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You can often find 16-year-old Dean enjoying the outdoors doing his favorite hobby: fishing.

“I usually go fishing with my dad and my brother,” says Dean. “My favorite fishing spot is probably Clear Lake, which is northwest of Sacramento.”

Seeing pictures of Dean fishing, you would not know that just a few years ago, he dealt with life-threatening food allergies that severely impacted his—and his family’s—quality of life.

Before participating in clinical trials at the Sean N. Parker Center for Allergy and Asthma Research at Stanford University, Dean lived very cautiously. He was limited by his allergies to milk, tree nuts, and peanuts and often had to miss out on gathering with friends after school. He constantly explained how if someone touched one of his allergens, then touched his food, he could not eat it. One small speck of an allergen could trigger a large response from his body, sending him into anaphylactic shock and cutting off his airway.

This constant threat from allergens also influenced how his family traveled. They only visited locations with a hospital nearby and had to cook their own meals in their hotel room out of fear of cross-contamination in a restaurant.

Dean’s family visited Packard Children’s Hospital when he was in the third grade. They met with Drs. Steven Rubenstein and Kari Nadeau at the Allergy Center to assess Dean’s allergies. He was quickly enrolled in a clinical trial, returning to the center every two to four weeks to receive treatments that helped his body stop having life-threatening allergic reactions.

Dean recalls, “I remember when I went there, I was scared because I knew I was going to eat things that I was allergic to.”

As Dean participated in the trial, his kind care team members provided support and eased his worries. His clinic appointments started by blowing out candles to test his breathing. Then, a blood sample was taken to monitor the small doses of exposure to foods he was allergic to. If he began to have a reaction, he would be monitored closely. All throughout the trial, Dean felt safe and was comforted by the nurses and doctors at the Allergy Center. The results were amazing—today Dean is able to encounter small amounts of his allergens in everyday life without facing a potential crisis. 

As a result, Dean enjoys a lot more freedom today. Dean enjoys hanging out with his friends and camping without being near a hospital. Being in the wilderness led to his love of fishing. Inspired by the world-class care he received at Packard Children’s Hospital and our Allergy Center, last year Dean hosted a fishing tournament benefitting the Center. Dean describes how philanthropy is essential to the care he received, and its benefit for others: “Because people are donating money to the clinic,” he says, “it’s helping a lot more people have the opportunity to try new foods and have a lot more fun and try things that they will love.”

Help us celebrate Dean and all the other brave patients at the Allergy Center by Scamper-ing with us on June 18!