The day I heard a joke that misrepresented severe allergic reactions on Singapore national radio

by amanda
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Last Thursday, I was driving my older son to swim class when I heard a joke on Power98 Love Songs during Mike and JK’s Power Steering segment. We were late so my focus was on navigating traffic, but what piqued my attention was the mention of how an old lady ate mee rubus which contained peanuts for which she was allergic to. Curious at how this joke would unfold, I turned the volume dial of my radio up a notch. But with an incredibly chatty 6-year-old in my back seat was giving me every detail of how his day went, I only managed to catch 80% of the whole joke.

The bulk of the joke that I did catch, made me raise more than an eyebrow and a ‘WHAT?!’ escaped my breath which captured my 6-year-old’s attention. He realised something had happened and interjected with “what mummy?!, what happened?!”

Did I just hear an outright misrepresentation of how to use an EpiPen from DJs who laughed about it on National radio?

Heres what I heard of the joke

(disclaimer this may not be 100% accurate due to my paraphrasing) An old lady ate mee rubus not knowing it contained peanuts for which she is allergic. She starts having an allergic reaction and has an Epipen with her but doesn’t know how to use it. She calls 911 and the person at the end of the line tells her to check for some area on her chest (look for one side I can’t remember which), and jab herself in the chest, (at this point my 6-year-old demanded my attention LOUDLY from the back seat so I could not catch the next part), it ended with something about the old lady jabbing herself like somewhere in her knee? And then guffaws of laughter from the DJs.

Being a food allergy mum whose son has to carry an EpiPen to school, I had heard enough of the joke to elicit some sort of emotion. Why would an emergency line responder (whom by the way would be well versed in the use of epinephrine injectors) tell a woman to jab the Epipen into her chest?! Not funny at all.

At the risk of sounding melodramatic, I felt my heart racing in that second. I wondered if any school-going children who have classmates with food allergies had heard it.

I could not “unhear” this joke

As I sat in shock and gathered my emotions, an image of my son’s future classmates popped into my head. Would they relate similar jokes to him? Taunt him to maybe stick his Epipen into his chest, or knee just for kicks? An allergy parent’s absolute worse nightmare.

In that moment, I asked myself what I should do now that I had heard it. I could not ‘unhear’ it that’s for sure. I considered maybe I should forget it and treat it as a lack of awareness and ignorance. But that did not sit well when I replayed the laughter of the DJs in my head. And it didn’t help that I found myself wondering if my son’s future schoolmates would do the same.

It’s in moments like these that we create teachable moments where we must choose to stand up for those who, in certain situations like these, might be marginalised.

Let’s Do Our Part To Not Trivialise Serious Food Allergies

In our society (and also in many parts of the world), serious food allergies tend to be trivialised simply because it’s almost an invisible ailment. For normal people who have never encountered severe allergic reactions, these allergic reactions appear immaterial. And in fact, it is true that there’s a full spectrum of allergic reactions which can range from mild to serious.

But for those who carry an Epipen prescribed by their allergists, It’s a sign that theirs is serious enough to warrant emergency medication hence the need to carry the injector everywhere they go.

But for those who carry an Epipen prescribed by their allergists, It’s a sign that theirs is serious enough to warrant emergency medication hence the need to carry the injector everywhere they go.

For this allergic community who carries Epipens, we know for sure that it can be a serious life-threatening situation which can escalate faster than we can react.

So I decided I needed to speak up. And posted a comment on their Facebook page. And also sent an email (which bounced).

The correspondence with Power98 Love Songs

ME: Dear power98 producers, a joke was said on Power98 love songs yesterday on the 10th of Oct at approximately 615pm that centred around food allergic reactions and EpiPen usage. I usually am able to appreciate a good joke, in fact sometimes it is necessary to find humour in our struggles. However, when I heard this joke I did not find it a bit least funny and worse was how it misrepresented the proper way an EpiPen is to be used when the 911 person said to stab it in the chest.

I’m guessing the producers and all parties involved in sourcing for this joke have never encountered a severe allergic food reaction which can render a child lifeless and struggling to breathe. Nor felt the fear, panic and helplessness when you watch your child in the midst of an anaphylactic shock. In such a situation, the EpiPen is the only thing that can arrest these allergic reactions. To joke about the EpiPen and give wrong information on how it’s used it’s not only distasteful, it could frankly be dangerous for those who rely on it to save their lives.

My son is a preschooler who has severe allergies to peanuts dairy and eggs. He carries an EpiPen to school and so does many food-allergic children in Singapore. Myself, together with a local parent support group of children with allergic diseases, are deeply disappointed that a National radio station would air such a distasteful joke without first considering the repercussions. If you were a parent in our shoes, we suspect you would likely feel the same as us.

We understand that sometimes these things happen due to lack of awareness. Thus we view this misstep as an opportunity to correctly educate others who may not encounter this emergency situation. We would like Power98 to correct the joke and also air a segment on allergic reactions and the proper use of the EpiPen. We take this request seriously and await the soonest reply, otherwise, we might consider taking up this issue with IMDA.

POWER98 REPLY: Hi Amanda, We have done our investigations and on behalf of POWER 98 LOVE SONGS, we apologise for the insensitive joke that was made on-air. To make this right, we will ask the DJs to apologise and take the opportunity to engage an expert to educate our listeners on allergic reactions and how to use the EpiPen correctly. Thanks for the excellent suggestion.

ME: Hi power98 thank you for your update. Could you kindly let me know when the apology is happening and also when the allergy segments would be aired as my support group members are aware of the misstep and am asking to be kept in the loop as well? Thank you

POWER98 REPLY: Hi Amanda, the segment will be aired on the Power Steering timebelt between 7pm-8pm today. Thanks for being so patient and understanding.

One win for food allergy awareness, zero for trivialising severe allergic reactions.

So TODAY 17th Oct between 7pm and 8pm, a segment will be aired on PowerSteering to address the joke aired.

Now go spread the word along to all the food allergy community (and also not forgetting to our cheerleaders – all the caregivers who help keep us safe), so that everyone who tunes in will appreciate knowing that we managed to win one back for the allergy team.



Want more information or just say hi, send me a shoutout at amanda@projectsimplicity.sg

Want to join our allergic kiddos parent support group? https://www.facebook.com/groups/speakallergysquad/about/

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1 comment

Rajaraman October 17, 2019 - 8:23 pm

Great job .. radio jockeys sometime think what they say is all hilarious

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