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Don't Kill the Birthday Girl: Tales from an Allergic Life Hardcover – Jul 12 2011


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Product Details

  • Hardcover: 240 pages
  • Publisher: Crown (July 12 2011)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 9780307588111
  • ISBN-13: 978-0307588111
  • ASIN: 0307588114
  • Product Dimensions: 14.6 x 22.2 cm
  • Shipping Weight: 363 g
  • Average Customer Review: 4.0 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (1 customer review)
  • Amazon Bestsellers Rank: #426,494 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)


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Format: Paperback
I really enjoyed her book. I have a child with allergies and wanted to know more about the origins of some of them. The only reason I didn't award 5/5 for this was that I was promised a better explanation of why Benedryl is so bad for you and walked away wanting to know more. However, she makes you realize how hard it is to date, have kids and just survive in a world where what other people do can affect you so profoundly. But don't feel sorry for Sandra - she's got a great spirit and this book is about how she is living her life - with some great stories and life lessons I think we should all pay attention to. I highly recommend this read!
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Most Helpful Customer Reviews on Amazon.com (beta)

Amazon.com: 75 reviews
31 of 34 people found the following review helpful
Entertaining and educational without being preachy June 11 2011
By Radar626 - Published on Amazon.com
Format: Hardcover Vine Customer Review of Free Product
It was with a bit of dread that I began to read this book. I've read many self told tales of misery and redemption over the years, and stopped choosing books of that genre as the overall tone became too self-absorbed ("No one else out of six billion people has had it worse than me."), self-promoting ("I cured myself and I can cure you, too!!") and a bit preachy ("If you don't do what I tell you, you will die a horrible, painful death."). What a delight it was when this book turned out to be so different.

With no shortage of humor and wit does the author give the story of her life with allergies. Some, such as dairy, pollens, eggs and nuts, are those we've all heard of. But honeydew melons? Cucumbers? It was interesting to see how some people have allergies to foods most of us would never even consider putting on a list of allergy inducing items. Her reactions to these items also ran the gamut from a mild reaction easily taken care of with Benadryl (which gets a huge plug in this book) or a race to the ER to prevent full anaphylactic shock. I also came away from this book with much more understanding of the isolation that must be felt by those with severe allergies. As a child, could you imagine how it would feel to be left out of a birthday party because the child's parents arranged for a petting zoo? I remember living in Michigan and taking a trip to the JIFFY factory, which as a third grader was very cool. As an adult, I can't imagine being the only child in all the third grade classes unable to go because of an allergy. Yet I don't feel pity for the author, but rather empathy, and I think that is one of the author's goals in writing this book. She leaves the reader wanting a better understanding of the life she and millions of others lead every day instead of making the reader feel sorrow and evoking the old "Oh, poor thing" response.

Today, stories of children and food allergies are not at all uncommon. However, when the author was a child over thirty years ago, many people, including doctors, were much less educated and understanding of what someone with food allergies went through. People didn't understand that just touching a peanut, let alone taking a bite of a pb & j, could kill. If it were the 1970's - 1980's and someone told you they were allergic to cucumbers, how many people do you think would believe that person was serious? Most restaurants would have just picked off the cucumbers and re-served the salad. Until the last decade, manufacturers were not required to list on packaging if the product inside the box or bag was exposed to or contained allergens such as tree nuts, soy or dairy. Every meal not carefully prepared at home would have been a life threatening gamble.

I enjoyed the author's trip through time to the present as she describes the advances in recognizing and treating allergies. She skillfully drops in scientific information alongside a humorous anecdote so the information is presented in a way that doesn't feel as if the reader is being lectured to via dry, sleep inducing text. I also didn't get the sense of "oh, woe is me" while reading this book, which is utterly refreshing. Miss Beasley does express her exasperation with the whole ordeal, but tempers it with self-effacing jests. For me, it was like listening to a science lesson from that favorite teacher or professor in school.
34 of 43 people found the following review helpful
Witty & educational promo for Benadryl June 3 2011
By Dr. M. A. Dixon - Published on Amazon.com
Format: Hardcover Vine Customer Review of Free Product
I enjoyed reading Don't Kill the Birthday Girl by Sandra Beasley. The author's accounts of her challenges of coping with food allergies are ones in which I can relate, empathize, and laugh lest I cry. She intersperses historical and scientific information about allergies and vegetarianism and such in with her memoirs.

