Kyle Caffrey is a celiac warrior and active Nima community member living in New Jersey. Below is a post written by him about his recent wedding and experience with Nima.
This letter is my opportunity to say “thank you”. Thank you to my wife, Maria, for making me the luckiest man in the world. Thank you to my family for traveling to Cartagena, Colombia for our wedding. Thank you to the staff of our hotel, for making sure I was not served gluten or dairy. Lastly, thank you to Nima for allowing me to put my worries aside, and to have the time of my life.
Traveling abroad can be a risk
Living with Celiac Disease can be tough, even at home in New York. I was diagnosed in 2011 and only recently started to feel like I had control over the disease. When my wife suggested that we choose Cartagena for our wedding, a part of me became very anxious; “what will I eat?!” We talked it through, and Maria reminded me of our trip to Colombia in 2016, in which I ate safely. “I ate 20 Kind bars that week”, I said, reminding her of the risks. In the end we decided to take the chance, choosing to rely on her flawless Spanish and Nima to guide us safely. Maria knew what was at risk; if I get glutened I’m sick for 3-6 months. I trusted her. It turned out to be a great decision.
We arrived June 22, 2018 to the emerald-green paradise that is Colombia. We had researched a number of hotels, ultimately deciding to stay at the Hyatt Regency because of its Gluten Free menu and accommodations. The Regency is located in the Bocagrande District, which has tons of shops, and is just a short cab ride to the old city; rich in history – including the beautiful Castle of San Felipe. For our wedding ceremony, we chose the Hilton, located at the tip of the peninsula, on the beach. A beach wedding was something that Maria really wanted, and when they sent us a ‘Celiac menu’, it sealed the deal.
A close call…
Right from the start, this trip was different from the one we’d taken two years earlier. Things were happening fast; we had the wedding rehearsal on the evening of our very first day. The Hyatt had made a notation on my room number, indicating my Celiac Disease and dairy allergy. That meant that I could order food from any of their three restaurants – including the pool bar, and they knew to take precautions. At the end of that busy first day, our family met at Kokau, the hotel’s main restaurant. When it arrived, I was starving and ready to devour my red snapper whole, but after years with Celiac Disease I knew better – I had to test. Three minutes later Nima displayed the dreaded “Gluten Found”…I remember feeling disappointed, but much more than that I felt relief. That was a close call.
Thank you to Lucia, the most beautiful flower girl in the world.
Nima testing at the wedding
The wedding was a blast! I Nima tested dinner – Paella, and got a smile! After slow dancing to “Stand By Me” by Ben E. King, we returned to our seats to find desert waiting! I picked up a cookie, but something wasn’t right. These didn’t look like the Gluten Free cookies Maria had brought from back home (Om Sweet Home Specialty Bakery in Cliffside Park, NJ). To be sure, I tested – Gluten Found! At the last moment, a staff member had become confused, and switched out my GF cookies with regular ones. That marked the second time in as many days that Nima had come through.
Tostones, avocado, skirt steak, and rice all tested with a smile! I was able to test them all in one capsule.
Maria’s ceviche and tostones also tested gluten-free!
The Hyatt breakfast buffet on the 30th floor had gluten-free pandebono every morning. Colombians usually cook scrambled eggs with milk, but the chef cooked mine with olive oil every morning instead. I ate this food every day with fresh fruit and never had an issue.
The local grocery chain Olimpica, had a health food isle with a number of items marked Gluten Free. Here is the popular German brand Schär, with extra chunky Skippy PB.
This chocolate with macadamia nut bar was excellent. Notice the bottom right is marked “Safe for Celiacs”.
Corn chips — I tested and ate them all. Safe!
Corn crackers — I tested and at them all. Safe!
Unbelievably, after two of my earliest Nima tests came back positive for gluten, I didn’t find any for the rest of the trip. The management at both the Hyatt and Hilton made sure that no other mistakes were made. All told, I ran more than 20 Nima tests during our trip. I hope that they serve to guide other members of the food allergy community in the same way that others have guided me.
Thank you Nima,
Kyle & Maria Caffrey