Her voice accelerated. She wanted to get through the recollection far quicker than the actual experience. When Jennifer Kandt talks about her daughter, you can feel the love, adoration and apprehension. Apprehension stemming from the memory of her newborn daughter’s cries. A common sound for new parents to hear, but these cries were different, they were violent. Why?
“My husband and I knew something was wrong within the first 24 hours of birth,” said Jennifer Kandt, CI Expert, Energy Trading organization at DTE Energy. “After nine difficult months filled with hospital trips, misdiagnoses, specialist doctor appointments, enormous medical bills and countless nights with no sleep and an inconsolable baby, our daughter Annaleah was diagnosed with FPIES.”
Food Protein-Induced Enterocolitis Syndrome (FPIES) is an uncommon disorder, predominantly affecting young children, that is an allergic reaction in the gastrointestinal system causing profuse vomiting, diarrhea and pain. Unlike traditional allergic reactions, there is no way to test to see if a child suffers from FPIES, or what foods will stir a reaction.
Jennifer was desperate for solutions. While nursing, she trimmed down her diet to fewer than 10 foods to try to avoid any reactions. Jennifer’s health and livelihood were suffering; meanwhile Annaleah developed trauma from her severe reactions and had to start food therapy at seven months old.
The lack of awareness surrounding the disease and consistent misdiagnosis as a result, led Jennifer to work with the International FPIES Association (I-FPIES) to create Michigan’s first FPIES support group and charity walk, “Walk for Weah.”
“Walk for Weah” is an annual walk to generate awareness for the disorder and to raise money for I-FPIES. Heading into its 5th year, the walk has raised more than $11,000 for the non-profit. The walk takes place in Plymouth and serves as a fundraiser, while also giving families that have been affected by the disorder a day to get away from the constant struggles they face.
Jennifer commits her personal time and money towards the support group and charity walk. And she started it all, while dealing with health problems of her own.
During Annaleah’s treatment, after already being diagnosed with cervical dystonia, Jennifer ruptured a disc in her back that resulted in surgery. Soon after that, she was diagnosed with epilepsy. The burden these problems produced could have been insurmountable to many, but not Jennifer.
“I think I was born with a survivor mentality,” Jennifer said. “My grandpa was a holocaust survivor and I think his fortitude passed down to me and kept me positive.”
“Every day I just tried to be the best mother, wife, family member and employee I could be.”
Thanks to support from DTE, Jennifer was able to juggle Annaleah’s health problems, her own and still be an indispensable member of her team.
“For the past 10 years, I have had the pleasure to work with Jen and witness her passion and dedication,” said Richard Rayappan, Director, Trading Risk Management and Accounting at DTE Energy. “Allowing her the flexibility, to put her and her family first, was the most important matter at hand.”
Today, Annaleah’s condition has improved drastically. She was declared FPIES free in Oct. 2018 and is working, with the help of her family, to overcome the trauma this disorder brought. When asked how her family survived the stress, turmoil and pain, Jennifer was finally able to take a breath. Her response was blunt, but it resonated.
“We just did.”
If you’re interested in getting involved with FPIES or the “Walk for Weah”, visit the Facebook event page.