Lifestyle

Family battles boy's peanut reaction

Logan Gonzales, 7, races off the school bus last Friday after his school day at Crescent Harbor Elementary School. His family is trying to secure a peanut-sniffing dog, to help protect him from a life-threatening allergy. - Liz Burlingame/Whidbey News-Times
Logan Gonzales, 7, races off the school bus last Friday after his school day at Crescent Harbor Elementary School. His family is trying to secure a peanut-sniffing dog, to help protect him from a life-threatening allergy.
— image credit: Liz Burlingame/Whidbey News-Times

Seven-year-old Logan Gonzales made a beeline to his mother Judie one recent Friday, after exiting his Crescent Harbor Elementary school bus.

Her son’s daily hugs are a relief to Judie, who doesn’t know if Logan’s next day at school will trigger another hospital visit. So far, they’ve totaled four in the last two months.

It’s all due to a life-threatening peanut allergy, which Logan was diagnosed with as a baby.

“It’s the worst his doctor’s have ever seen,” Judie said. “If you touch or breathe on him after eating peanuts, he’ll have a reaction.”

Exposure to even small traces of peanut in raw, cooked, oil or butter form could give Logan hives, swell his tongue and lips or send him into anaphylactic shock.

His reaction is so extreme, that he can’t be desensitized by gradual exposure to peanuts.

That’s why doctors say a peanut-sniffing dog could be the best option.

Peanut dogs are trained to detect small quantities of peanuts and alert their owners to danger. The Gonzales family contacted a trainer in Texas, who also trains drug and bomb-sniffing dogs.

“Our plan is that we’d take the dog to school in the morning and he’d sniff out the area,” Derick Gonzales, Logan’s father, said.

The mornings are the hardest time for Logan, after kids have eaten peanut butter for breakfast, he said. Peanut oil can also remain on a person’s hands and face for up to 24 hours.

By middle school, Logan will be old enough to train the dog on his own and have it with him throughout the day.

School officials requested that the service dog be hypoallergenic, but otherwise agreed to the family’s request.

“This is the most serious case we’ve ever seen here,” Lance Gibbon, assistant-superintendent of schools, said of Logan’s allergy.

As a new issue for the district, officials are researching procedures in neighboring areas.

So far, their actions have included giving Logan a peanut-free bathroom, sending a note home to parents encouraging them not to pack peanut products and having students wash their hands after lunch.

While staff have taken steps to keep peanuts out of Logan’s classroom, banning peanuts school-wide may not be very effective, Gibbon said.

“Right now, kids voluntarily raise their hands if they’ve had peanuts and we separate them from Logan,” Gibbon said. “Our concern about banning peanuts and making rules against them is that if a child accidentally packed peanuts, they might be afraid to say something.”

“We don’t want a false sense of security,” Gibbon added.

The school has not ruled out a full or partial ban on peanuts, which has become more common in schools. At Anacortes elementary schools, the district no longer orders peanut products for lunches or breakfasts.

Judie said she is happy with Oak Harbor’s program for her son, but was disappointed with the school’s reaction time. Last week, the family interviewed with Seattle’s King-5 TV, and a Bellingham radio show.

Gibbon said that during Logan’s first three months at Crescent Harbor this year, there were no allergic reactions.

“After a series of reactions, we made changes to the program every time,” Gibbon said. “And we’ve made even more. So far, we’ve had two weeks without issues.”

The school is also considering a fundraiser for the peanut dog, which will cost the family about $12,000, including the cost of traveling to Texas for training.

Logan’s insurance company isn’t covering the cost.

A local woman, Erica Schumacher, has already helped the family raise about $500 toward the $3,300 down payment. Once a stranger to the family, Schumacher said the boy’s story moved her.

“I think the most important thing is that this is someone in our community who can be helped to have a more normal life,” Schumacher said.

Before discovering the peanut dog, Judie said the family was considering home schooling. But they didn’t want Logan to grow up socially isolated.

Logan, who is expecting either a new poodle or labradoodle in the upcoming months, is looking forward to a new friend and a safer school day.

“I’m excited not to go to the hospital that much,” Logan said.

Dog’s cost isn’t peanuts

A peanut-sniffing dog for 7-year-old Logan Gonzales will cost about $12,000. Twelve dogs are currently in training and seven of them have already been reserved. To donate money to his family, contributions can be made to “Logan’s Peanut Dog Fund” at Whidbey Island Bank. The family is also holding a benefit dinner at Angelo’s Cafe Saturday, May 30, from 6 to 8:30 p.m. Tickets are $20 and can be purchased at the Coffee Dock, Indulge Spas and Salon or Angelo’s Cafe. Saxophonist Ryan Rodgers will perform.

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