Share Your Story Feature: Joey DiGangi

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We at My Kid’s Food Allergies want to share YOUR stories about living with food  allergies! To submit your story for a potential feature, check out our Share Your Story page! This Share Your Story Feature is from Joey DiGangi. He is allergic to peanuts and tree nuts. He and his family discovered his allergy when he was nine months old while on a family trip. His story is all about traveling abroad with food allergies and what he learned from his own experiences. 

 

“I graduated from Juniata College in May 2018 and immediately took a job in Taiwan for nine months - which was scary considering I had never been outside the US before and have a severe PN/TN allergy. A few mistakes and a life-threatening reaction later, I was inspired to design a free mobile app to help people with food allergies travel safely.

Lesson #1 - "no nuts" doesn't mean "no nuts, no cross-contamination, no 'may contain,' etc.

I left for Asia with a basic translation written down that indicated I could not have peanuts or tree nuts in my meal. This seemed effective enough, as in my experience, this indicates to servers that your order needs to be kept separate from your allergen(s). This is not always the case - especially in areas of the world that allergies are less prevalent! 

I learned this lesson when I was accidentally given an order with peanuts sitting on top, and my server, in an effort to accommodate, began taking off the peanuts with chop sticks and attempting to hand me back the meal! Fortunately, I saw this and explained (they were quick to prepare a new dish!), but it helped me understand the need for more in-depth explanations.

Lesson #2 - Human error can always occur

Now this may sound like a no-brainer (and it is for me in the U.S.), but when I was traveling, I spent so much time trying to make sure that I had the most effective translations to explain my allergy, that I didn't consider what would happen if mistakes, cross-contamination, etc. still happened despite my precautions. This was the case one morning, when my regular restaurant accidentally included trace amounts of nuts in my sandwich. I started to swell up and have trouble breathing. 

I was lucky...my coworkers were kind enough to take the day off, drive me to the hospital, and translate everything for me so I could get the care I needed. While I was laying in the bed though, I took stock of my situation, and started to create a list on my phone of all of the things that would have gone wrong, were it not for my coworkers' help:

  • I had no idea where the hospitals were.

  • I wouldn't have been able to get there even if I did know where they were.

  • And if I did get to a hospital somehow, I wouldn't be able to explain what was wrong.

This list became the requirements document for the AssureTech Mobile App.”

AssureTech Mobile App is an free app on both Apple and Google play that Joey developed after his travels. His app features: 

  • Effectively translates over 130 allergens in 15 languages (with the top-9 being translated in 30 different languages)

  • Locates the nearest hospital(s) during an emergency

  • Displays a "help" message that can be translated in 30 languages

  • Shows translated instructions for administering an auto-injector

  • Runs Uber inside the app, allowing you to call a ride to the hospital if you aren't able to communicate with a 911 (or other local emergency service) transponder

If you are traveling abroad, be sure to download AssureTech Mobile App! Thank you so much Joey for sharing  your story with us! We’re excited to hear more of your stories and share them. Everyone has a unique food allergy story and deserves to be heard.

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