Fundraiser planned to help his family move to Florida
Many parents have to adapt to their children’s food allergies and have to work hard to ensure that their kids don’t drink milk or eat peanut butter. But what about allergies so severe that merely breathing the outdoor air could send the child into borderline anaphylactic shock?
One Gold Bar mom knows exactly what that’s like.
Kara Rodriguez, mother of three, has been working to raise money for her 5-year-old son Alexander, who suffers from extreme environmental allergies. She will be holding a fundraising event on Friday, July 18 from 3 to 8 p.m. at the park next to U.S. 2 in Gold Bar which will include a car show, raffle, silent auction, face painting, a bouncy house, cotton candy, pony rides and more. Rodriguez’s goal is to secure the funding necessary to move her family of five to Florida, where during a recent vacation Alex’s symptoms were drastically alleviated.
“All his ER doctors say to get him out of the Northwest,” said Rodriquez.
Having suffered from eczema since he was four months old, every inch of her son’s skin is typically inflamed due to the painful skin condition. This year, his severe outdoor allergies have compounded the problem, causing additional hives, lesions and rashes. He has become prone to staphylococcus infections and has to take bleach baths to help ward off the potentially disease-causing bacteria.
Bath time, said Rodriguez, is something that she dreads.
“It’s torture to him. I hate doing it,” said Rodriguez who explained that his skin gets so raw, particularly on his hands and feet, that the bleach water burns him. “When he gets into the bathtub he screams bloody murder because it burns so bad. But there’s nothing else you can do.”
When Alex was a baby, doctors suggested that his eczema and allergies would improve over time. Instead, the exact opposite has occurred, and this year his allergies are the worst they’ve ever been. In April, allergy testing known as RAST testing showed Alex to be severely allergic to alder and birch. He is also allergic to cedar, timothy grass, lambs’ quarter, dust and feathers.
He cannot be around anybody wearing cologne or perfume, and has to avoid foods like crab, shrimp, egg-whites, sesame seeds, peanuts, clams, cashews and much more. Alex will react instantly if he ingests even the tiniest amount of peanut butter, and his allergic response to alder and birch are more than three times the severity of his peanut allergy.
If not on the steroidal medication prednisone, which is used to treat severe allergic reactions, Alex cannot even walk outside without wearing a facemask.
His violent reaction to simply breathing the air this year has been terrifying to Rodriguez. At first, she described, he’ll start wheezing, and from there, his symptoms worsen drastically. During a car ride at the end of February, she recalled looking into the backseat and seeing that Alex’s eyes were practically swollen shut and his neck was starting to swell.
“I pulled over, called 911, and they came and got him,” said Rodriguez.
It turns out that tree pollination in Washington is in full swing in February.
During the past six months, Alex has been transported via ambulance to the hospital emergency room a total of 17 times. Firefighters from Snohomish County Fire District 26 in Gold Bar know Alex well and are the ones who initially encouraged Rodriquez to hold the fundraiser.
“They all know Alex,” said Rodriguez. “They all like him.”
Rodriguez explained that she marveled over the changes in her son while they were in Florida this May. He willingly got into the bathtub, played, went outside without having to wear a facemask and was able to enjoy things like swimming and fishing.
“Just like a normal five year old,” said Rodriguez. “Within a couple days he wasn’t taking any medication. None. Not even his albuterol.”
In addition to an albuterol inhaler for his asthma, her son normally takes at least six other medications for his allergies including the prednisone. In June, the total cost of Alex’s medications was around $2,000. One of his medications, a prescription skin cream called Desonide, costs over $600 for one tube.
Despite his health issues, Rodriguez describes Alex as a kind and sweet-natured boy. He has two siblings, and is particularly close to his 1-year-old brother, William.
“The baby is everything to Alex,” said Rodriguez.
“Sometimes he gets scared that if he touches William he’s going to give him his itchies,” she continued. “He’s like, ‘I don’t want to give the baby my itchies.’”
Although she is married, Rodriquez’s husband travels extensively for his job. This means that the majority of Alex’s care falls on her shoulders.
“It’s a challenge,” said Rodriguez. “It takes a toll after a while.”
In addition to staying on top of the medications and the bleach baths, there are many other aspects of Alex’s care that are time-consuming and demanding. Rodriguez has to dust her home constantly to stay on top of her son’s dust mite allergy, and his blankets need to be washed every couple of days. She had to acquire a special cover for his bed which helps protect it from dust, and at night, she performs wet wraps, which essentially means covering the young boy in his various skin creams and then swathing him in gauze bandages that have been soaked in water.
“So he basically sleeps in wet gauze,” said Rodriguez. She explained that sometimes, when she can’t afford the gauze, she just has to wrap him up in two sets of clothes.
Sleeping is extremely difficult for him.
“He stays up almost all night scratching, so then I don’t get any sleep,” said Rodriguez. This was another significant change that occurred during their recent Florida trip. In Florida, her son could sleep.
Rodriguez says that her little boy worries that he’s going to die.
“He asks me that every time he gets a reaction,” said Rodriguez. “‘Am I going to be okay? Am I going to die?’”
“Your five-year-old should not be asking you that,” she continued.
Several local Sky Valley businesses are donating goods and services for the fundraiser raffle including the Reptile Zoo; Monroe Fireplace & Stove; Rico’s Pizza in Gold Bar; Old School BBQ and Let’s Go Espresso in Gold Bar. Other raffle opportunities include a whitewater river rafting trip; a hot air balloon ride for two and an autographed Seahawks football. Raffle tickets will cost $2 each.
Volunteers from Fire District 26 will be bringing over some vintage fire trucks to be a part of the car show.
Folks who wish to make an online donation can do so here: http://www.gofundme.com/9zurv4. The site was created by Rodriguez under her maiden name which is Kara Moore. Donations can also be made to the Alex Rodriguez fund at U.S. Bank.