Monday, September 24, 2012

An Allergy Scare

As a bit of background information, our son has several severe food allergies including peanuts, milk and eggs.  I was overwhelmed with what that meant at first, but over the last 3 years I feel like I've kind of gotten a handle on the whole allergy thing.  Our little man has had some pretty nasty looking reactions, but they have all been skin related.  I thought that we had dodged a bullet in not having to deal with the anaphylaxis side of food allergies, but I got a pretty big wake-up call.

We had a bit of an adventure yesterday.  It was something I hope I never have to experience again. I am still a little shaken up, but I feel like this is an important topic - at least it is for our family.  I also think it is important for people who do not have the experience of living with severe allergies to understand how serious a food allergy can be.

So here's the story:

We had just gotten home from church and started making dinner. Our son was playing with some toys on the kitchen floor when I heard him clear his throat - then again a few minutes later.  I looked over at him and asked if he needed a drink.

 "No *gasp* I No *gasp-cough* need drink".

 Then a few seconds later it happened again.  This time I looked over and saw the tell-tale scratching behind his ears.  That is a sure sign that he's gotten into food that he shouldn't have. I crouched down by him to see if the hives had started.  The horrible red welts were materializing right in front of me.  With each breath the wheezing gasps were getting worse. We did not have an epi-pen (that is a story for another time) so I jumped up and grabbed a dose of Children's benadryl.  In just that short amount of time the hives had spread down his neck, and his chest was heaving with the effort of trying to breath.

I yelled to my husband who was upstairs and had him come down and administer a priesthood blessing to our little boy.  Our son was blessed that his body would be able to function on it's own until we could get to the hospital and get the care that he needed.  I am so thankful that we had that source of comfort in those very scary couple of minutes.

We frantically grabbed our keys and headed for the door. Meanwhile the little man was terrified and trying to cry out between wheezes.

 "No *gasp* leave *Wheeze* me! *cough*"

Thankfully the hospital is about a 2 minute drive from our house.  We decided we could get there faster than an ambulance could come to our house so I held him on my lap as we drove the couple blocks to the hospital.  I don't think you can truly appreciate how scary food allergies are until you have held your terrified child on your lap as they gasp for air.  There is an indescribable heaviness that settles in your chest as you try to fight your own panic and keep your little one calm.

In just the 2 minutes that it took to reach the hospital our boy could no longer talk.  His voice came out in a wheezy whisper that you couldn't understand.  I rushed into the ER while my husband parked the car.  I felt rude interrupting the women at the front desk, but I knew that with how quickly he was deteriorating that the little guy needed to get some care as soon as possible.  They rushed us into triage and immediately back into the ER.  The nurses had an IV going in a few minutes and gave him antihistamines and steroids to relax his airway and take care of the hives.

At that point we could start to relax a little.  I admit that for a while my eyes were glued to the monitor that showed his oxygen saturation.  Thankfully, his levels stayed well within normal limits, but it did send my heart racing every time that number changed - especially while it was during a wheezing or coughing spell.  The tightness in my own chest would grip tighter and tighter as the numbers counted down and I would slowly relax as they came back up to normal.

While we were waiting to be released from the hospital we tried to figure out what our little guy could have eaten.  We found out that his regular caretaker at church was not there and that the substitute, unaware of his allergies, had given him some goldfish crackers that contain milk.  It would have had to been quite a delayed reaction, but that is the only thing we could think of that would have caused such serious symptoms.

In about an hour since we arrived at the hospital the hives had faded away and the little man was in a fitful sleep.  In a little more than 2 hours we we getting ready to go home.  By the time we got home we had a little boy who was tired and grumpy and had nothing on his mind but chicken nuggets.

This morning he is just my normal little monster - He's jumping off the furniture and making more messes than I can keep up with.  but do you know what?  Being worried that you might not bring your baby home has a way of putting things in perspective.  I think I'll worry a little less about the unimportant things and spend a little more time on the things that truly matter.

So what did I take away from this experience?

  • An Epi-Pen!  I am so thankful that we have that option now.  I never want to feel so helpless again.  I think that having an epi-pen will help me feel a little more empowered and in control if something like this ever happens again.
  • I learned to ACT QUICKLY.  I am usually the kind of person that puts off going to the doctor.  If I can take care of something at home, that's what I do - But breathing problems are nothing to mess around with.  Our little guy went from absolutely no symptoms to not being able to talk in less than 15 minutes.  It is better to be safe than sorry.  If someone shows symptoms of anaphylaxis ACT IMMEDIATELY.  Those few minutes could be the difference between life and death.  Don't take chances.
  • NEVER assume that people know about the allergies your child has even if you've told them before.  It is so much better to remind or explain to someone about your child's allergies than to risk their well-being or even their life.  TALK TO PEOPLE.  Let them know what is going on, and what to do in the event of an allergic reaction. Post signs in day cares, for babysitters, etc.  I learned that you will never regret doing too much, but it is very possible that doing too little could have very serious consequences. Like an allergy awareness group in Austrailia says "Complacency Kills"
  • I was reminded how thankful I am to have the gospel of Jesus Christ in my life.  I am thankful for my knowledge that our family will be together forever.  I am thankful for the testimony I have that our Heavenly Father knows and loves us - that I can trust that whatever happens is meant to help us and make us grow - Even if it is a very trying and difficult experience.
  • I realized how grateful I am that I have a husband who can act in the name of our Savior to bless his family and that he is willing and worthy to exercise that power.  I truly believe that the priesthood blessing that our boy received kept him from more serious consequences.  
  • I am thankful for friends and family who are understanding and willing to support our family - whether it is just keeping us in their prayers, or making a special effort to keep our little guy safe while still making him feel included.  We greatly appreciate everyone's efforts.
  • I am also thankful for modern medicine. I think we take it for granted sometimes.  It really is a blessing that we have so many amazing medicines and technologies available to us. I am also thankful to the doctors and nurses that take care of us.  I think that ER doctors and nurses have an especially thankless job.  The people that they care for are usually just focused on surviving, and their friends and family are sick with worry.  I think many times they become the victims of our worry and frustrations.  Next time you get a chance please let your doctors and nurses know that you are grateful for the services that they provide.  
  • Our little guy was extremely blessed/lucky.  I feel sorry for him and even sometimes for myself, but   the truth is that many children have even more severe allergies than him.  Now that I've had a little taste of what that means, my heart goes out to those parents.  I know what it is like to panic every time you hear your child clear their throat.  I know what it's like to check on your kid several times a night to make sure they are still breathing.  I know what it's like to have fear grip your heart when you leave your child with a babysitter because you know you won't be there if he has a reaction. And I know all those worries are exhausting.  Please, if you know someone with a food allergy do all you can to accommodate them.  I know that it is inconvenient, but I also know how much it means to the parent of an allergic child when someone makes an effort to understand and accommodate your child.

That was a long post.  I apologize, but this acts as my journal too, so I wanted to be pretty detailed.  Hopefully the next post is a little 'lighter'.  I am on the verge of a no-bake cookie breakthrough that will knock your socks off.  You will want to check back soon!

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