Peanut allergy can be fatal
Osgood family hopes, prays, and walks for a cure

Wanda English Burnett, Editor

“My best pal!” Taylor Heaton smiles as she clutches a box of Cheerios at her grandparent’s home (Phil and Janet Mohr) in Osgood.

Why are Cheerios a girl’s best pal? The question is simple, yet complex. Taylor has a severe allergy to peanuts and peanut products, and Cheerios is peanut free.

The allergy controls the lives of the Heaton family, Christi and husband Bruce, and their other daughter, Brooke, who is age 6. “Everything we do revolves around whether a product has any trace of peanuts or tree nuts in them,” noted Christi.

The Heatons have been dealing with this since Taylor was 16 months old and know the score. It is imperative that their daughter not have any contact with peanuts and tree nuts. Once when they were in a candle store, someone in a back room opened a jar of peanut butter. The results were immediate and Taylor began to swell.

Taylor’s allergy is so severe she tested off the chart when her allergist, a doctor from Louisville, tested her. She can’t tolerate even the dust that comes off the nuts. “If you touch peanuts, then rub your hand on a table and Taylor touches it, she can have an allergic reaction,” noted Christi, outlining how serious her daughter’s condition really is.

While on vacation, Taylor’s grandma, Janet, was in line buying some lotion. She glanced at the ingredients and exclaimed, “Oh, no!” Her husband Phil said, “I thought something serious was going on.” Something serious was happening. The lotion had an ingredient in it that would have serious consequences for their granddaughter if she came into contact with it.

Christi stressed that every label must be read every time when she buys groceries for her family. “You can’t take it for granted,” she noted, saying manufactures change the way they process products and that could have a deadly outcome for her daughter.

The family has banned together, along with many of their friends, to create a safe zone for Taylor. However, the world is big and she has to always be on the alert for products that could make her very ill. “Is it safe?” is a question Taylor has learned to ask frequently.

The family has to always check to see if it’s safe for Taylor. This might mean checking with the chef at a wedding reception to see what’s in the wedding cake. “Sometimes we just take a cupcake or a little cake for Taylor,” noted Janet. This gives the family the assurance they need to keep Taylor safe.
Knowing the severity of the allergy, when the family found out about The Food Allergy & Anaphylaxis Network Walk for Food Allergy event, they were excited. “You mean I can make a difference?” Taylor asked. Not one to sit on the sidelines feeling sorry for herself, she went to work and enlisted the help of her grandpa Phil to make cookies. She handed out 124 “peanut safe” cookies at her church, Osgood First Baptist, and told her story. The congregation responded with donations for Taylor to take to the walk. These donations will be used to help “find a cure.”

The Heaton family, along with grandparents Phil and Janet Mohr, comprise the “Team Taylor” that will be walking the 2.3 mile walk at the White River State Park in Indianapolis on August 18. The local team already has $500 to contribute to finding a cure and are inviting anyone who wants to partner with them to send donations to: Taylor Heaton, 2761 W. County Road 300 N, Osgood, IN 47037. The checks can be made out to FAAN (Food Allergy & Anaphylaxis Network). This is a 501(c)(3) nonprofit organization and your contribution is tax deductible.

In a written statement, Taylor says, “I am walking to help raise money so that researchers can continue their work. The shot that they are working on would be something that I would have to get monthly. This shot could possibly eliminate the life threatening reaction that occurs if I were to eat something that I am allergic to. This shot could help change my life!”

While Taylor knows that she is different from other children when it comes to her allergy situation, she’s a typical third grader who is looking forward to school this year in Mr. Chad Pindell’s classroom at Jac-Cen-Del Elementary.

“The school has been absolutely wonderful,” noted Christi, who said they have gone peanut butter “free” in the cafeteria and even designated a table Taylor can sit at where no one is consuming any peanut products at all. Parents will receive a note telling them there are students with this allergy and asking them to not send these products with their children. The lunch boxes are kept in an area away from the classroom. “They do everything they possibly can to help with the situation,” Christi said.
Something as simple as popcorn at the movies or attending a circus can have a devastating affect on Taylor. “We just have to watch everything. It’s my job to educate her. Diligence is the key,” Christi noted. So when this family goes out to eat at a restaurant or a friend’s back yard barbecue, they will need to know what the ingredients are in the food they will be consuming. It’s just a way of life for the Heatons that could be changed through research.

Trace Adkins, country music giant, will be the honorary chair at the “Moving Toward a Cure” walk in Indianapolis. “This is a cause I’m very much involved with,” he noted. His daughter was diagnosed with peanut allergy at 18 months of age. “So, I know firsthand how important FAAN’s efforts to increase funding for food allergy research are.” For more information on the walk, you can log onto or call 1-800-929-4040.

Monies raised from the walk event could make the difference between life or death. It could mean a simpler life for those with peanut allergies. According to information from an article in The New York Times, there is a new drug being tested that could provide better quality of life for those who suffer from the allergy. A shot could be administered that would create a “buffer” zone. This means if patients accidently come in contact with, or ingest peanut products, they could survive. With an estimated 1.5 million people in the United States suffering from the allergy to peanuts, the news is good.

Christi agreed with Anne Munoz-Furlong, chief executive of the Food Allergy and Anaphylaxis Network when she said, “It is nearly impossible to avoid a reaction...there is no break in the constant worry about a reaction or the possibility of death.”

Taylor Heaton, 8, clutches her box of Cheerios. It's one thing she knows is safe for her to eat. Taylor was diagnosed with a severe allergy to peanuts and all tree nuts when she was just 16 months old. Together with her family, she is participating in a fundraising walk next weekend in Indianapolis to find a cure.