To look at him, you’d think Joseph was a healthy kid, like any other. But from a very young age, a sword of Damocles has hung over his head: Joseph has several severe and potentially fatal food allergies.
Allergies are now the fourth most common chronic illness worldwide, according to the World Health Organization. Some refer to it as the health crisis of the century. Still largely misunderstood by the general public, food allergies are a daunting day-to-day challenge, the consequences of which can be devastating.
Joseph has multiple allergies. He can’t eat or come in contact with any products that contain peanuts, chicken, sesame, eggs, dairy or salmon. If he does, it could be fatal.
Being a parent of a child with food allergies requires a lot of diligence and a lot of energy. It can be a tremendous source of stress. Not only do you have to educate the child about the risks of eating a given food, you have to reach out to everyone they interact with. You have to make sure people take the situation seriously and know what to do in the event of an emergency. There’s no such thing as spontaneity when you’re managing food allergies. Eating out or going to a friend’s house at the last minute is simply not an option. Every single meal has to be meticulously planned out. No exceptions.
Imagine living every day with a knot of fear in your stomach that a single drop of milk or the tiniest piece of peanut touches your child’s plate. It’s nerve-racking. You have to be extremely careful all the time, wherever you go.
60,000: that’s the number of children in Quebec who, like Joseph, are living with one or more food allergies. That’s three times more than there were even 10 years ago. Fortunately, the research of Dr. Philippe Bégin, an allergist at Sainte-Justine, is a game changer. And it’s letting children and their families see a light at the end of the tunnel.
Joseph was one of the first patients to be accepted into Sainte-Justine’s oral immunotherapy protocol developed at Sainte-Justine by Dr. Bégin’s team. For two years, he was given daily doses of allergens prepared by the hospital. As of July 16, 2018, Joseph was declared officially desensitized to milk, eggs, soy, salmon, chicken and sesame. It was the first day of his new life – and, as he himself put it, the best day ever!
Currently, the only way to treat allergies is to avoid the allergen and use epinephrine shots in case of accidental ingestion. Desensitization is not a miracle cure that will eradicate all food allergies, but it’s clearly a major breakthrough that will revolutionize the way we deal with allergies as a whole.
Dr. Philippe Bégin
A passion for research
Dr. Bégin’s enthusiasm is nothing less than contagious. An esteemed scholar, he joined the Stanford Alliance for Food Allergy Research at Stanford University in California in 2012, where he led numerous clinical studies on food allergies.
The driving force behind the CHU Sainte-Justine Oral Immunotherapy Clinic, Dr. Bégin is single-minded in his goal to continue his work and eventually eradicate this modern-day epidemic.
Research into children’s health represents hope. The hope of eliminating a threat and giving children a normal life and a new sense of freedom.
Dr. Philippe Bégin
Philanthropy X research X hope
Investing in research is key to help science step in where nature fails. As early as the 1950s, Justine Lacoste-Beaubien, the co-founder of Sainte-Justine, knew how beneficial it would be to spearhead high-level research near the Université de Montréal. Over the years, more and more committed donors embraced this profound conviction and invested in the future of science. In the current economic context, pediatric medical research continues to move forward thanks to the incalculable generosity of people who share a dream of instilling hope in sick children. Their combined commitment, along with the vision and talent of Sainte-Justine’s teams of researchers, has the power to drive new discoveries.
Every gift brings us one step closer to a more personalized approach to medicine and to the transformation of patient care, both here at home and around the world.
Donors have a tremendous amount of power. Together, their contributions are instrumental in helping us keep moving pediatric research forward.
Dr. Philippe Bégin
Research at Sainte-Justine, is:
- A state-of-the-art Research Centre – the leading clinical research facility in Canada.
- A team of over 1,200 people, with more than 200 researchers (including 90+ clinician investigators) and 500 graduate-, post-graduate and postdoctoral students.
- An international reputation for excellence that makes the Centre a formidable figure in the fight to prevent and eliminate childhood diseases.