“Vishnu, open your mouth”, my mom said to my cousin as she fed him her homemade gulab jamuns. I could not eat gulab jamuns- the most delicious sweet from India – since I was allergic to the wheat in it. Jealousy and envy filled my heart; however, my face wore an emotion of disinterest and negligence. I wanted my mom to feed me those sweets but I knew the consequences were too much to bear. Once when I was five years old, I accidentally ate cashews thinking they were Jolly Ranchers; I ended up in the ER for a day. First, my face bloated and then my throat shrunk. My cries for aid- “Help me now! I am choking”-to my senile grand dad’s ear, sounded like “Give me more, I am starving”. I started scratching my neck, feeling the hives that had started to form. I rushed to the bathroom to throw up because my throat was uncomfortable and I felt a weight on my chest. I was experiencing anaphylactic shock, which prevented me from taking anything but shallow breaths. I was fighting the one thing that is meant to protect me and keep me alive – my own body.
I could not figure out what had happened. All I knew was that I felt weird, and I was waiting for my mom to give me something to make it better. I thought my parents were superheroes; surely, they would be able to make me better again. However, I became scared when I heard the fear in their voices as they rushed me to the ER.
After that incident, I began to fear. I became scared of eating, death and even my own body. As I grew older, I became paranoid about checking food labels and I avoided eating if I did not know what was in the food. I knew what could happen if I ate one wrong thing, and I was not willing to risk it for a snack. Eventually, that fear turned into resentment; I resented my body for making me an outsider.
I could not enjoy even the simplest joy of strolling across the garden without being scared to death of experiencing that excruciating pain again, from sand on the ground to the pollen on the flowers, there were fifty things within my arm’s width that could kill me. The only way I could travel to any garden was through watching the Discovery channel on the television.
I saw the outside world through a new window only that this window was like a portal to infinite realms. I learnt about different cuisines, languages, lifestyles and cultures. Through this positive reinforcement of seeing good food on TV, my fear of the unknown gradually faded away. Moreover, I learned about allergies on “Discovery science”, as Bobby Bognor explained, “Some studies say allergies are caused by absence of specific enzymes in your body”. This sparked an idea in my head; I wanted to find a way to help kids like me. I wanted to find a solution so that nobody would have to feel the way I did; nobody deserves to feel that pain, fear, and resentment. As I learned more about the medical world, I became more fascinated with the body’s immune responses, specifically, how a body reacts to allergens.
I wanted to design a computer simulation, which would simulate injecting enzymes that are missing in people’s body and how they react to it. The simulation could rely on neural networks trained on in-vitro or patient data to extrapolate immune responses in individuals with allergies. Curing allergies is not that simple. I hope that one day I can find a way to stop allergic reactions or at least lessen the symptoms, so children like me could have a tasty gulab jamun from his or her mother’s hands.