts, salmon, shellfish, turkey, onions, carrots, apples, watermelon, bananas or even chocolate.
With so many dangers to her diet, Thompson is unable to eat in the Bellarmine dining halls or have a college roommate like most students. She and her parents worked closely with her pediatrician, the Bellarmine Disabilities Office and Residence Life to get her appropriate accommodations.
Thompson’s mother, Rachel Thompson, said the Disabilities Office was very helpful in getting her daughter situated on campus, and she was comforted knowing her daughter was only a 30-minute drive from home.
“They provided her with a single room with no additional costs because she is so sensitive to chocolate,” Thompson said. “We were worried that if she had a roommate who was not as aware with her allergies that they might eat a Snickers bar and touch something that she would touch.”
Leslie Maxie-Ashford, associate dean of students and director of housing and residence life said the staff works closely with students in order to make sure their needs are met.
“We do our best to work hand in hand with students when concern has been brought to our attention,” Maxie-Ashford said. “Whether it be roommate choice, room changes or meal plan accommodations, our goal is that the student is cared for and feels comfortable at home.”
Junior cross country runner and resident assistant Ellie DeVries said she understands Thompson’s struggle not just because of her role with Residence Life, but also because of her own severe allergies. DeVries is severely allergic to peanuts, all tree nuts, large doses of soy and shrimp.
She said she has to be very aware and control her food intake so she does not put herself into a situation where she would have to use one of her two EpiPens that deliver temporary relief to her lungs during a severe allergic reaction.
With all her allergies, she takes many of the same precautions as Thompson, but she said she believes the University Dining Hall does a good job with communicating with students with food allergies.
Bellarmine Food Service Manager Steve Santo said his staff tries their best to accommodate every student’s dietary needs.
“The biggest thing for a student with allergies or a food intolerance is to come meet me and my staff and get to know us so we can know what things that individual is looking for,” Santo said. “I plan on doing another late night meeting at Palio to meet students who have dietary concerns or special needs (soon) so we can address them.”
As athletes, Thompson and DeVries also have to make sure they pay close attention to what they eat on team road trips. Thompson said she and her coach talked about making sure they stop at places where she can order food that will not harm her in any way. Her teammates have to be very careful when it comes to eating chocolate on the bus.
DeVries said it is also important for those with allergies to let the restaurants know what they are before placing any food orders.
“I don’t necessarily eat just anything,” DeVries said. “I have some anxiety about it because whenever I go to a restaurant, I have to tell a waiter or a waitress. I have been to restaurants where I will tell them, and I still went into anaphylactic shock.”
Professor Laurie Minton, a faculty member with the Lansing School of Nursing, said it is important to let roommates and teammates know about the severity of their allergies.
“You need to make sure the person you are with is educated about how severe the allergy is, what happens, what types of medicine you may have such as Benadryl or an EpiPen, or who you would call in case of an emergency,” Minton said.
While the equation may seem complicated, Bellarmine seems to try to make students feel safe and taken care of in a variety of individual situations. Not only does it give on-campus students and their parents peace of mind, but it also ensures a well-balanced environment for students throughout campus.