The moment Paola Luptak and her son, Paul, noticed the plaque on the wall of the burger restaurant where they were about to have lunch, panic struck and they hurried toward the nearest exit.
“We use peanut products and peanut oil,” the sign read — words that have terrified the Luptak/Jakobson family for more than 15 years.
That fear first arrived when Paul was 2 and asked to try some of Paola’s peanut butter toast one day. Before he could even take a bite, his face swelled and he collapsed on the floor.
“It was like a horror movie,” says Paola, who was raised in Grosse Pointe, Michigan, but now lives in Boca Raton, Florida, with her husband, Markus Jakobson. “When you discover that your child has a food allergy, it hits the entire family like a freight train.”
As the years went on, the family learned to manage Paul’s allergies and adopt a vigilant awareness into their lifestyle. The entire family, including Paola’s parents Nina and Jerry Luptak, armed themselves with information about Paul’s life-threatening allergy. They found a valuable resource — and fuel for their passion — in family friend Ron Weiser, who serves on the advisory committee of U-M Mary H. Weiser Food Allergy Center.
“Our whole family is extremely passionate about supporting any type of medical research, especially research that helps children,” Paola says. “Drs. Jim Baker and Nick Lukacs put together a team of world-class doctors and researchers to study the cause and treatment of food allergies. Learning about their work was an impetus for us to put some of our own resources toward this cause that is so close to our family. We are thrilled to be part of the leading center in the United States for food allergy research and treatment.”
The Luptaks now support a professorship for food allergy research, named in honor of Paola’s parents Nina and Jerry Luptak. Garry Huffnagle, Ph.D., is the first Nina and Jerry D. Luptak Research Professor.
“Gary Huffnagle is passionate about his research,” Paola says. “The team at the FAC will come up with answers for so many unanswered questions about food allergies, and those answers will change the world.”