Ella Basham Gives Back after Learning to Manage Her Food Allergy Fears
Many children set up lemonade stands to earn money for the latest video game or a cool, new toy. Nine-year-old Ella Basham used her lemonade stand to help National Jewish Health treat children with severe asthma and allergies.
“My friend Coralinn and I decided to give the donations to National Jewish Health,” said Ella. “We wanted to help other kids, and National Jewish Health is coming up with ways to help kids with way worse allergies than I have.”
Today, Ella is an outgoing, freckled-cheeked girl with a bright smile and a warm, friendly personality. She is a fourth-grader who loves to read. Just a few months ago, however, Ella’s severe anxiety about her food allergies stopped her from living a normal 9-year-old life.
Ella was diagnosed with asthma, and food and environmental allergies when she was just 16 months old. She and her parents, Annie and Chris, managed her conditions without problems for years. Then, at the end of third grade, Ella began to be anxious and scared about her food allergies.
“She was going to the school nurse almost daily,” Annie said.
Annie and Chris tried everything they could think of to reassure Ella and bring her anxiety under control, but to no avail.
Things came to a tipping point in the summer of 2015 when Annie was eating a salad with nuts in it and reached over to eat a french fry from Ella’s plate. “Ella had a panic attack,” Annie said. Ella was terrified that her mother would somehow expose her to nuts and cause a deadly allergic reaction. “I had never seen this response and knew we couldn’t send her to fourth grade like this.”
A Whole-Child Approach
Annie made an appointment for Ella at National Jewish Health after hearing about the institution’s reputation for treating respiratory diseases and food allergies. Mark Boguniewicz, MD, (“Dr. B” to his patients) a professor of pediatrics who specializes in pediatric asthma and allergies, led Ella’s care.
Ella and her parents were impressed by Dr. B’s wholepatient approach to treating her physical symptoms and emotional needs.
Ella began seeing Mandy Copeland, a clinical social worker in the Division of Pediatric Behavioral Health. The Division is a vital part of pediatric care at National Jewish Health. Faculty and staff address how chronic illnesses affect the emotional and mental well-being of patients and their families.
“Mandy has been an angel for Ella,” Annie said. “She has given Ella the tools and resources to navigate her anxiety, so she can start to self-manage.” For example, Mandy taught Ella a breathing activity she can do if she is feeling anxious.
At Ella’s most recent appointment, she and Mandy had a snack together. To help build Ella’s confidence around nuts, Mandy ate a granola bar containing tree nuts.
Ella also had a surprise for Dr. B and Mandy. She brought in the $25 she raised from her lemonade stand to support the prize closet. Pediatric patients can select prizes from the closet as they reach certain goals during their care.
“Ella feels really good about coming to National Jewish Health,” Annie said. “And I feel like I have a good partner with her care.”