For someone with severe food allergies, eating out at a restaurant can be an impossible task. Even if a restaurant offers allergy-free foods, some people are so sensitive that the slightest cross-contamination can be dangerous. That’s why at six and a half years old, Isaac Estes has never ordered from a restaurant, until now.
When Isaac was four months old, he was diagnosed with life threatening allergies to dairy, eggs, peanuts, and wheat, among other foods. His mother, Holly Garrett, told TODAY that she started to notice something strange with Isaac’s skin. Even though she was breastfeeding him and hadn’t started to feed him solid foods, he began to develop what looked like burns on his body. She took him to the doctor and was told it was cradle cap, a skin condition caused by excessive oil production.
But Garrett had a suspicion that cradle cap was not the issue. Since she only breastfed him, she started to wonder if Isaac was reacting to the food she was eating. She was right.
Isaac is so allergic to some foods that even touching it will make him have a reaction.
Isaac’s severe allergies means that he has to be extra careful about almost everything. However, Garrett says she doesn’t want it affecting the way her child lives his life, especially since food is almost everywhere. She described a particular instance where Isaac was at school and another student’s cheese pizza touched his arm.
“His arm was very itchy and covered in welts from the cheese on the pizza,” his mother told TODAY. “It is a daily, sometimes hourly, struggle.”
When the family goes out to a restaurant for a meal, they have to be extremely careful. Garrett always packs Isaac a separate meal, but she says she feels bad that her child has to eat the same food he eats at home, while everyone else gets to enjoy something different.
So when the family went on vacation to Florida, Garrett found a restaurant that accommodated people with serious food allergies.
In a post she shared to the restaurant’s Facebook page, she wrote that she first called LuLu’s in Destin, Florida to make sure that the restaurant could accommodate her son before traveling the 30 minutes to get there with her party of 13. After she was told about the restaurant’s various food allergy-free menus and was assured that the food on those menus was prepared in an entirely separate area of the kitchen, she and her family decided to give it a try.
“When the chips were first sat on the table, he looked at me with a huge smile and said, ‘Is all of this for me?!'” Garrett said of her son’s reaction.
She told TODAY that throughout the meal, Isaac was hesitant, frequently asking her if the food was safe for him to eat, and she was happy to tell him that yes, it was.
Being able to order food at a restaurant may not be a big deal for some, but for Isaac it was monumental.
After sharing her experience on the restaurant’s Facebook page, hundreds, including a restaurant representative, left comments.
“This is one of the best posts we have ever seen on Facebook!” wrote LuLu’s. “It literally brought tears to our eyes.”
Other parents of kids with food allergies also left comments sharing similar experiences they had at Lulu’s, while others thanked Garrett for giving them a new place to try when they go on vacation to Florida.
Garrett says that while she knows that other restaurants do cater to the needs of someone who suffers from food allergies, she hopes more will follow. She also told TODAY that she also wishes for a LuLu’s in Nashville, Tennessee, where the family lives, so they can go all the time, but until that day happens, they’ll always make sure to vacation near LuLu’s.