“Everything in our society revolves around food, but I’ve learned to live with it. I remember what it tastes like. And that will have to be enough.” (Photo: GoFundMe)
When many of us think of our favorite memories growing up, our minds wander to colorful birthdays, festive holidays, and family dinners. But how would all of those look if you removed food from them?
Alex Visker, 19, appears to be your typical, successful high school graduate at first glance. He takes his girlfriend on dates, cooks for his friends, and he had a 3.6. GPA. But he can’t eat food.
If he does, he faces days of pain and even anaphylactic shock.
“Our son Alex Visker, who is 19 years old, is allergic to all food,” says his mother, Jodie, on a GoFundMe page set up to help pay for Alex’s college education and medical costs.
“He has been sick for most of his life. From the time he was very young, he had symptoms that included constant nausea, stomach pain, headaches, bone and muscle pain, sudden drops in blood pressure, chest pain, hives, and fatigue and later on, stomach convulsions. He also frequently went into anaphylaxis for no apparent reason. Using epi-pens became a common event.”
“I’m hungry and I want food all the time, but I know it’s not worth it,” the 19-year-old from Leni, Utah, told People in an interview this week. “It’s not worth my life. I feel lucky to be alive.“
Eating — any sort of solid food — is what Alex is explaining is not worth it.
After years of childhood pain, Alex’s parents Kevin and Jodie realized they had to dig for a deeper explanation of his illnesses when he was in 5th grade.
“The sight of food and the smell of food – especially something I used to love – can make me crave it.” (Photo: GoFundMe)
Most doctors were confused by Visker’s symptoms, some even asked if he was lying or being dramatic, suggesting the problem was psychological.
“The one thing that did show up on tests was that he had many, many food allergies, said Jodie. “It became more and more obvious that many of his problems stemmed from what he ate.”
And then the family found Dr. Gerald Gleich, a Salt Lake City allergist and immunologist, who had worked at Mayo Clinic and researched similar disorders. They discovered that Alex was allergic to the proteins found in food, and for the past four years he’s fed himself a high-calorie, nutrient-based formula through a feeding tube.
Gleich prescribed medications and dietary formulas for severe allergies and Mast Cell Activation Disorder, a genetic condition that makes people susceptible to hives, itching, and anaphylactic shock.
"That’s hard because I remember what food tastes like,” Alex told People. “The sight of food and the smell of food – especially something I used to love – can make me crave it.”
Though he missed over 300 days of high school due to his illness, Alex managed to keep his grades up, graduating with a 3.6 GPA.
Alex remains positive about his diagnosis, and plans on attending college for computer programming, which led his parents to create a GoFundMe page. With medications costing about $7,000 a month, there is little room in their budget to pay for college.
“Alex remains an amazing, positive individual,” says his parents on Alex’s GoFundMe page.
“He cooks food for his friends; he takes his girlfriend out for ice cream. He never makes anyone feel bad about eating in front of him. He is just excited to feel good enough to not spend all of his time in bed. He feeds himself through his feeding tube and deals with all of the strange looks and comments with humor.”
Alex closed his People interview with a fact about food in our lives today. "Everything in our society revolves around food, but I’ve learned to live with it. I remember what it tastes like. And that will have to be enough.”
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