Landon Robinson’s mom has always told her son to work hard and dream big. When the Copley High School inside linebacker was offered a scholarship to play football for The United States Naval Academy, it was proof he had done both. But, there was one little thing – a peanut allergy – that tried to get in his way.
Landon was diagnosed with a peanut allergy at age 7 and quickly learned the importance of advocating for himself and making healthy choices. This same resilience served him well when COVID-19 canceled his baseball season last year. Instead of sitting idle, he poured his energy into training so he’d be stronger, faster for football in the fall. When he took to the field his senior year, college recruiters took notice.
One recruiter and coach, P.J. Volker, from the U.S. Naval Academy believed Landon was more than a blue-chip player; he possessed the qualities of a Naval Officer – honor, courage and commitment – and offered Landon a scholarship to play football. Landon understood the prestigious opportunity that lay before him, but he also knew a systemic allergic reaction to food can be a disqualifying medical condition for individuals seeking to join the military.
“Landon’s father and both of his siblings are anaphylactic to peanuts so as a family we avoided contact with all foods containing peanuts,” said Patrice Robinson, Landon’s mom. “Landon had never experienced a severe reaction to peanuts because our diet was completely free of peanuts at all times.”
Landon knew to achieve his goal of playing Navy football he would have to take on his opponent – the peanut – the only way he knew how, with the help of his teammates at Akron Children’s Hospital Allergy & Immunology.
“I hadn’t seen Landon for many years so I asked him what his goal was with getting re-tested now,” said Rajeev Kishore, MD, pediatric allergist and immunologist at Akron Children’s Hospital. “He said, ‘I want to beat this allergy so I can play football for Navy and then I want to help my team beat Army.’”
Dr. Kishore and his team got to work.
“Dr. Kishore, Mary George and the entire allergy team were phenomenal. We only had 2 weeks to get Landon clinically re-tested before he could accept or lose his offer from the Naval Academy,” said Patrice. “Dr. Kishore understood exactly what this opportunity meant for my son. With his calm and reassuring nature, he looked at the calendar then he looked at me and said, ‘we are going to get to the bottom of this soon; do not worry.’”
Over the next 2 weeks, Landon was put through multiple tests. First, a skin test; he passed. Next, blood and lab work; he passed. Finally, a 4-hour, 7-step food challenge test where he consumed doses of peanut butter while staff monitored his vitals for any reaction; he passed.
Landon’s mom calls it divine intervention. Landon calls it destiny. Dr. Kishore calls it timing.
“Kids can and do outgrow food allergies over time, with about 25-30 percent outgrowing a peanut allergy,” said Dr. Kishore. “Guidance on food allergies has changed a lot over the years since Landon was last tested so what was standard practice then has changed and it continues to change as science and research prove or disprove our approach to treating and living with food allergies.”
Dr. Kishore notes that once a person is tolerant of certain foods, there’s a very low percentage of redevelopment. For Landon, he recommended he incorporate a small amount of peanut in his diet regularly to decrease the chance of the allergy coming back.
With his peanut allergy defeated, Landon accepted the scholarship to play football at the U.S. Naval Academy. He is thankful for Akron Children’s support and is ready to take on his next goal – beating Army – with the help of his Navy football teammates this fall.
Good luck, Landon!