The author comes off very likable in the book, but before the end, I become very annoyed that she is still continuing to try eating in restaurants as she openly admits she has anaphylactic shock about half of the time; each time she is exposed to her allergen, she is chancing developing more allergies and even become a universal reactor (just look at the work by Doris Rapp, MD). She laments that others just don't understand about foods needing to be "Sandra-friendly" but doesn't see that she is the one that needs to understand how important it is and not risk her health and even her very life for the fleeting experience of eating at a restaurant. One cannot expect others to treat one better than one is treating themselves. The ultimate responsibility for one's health lies with yourself and really should not be placed recklessly in the hands of those that are less informed and probably care more about their own circumstances than ours.

Those of us with food allergies, intolerances, and/or sensitivities know that you must take the responsibility for being vigilant by always reconfirming the status of a menu item and addressing cross-contamination issues each and every time. Just because one time is a success doesn't mean that ordering the same thing at the same restaurant will be a success next time as your meal is only as safe as the cook, ingredients, kitchen, utensils, and waitperson was that particular time. Sandra's solution is Benadryl; carry a large supply of Benadryl at all times and never be without it. By the end of the book, I felt like a mom wanting to sit down with her daugher saying "Sandra, please be more loving and kind to yourself. Please discontinue trying to make others understand how important it is to treat you medical condition more seriously and start trying to be more self-responsible not taking your health for granted and gambling / risking what carefree spontaneity and health you possess. What are you going to do if Benadryl stops working for you or if they change the recipe or processing of Benadryl? Please, Sandra, be more protective of your health and your very life." If she were my patient I would tell her that many of my patients who are waiters tell me that they think many of the customers requesting allergen accommodation are "drama queens" and "control freaks" and are "faking it". Do you really want to put your health and life in the hands of someone who may have their own control issues and other psychological issues and are NOT going to even attempt to get your order "Sandra-friendly"?

I applaud what research the author did on the processing of so many different things to see the allergen status for her but it is always best to find out in a safe way without harming yourself or gambling with your health.

If a potential reader doesn't have a support group or wants to know more about what allergic people deal with, this is a great entertaining educational read. Just please don't emulate the author's too carefree behavior with her serious medical condition.
6 of 6 people found the following review helpful
Life on the other end of the wheeze July 3 2011
By N. B. Kennedy - Published on Amazon.com
Format: Hardcover Vine Customer Review of Free Product
It's tough to cook for people these days -- allergies galore, vegetarians, caffeine and sugar free folks, gluten sensitivities, lactose intolerances. It's easy to view all of this negatively, as if these overly fussy folks were willfully making our lives hard... and somehow perversely enjoying it.

But Sandra Beasley illuminates the terrors and complexities of the allergic life in such a winning way that you might just let go of your resentments. Until I read this book, I just couldn't imagine how allergies can shut down a person's life so completely. Ms. Beasley is allergic to everything you could imagine, from dairy foods, beef and shrimp to melons, mustard, cucumbers and nuts. "That's not somebody designed to survive, now, is it," opines a nutritionist in her fourth-grade class.

With humor and pathos, Ms. Beasley shows how allergies put many of the things we take for granted out of her reach. The food rituals of childhood that she couldn't share, the spontaneity of love that is denied her, the deadly perils that lie on every plate put before her. Her life is one tenuous day after another, her survival continually in the balance.

Ms. Beasley interweaves her personal story with research and data about allergies and allergic reactions. If you're not a fellow-sufferer, you might choose to skip over some of this very detailed information. But slow down when you come to her life story, because she tells it well.

