5-year-old Emma Vigrass was getting ready for kindergarten and was excited and a little nervous. To address her anxiety, she wrote a book about her food allergies and wanted to help her classmates understand more about her challenges and chronic illness.
“Emma, like any child, had a lot of emotion about starting a new and exciting chapter in her life,” said her mother, Casey Vigras. “The only problem for her was how her new friends and teachers would react to her allergies and dietary restrictions.”
So the mother devised a plan to make her daughter’s dream come true. The result was the recently published book Kindergarten, Here We Come: The Allergy Story.
Produced by Palmetto Publishing, this book is about helping children with allergies and illness-related concerns stand up for themselves and educate others in kindness. Emma, both in book and in real life, suffers from a chronic esophageal disease called eosinophilic esophagitis (EOE). This book describes the impact of EOE on a girl’s daily life.
The condition can lead to asthma and acid reflux, which Vigrass said was difficult because Emma vomited during her first year as a baby.
“As a new mother, I didn’t know what to do,” she said.
It took parental persistence, multiple doctor visits, and finding the right allergist and doctor at the Medical University of South Carolina (MUSC) before arriving at a proper diagnosis. means that you can only eat certain types of food, and must be free of eggs, dairy products, wheat, peanuts, and tree nuts.
Emma, who lives on Johns Island with her mother, father and one-year-old sister, wrote this book with the help of her parents.
Her babysitter, Enrique Boyd, is a talented artist who did all the illustrations. said the mother. “We adore illustrators,” he said Vigrass.
She also said creating the book and working with local illustrators and publishers was a fun process.
The first copies of the books were delivered just before Thanksgiving, and Emma was able to pass them on to family and friends over the holidays. “That pride and ownership was inspiring,” says Vigrass. . “It’s amazing to see her step up in her confidence.”
Emma attends Compass Collegiate Academy, a state public charter school for grades K-2 in downtown Charleston. According to Vigrass, the school accommodated Emma’s food allergies and teachers recognized her work as an author.
MUSC associate professor, pediatric allergist and immunologist Dr. Kelli Williams has been treating young patients since 2015.
When Williams received the book in the mail in her office, she said she was completely floored. said all the nurses were ecstatic about it too.
On the first page, Emma devotedly writes: Specifically, Dr. Kerry Williams – I am so grateful for the patience and grace she has shown me and my family on this EOE journey. ”
Williams explained that EOE is another type of food allergy, and signs and symptoms in young children can make diagnosis difficult. “It can be frustrating for patients, parents and healthcare providers,” she said.
As a mother of two, Williams prioritized Emma’s health and praised Bigras for seeking answers. “She had her mother’s instinct that something was wrong,” Williams said.
Treating EOE requires a multidisciplinary team, ranging from gastroenterologists to allergists, to work together to provide care and monitor symptoms that can change over time.
Most kids are nervous or anxious about going to school for the first time, but Williams said it takes it to a new level for kids with food allergies. What I really like about is how it highlights the anxiety surrounding food from a child’s perspective,” she said.
“It’s great that Emma and her mom are so open about announcing this,” Williams said. We hope it will be on our bookshelves.”
Emma and her mom did their first ever book signing at a recent holiday market on Johns Island in December. At her booth, Emma handed out purple pencils with the words “Emma Explores” engraved on them. It’s the name of a series “that aims to leverage Emma’s experience with food allergies and chronic illnesses to help all children navigate their new environment with confidence,” their website says. according to.
Vigrass said the next book in the series will likely address allergy awareness around holidays and birthday parties. “Emma can’t eat pizza or cake. We don’t want her to feel isolated,” she said. “We want to help her become an advocate for herself.”
To learn more about Emma Explores, or purchase a copy of the book, visit emma-explores.com.