Thursday I wasn’t feeling well. I woke up the night before on the verge of vomiting and had a dreadful headache. I lay awake in bed perfectly still wondering if or when I was going puke. After an hour my stomach felt better and I fell asleep, but the headache was still with me the next morning.
I soldiered on. That day was my little guy’s christmas concert/ meet santa event. I dread these kinds of things (I dislike crowds) but had already handed off attendance to the previous night’s christmas concert to my 19 year old (she loves crowds).
The kids were cute. My 4 year old was surprisingly non-clueless. It’s a running and insensitive joke in the family, mostly from my 16 year old, that he was not blessed with copious brain cells. Even now he has a bad habit of walking into walls and furniture, and he’s so speech delayed that the few words he does say make him sound… well… slow. He’s very handsome and friendly though so I’m sure he’ll do well in life.
Anyway after the concert they served bagels and dessert in the classrooms where the children were treated to a visit from santa. He was a good santa too- a professional santa by all appearances. He handed out small gifts to the wide eyed children. I scraped the cream cheese off my son’s bagel and licked it off my fingers. I was hungry.
I brought him home then went back out for the older kids who were loaded up with cookies and snacks left over from their classroom holiday parties. And here is where the story begins.
I dumped the kids in the house and crawled into bed. I still was feeling not so great. I buried my head under the blankets and was just about to drift off when my 16 year bursts into my hallway. Mommmm…. mommmmm…
Go away I’m sleeping! (this is my pat response to nap intrusions)
No mommmm I ate walnuts my throat is swelling up.
Turns out some of those cookies contained walnuts. The ingredients were listed in microscopic print on an adhesive label that was torn when opening the cookie container.
I didn’t have my contacts in so the blur of my daughter was on my bed, frantic. I’m gonna die, I’m gonna die it hurts to breathe.
I blindly fumbled for the benadryl on my dresser and gave her two. She could barely swallow them because her throat was swelling. She grew even more frantic saying her mouth was filling with mucous that she couldn’t swallow. Ok, epipen. Blindly went through the guest room (in retrospect I’m not sure why I didn’t take a moment to put in my contacts, I’m -7.5 in both eyes) and found the epipen box. Popped one out, refreshed my memory glancing at the instructions- which I had to hold directly in front of my nose.
I’m gonna die I’m gonna die! by this point she was audibly wheezing. I can’t feel my hands!
You’re not going to die, I told her calmly. You have some of the most sophisticated medicine in the world at your disposal.
WHACK. I jammed the epipen into her thigh and counted to ten. My frantic daughter said she couldn’t feel it- her legs were going numb too.
She was so terrified by that point it was hard to tell what was allergy and what was fear. She still couldn’t swallow so I gave her a towel to spit onto and called 911.
The operator was surprisingly gracious and a fire truck was in front of our house in three minutes, an ambulance three minutes after that. They swarmed the living room like a small army of giants and gave her oxygen. My seven year old, who had been watching the proceedings in shock, was so frightened by the firemen she hid under the table!
My 19 year old daughter- who is downright saintly in her willingness to help- rode with her in the ambulance. At the ER they loaded her up with more meds and watched to make sure the reaction didn’t boomerang. It didn’t and she was home, alive and well, that night.
This is our second brush with death due to tree nuts. The first was with a different daughter who went into anaphylactic shock after eating macadamia nuts in a cookie (she thought they were white chocolate chips). Who knew cookies were harbingers of death? This daughter with the walnut reaction had reacted to walnuts before but not this severely, although she did end up in the ER that time too. Do nut allergies worsen with each exposure? I don’t know.
This begs the question why isn’t there a universal allergen symbol for food products containing these ingredients? Microscopic print on a label that has to be torn before the food is eaten just doesn’t cut it. There are so many stupid laws and regulations in this country, but having some kind of universal symbol on food packaging would probably save lives and countless medical scares.
Or maybe there should be a law banning nuts in cookies! Who needs nuts when you have chocolate chips and M&Ms?