Meals Help You Catch Your Breath

Imagine what it would be like if the detergent someone used on their clothes, a medication you’ve taken for years, or certain foods being cooked in your home could cause you to experience anaphylaxis. Imagine what it would be like if something that didn’t cause a reaction yesterday caused you to stop breathing today. Imagine experiencing anaphylaxis 22 times in two years.

For Jennifer, 36, this is her reality. As a child she was diagnosed with juvenile arthritis, and she was diagnosed with mast cell activation syndrome in 2010. When her husband received a second assignment to Joint Base Charleston in 2020, she was glad to be reconnecting with knowledgeable doctors at MUSC.

Nonetheless, even the best physicians haven’t been able to achieve the ultimate goal—a cure. When Jennifer had to stop taking her arthritis medication, she couldn’t even walk. That’s when she got connected with Meals on Wheels. She was thrilled to learn that we provide meals to support caregivers, and that we also offer nutritional drinks and breakfast bags.

Because of her allergies, Jennifer isn’t your traditional meal recipient. When her husband is gone and a family member comes to provide support, they enjoy the meal so that they can focus on getting Jennifer to appointments and preparing allergy-friendly meals. When her husband is in town, he typically takes the meal to work and enjoys it for lunch. 

Jennifer says, “Having a meal means less stress for my husband, because there’s a lot I can’t do. Allowing him the flexibility to meet his needs as a caregiver has been really helpful—it’s one meal he doesn’t have to worry about.”

Maintaining quality of life has been very important to Jennifer and her family, so they set up a mini-fridge and snack station in her upstairs bedroom. The individual milk cartons and single-serve cereals delivered twice a month are perfect for helping her maintain some independence and saving her trips up and down the stairs. Likewise, the Glucerna shakes come in handy at night or when Jennifer’s heading out to a doctor’s appointment, because she feels best when she eats small amounts at intervals throughout the day.

Jennifer especially enjoys the fresh fruit and is looking forward to peaches this summer, and her family’s favorite meals are chili with corn pudding, egg frittata, spaghetti & meatballs, and egg roll in a bowl. 

“My mom even makes her own version of egg roll in a bowl now when she’s back home in Mooresville,” Jennifer says.

While she doesn’t interact much with the volunteers because of the risks to her health, she does enjoy waving and saying a quick hello from her upstairs porch. Still, her absolute favorite thing is when she receives a handmade card with her meal delivery.

“They make my day and make me smile. They absolutely light up my life,” Jennifer says.

Being eligible for Meals on Wheels is life-changing for Jennifer and her family, who were used to other communities where meals are only offered to those on Medicare. There’s always a lot to juggle with her husband’s military career and raising their son, so the support means a lot. They continue to take things one day at a time and make the most of every day!