When Grayson was just 1 year old, he had an allergic reaction so severe that his parents brought him to the emergency room at Children's Medical Center Dallas.
"He started coughing and wheezing a lot," says his mom, Cara. "We don't have any food allergies in our family, and we thought he was just getting sick. But my sister, who is a physician, told us to go directly to the ER."
A blood test confirmed Grayson was allergic to both eggs and peanuts, and his family made the necessary adjustments to their diets to keep him safe. By the time he turned 2, his allergy to eggs had gone away, but his peanut allergy remained.
Grayson seeks answers in a peanut allergy research study
When Grayson turned 3, Cara and her husband, Jarod, decided they wanted to explore new treatment options for their son. That's when they met J. Andrew Bird, M.D., Director of the Food Allergy Center at Children's Health℠ and Associate Professor at UT Southwestern. In addition to caring for children with severe allergies, Dr. Bird is a leader in food allergy research and involved in clinical trials aimed at understanding and treating life-threatening food allergies.
Over the next three years, Grayson participated in a research study for children with peanut allergies. He made regular visits to Dr. Bird's office, and sometimes the visits lasted all day.
"There were some days we were in the office from 8 a.m. to 6 p.m., especially during food challenges," says Cara.
Eventually, Grayson withdrew from the study, but his time in the study gave his parents more knowledge about their son's peanut allergy and more confidence in managing it. It affected Grayson, however, in a slightly different way.
Grayson and his little brother give back
For Grayson, the research study was his first major exposure to a doctor's office and hospital environment, and it opened his eyes to the experiences that many other children just like him face on a daily basis.
So when he and his younger brother, Luke, wanted to host a book sale this past summer, they had no question where they would donate their profits.
"I wanted to take it to the allergy doctor because people have to stay there a long time," Grayson says. "They gave me a stuffed robot when I did a good job and I wanted them to be able to buy more."
After cleaning out their bookshelves, designing their own signs and setting up on the busiest street in their neighborhood, Grayson and Luke held a successful book sale and donated $37 to the Food Allergy Center at Children's Health. Dr. Bird and his team used the generous donation to buy new toys and games for patients to enjoy during their visits.
"I was thrilled to get the donation from Grayson and Luke," says Dr. Bird. "Getting to know families like Grayson's is one of my favorite things about being a doctor. Grayson spent long days with us during the research study, and his generous act is a reflection of his sincere empathy for others and his great parents."
Grayson's peanut allergy is still a part of his life, but it doesn't stop him from doing what he loves. He enjoys spending time with his friends and plays soccer, baseball, basketball and football.
"Grayson has matured a lot and grown up because of his allergy," says Cara. "He knows how to make good choices and can go to friends' houses without me. We are just so proud of him."
The Food Allergy Center at Children's Health is the only academic-affiliated pediatric food allergy center in North Texas. We offer comprehensive testing, diagnosis and management for food allergies and access to groundbreaking research and clinical trials aimed to develop new therapies for children with food allergies. Learn more about the Food Allergy program and services.