I particularly cheered for Ms. Beasley when she goes alone to Galatoire's in the French Quarter of New Orleans and studies the menu carefully for something she can eat. A solicitous waiter assists her, and after a slight misstep, she has a meal to savor and remember. "The pleasure of each bite was intensified by the risk of trusting an unfamiliar city to take care of me," she writes. The reader comes away glad that she's being taken care of and that she is enjoying herself at last.
5 of 5 people found the following review helpful
Winning, cathartic, but frustrating. Jan. 5 2012
By laureliz77 - Published on Amazon.com
Format: Hardcover
As a sufferer of a severe food allergy, I thoroughly enjoyed this book. Never have I read something that I related to so fully. Beasley's anecdotes about foolish teenage risks, dating, the desire to feel normal trumping the desire to feel safe, and family misunderstandings could have easily been ripped directly from my life. Finally, someone has written an open, honest chronicle of the challenges faced by those who must navigate a world in which food is social currency whilst constantly having to turn it down.

A few words of caution:

1. I can entirely relate to the impulse not to take an Epi-Pen. I've done it on far too many occasions, and it often saves hours of hassle (ambulance fees, IV drips, emergency rooms, doctors who keep you there hours beyond resolution "to be safe," or worse, doctors who ignore you because you "look fine"). I can also relate to the author knowing that this is a terrible idea, as anti-histamines are often powerless to dismantle a systemic reaction even as they mask it. I hesitate to endorse her story, however, because so many incorrect assumptions about severe allergies revolve around the idea that a reaction can easily resolve with a little Benadryl. I worry that readers may use this knowledge to dismiss the severely allergic. I also worry that teens, already so cavalier with their allergies, might try this method with tragically mixed results.

2. As a peanut allergic individual, I understand how peanut allergy awareness has gone too far. Isolating kids, policing schools for airborne traces of allergens, all seem hysterical reactions that ultimately make kids feel like outsiders, make them the objects of scorn, and do nothing to train them to deal with a world that will in no way be peanut-free. I fly on airplanes and eat in restaurants and, although vigilant, am no worse for the wear after a childhood that featured NONE of these precautions. I am also extremely lucky. In 5th grade, a friend alerted me at the last minute that someone had put a peanut in my sandwich "just to see if I was really allergic." I understand the need to distance oneself from these hysterical parents, to make it seem as though we are the enlightened allergy-sufferers who see how silly all these precautions are. To staunchly claim that these precautions are ridiculous, however, misses the point entirely. These measures would not be necessary if allergic kids were treated as though their needs were manageable, not singled out, and not painted as a lunatic fringe by their allies. We must advocate sensible solutions, yes, but not by presenting concerned parents as quacks.

3. Finally, there is no such thing as a "cautious bite." Tasting something to gauge your response is something we've all done, but it sent me to the hospital one too many times for me to continue doing it.

The strength of this book is its communicating just how desperately we all want to be normal growing up, and how we still want to be. I was recently almost utterly reduced to tears at the thought of finding a me-safe wedding cake that wasn't some specialty food that felt like a compromise. Allergy sufferers need your vigilance, your patience, and your understanding. We'd almost always prefer to go out of our way to help you help us. Treat us that way.
4 of 4 people found the following review helpful
She Makes Things Harder for Herself May 29 2012
By LoveBios - Published on Amazon.com
Format: Paperback
There was some interesting information in this book but what I couldn't help asking myself was 1. Why does she eat out so darn much? 2. Why doesn't she pack her own food? I once read an interview where Donald Trump said that he eats before he goes to parties since he knows he'll be too busy schmoozing to eat (or maybe he doesn't want to be photographed with a mouthful). Why can't Sandra do the same as Donald?

I read about three fourths of the book (some parts just didn't interest me) but don't really remember her talking about any good meals that she had fixed for herself.

I suffer from multiple food allergies also (chili, cinnamon, peanuts, tumeric, etc.) and still eat delicious meals at home. I would have had more sympathy for her plight if she appeared to be doing more to help herself.

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