Exactly one year ago, in June 2019, Holly Jessop spoke to the Mudgee Guardian about her drastic decision to leave Mudgee and move to the United States with her three children, Jack, Pearl and Riley hoping to treat their severe and sometimes life-threatening food allergies.
This week Holly spoke to the Mudgee Guardian from Utah about what it's like living in the US right now and how she and her children have adapted to living in a new country and their success with oral immunotherapy (OIT) treatment.
All three kids are doing OIT, the treatment involves giving an allergic individual a gradually increasing amount of the allergen - for example, cashew nuts - with the goal of increasing the threshold that triggers a reaction in that individual.
Holly, Jack, Pearl and Riley landed in the US state of Utah in October 2019 and immediately began treatment.
"As soon as we arrived [in the US] we went to the clinic, met the doctor and the staff and we did a lot of food challenges for the kids nuts, sesame, all sorts of things. We established sort of what they were allergic to, that actually took probably six weeks or so. You know, lots of testing for different foods," Holly said.
I was never able to even sort of really think about working again because it was just too risky. It's like getting your life back in some ways.Holly Jessop
Holly's son Jack just 'graduated' egg OIT and now enjoys 'unlimited' amounts off egg and products with egg in them. He must also eat what is called a 'maintenance dose' of egg every morning to maintain the allergy threshold.
"We haven't actually explored that too much. You can probably imagine if you've never eaten it before, it's not necessarily appealing, but he's having a lot in you know, biscuits and that sort of thing," Holly said.
"He'll be finishing the cashew it in about four weeks. He eats up to six cashews a day."
Holly's other children have been just as lucky, with daughter Pearl recently gaining the ability to enjoy sesame products and is on her way to egg products.
Among the three children, OIT will hopefully help them manage allergies related to egg, dairy, sesame, soy and various nuts.
"Look, I'm amazed. But I've been following the stories of many other families, including a lot of aussie families that have done this, we've actually got two or three families here at the moment doing the same treatment. So I was well aware that it works and, you know, again, it's a treatment. It's not a cure, but again, it's very successful. Yeah, it's amazing, and I'm blown away," Holly said.
"Back at home in Kain's Flat, we couldn't have dairy or anything like that in the fridge. Riley was so allergic to milk we couldn't have any milk products in the house. Even though he's only on 10 mls, the risk is now so much smaller.
"If he came in touch with a crumb from a cake or something with dairy or egg in it...I'd be surprised if we had a reaction now. Whereas before even a miniscule amount would have triggered something.
"It's incredible, life-changing."
When Holly and the kids return home to Australia - hopefully in October - each morning they will take a maintenance dose of their allergen as part of a new routine Holly calls 'medicine'. The treatment has radically affected the way Holly and her family can live their life.
"I've actually just enrolled. I've got a spot for Riley in daycare, which I could have never done before. Yeah, the dairy risk was just too high. He's just so much safer being able to tolerate 10 mls of milk compared to when we left.
"I'm looking at going back to work for the first time... I was never able to even sort of really think about working again because it was just too risky.
"It's like getting your life back in some ways."
The final six months
A new life free of restriction has come at a strange time for the Jessops in America, with the coronavirus situation reaching its peak during their time in the country.
Trips to the clinic where the OIT treatment originated have temporarily ceased, and so have trips to local play areas and any outdoor activities for the kids.
Chronicling their time in Utah on a Facebook page titled 'Our Allergy Journey', Holly has shared the progress her children have made as part of the Oral immunotherapy (OIT) treatment since leaving Australia last year.
Holly said the support has been 'beyond supportive'.
"People are blown away, especially friends or people who knew what our life was like, they see the progress we've already made and that's life changing already, a burden has been lifted," she said.
"The support's been incredible, yeah."
Holly said she wanted to thank the community back home for all the support and said they're looking forward to coming home and being able to be active in the community.
"When we get back home, we have every reason to believe that we'll be able to do all these things without that anxiety and worry that they [children] will have an anaphylactic reaction from a small amount of food," she said.
"We've seen so many success stories and now we're becoming one of them. It's just incredible."