I’m not going to bore you with the details of the other reactions, just the last one I had. Well, actually I’m kidding. I’ve only had two reactions in my life, the first and the last, and if you read about this one you’ll understand why.
Other than carrying the ana-kit I really didn’t change much in the way that I managed my food. Like I said before I avoided for 20 years, so shouldn’t be too hard to avoid for 20 more. I was still in college and once again working late, but this time I went to a different, closer coop on campus for dinner. Still on the student budget, and the other houses offered reciprocal guest privileges for meals. My house was sponsoring an open party that night, and I had the alcohol in my car, so I was going to eat, finish the project and get home. The party theme was “The (annual) End of the World Party”. Oh, the irony.
The food was great! and the dessert was a chocolate chip cookie in a pan. I love dark chocolate, but milk chocolate not so much, some chocolate gave me a ‘funny’ feeling, that feeling of “you shouldn’t be eating this”, like hershies kisses. Was it cross contaminated? No idea, but I never had a problem with chocolate chips. So yea, I thought the flavor of chocolate was inherently nutty, but I never had a problem with it. So I ate some cookie, sweet, chocolaty, …but uh oh, I got that feeling … “you shouldn’t be eating this.”
This cookie was big enough to serve about 100 people (It was a big house.), it was over four large cookie sheets. I was talking to the president of the house and the cook. The cook said that they added a secret ingredient to the cookie dough. It was a couple tablespoons of peanut butter. I turned to the president of the house, thinking to myself, “I know how to handle this’, and said I needed to go to the hospital right away. Luckily, I had a car, but I needed him to drive me. We got to the ER and remembering what had happened to Mark the previous time I told him he didn’t need to wait around, but if he would please deliver the alcohol to the party for me.
I went up to the admitting desk and told the nurse what was going on. I am deathly allergic to peanuts and inadvertently ate some and I needed to be admitted right away. She looked at me and handed me a clipboard with a form to fill out… “WHAT??” I thought. “This is serious, I need to be admitted right away.” She asked me what my symptoms were so I told her, and she politely asked me to please fill out the form.
It was a short form and I did quickly, and they put me in a wheel chair, brought me in and placed me on a bed… for observation. “Excuse me doctor, this is very serious, aren’t you going to treat me?” “I’m sorry” was the reply, “there’s nothing we can do until you start showing symptoms.”
So, before I continue let me say that that statement is WRONG. There is something that can be done and ABSOLUTELY SHOULD BE DONE! If someone is having an anaphylatic reaction, from food or otherwise they should be administered IntraMuscular Epinephrine (IM epi) a.k.a. EpiPEN as SOON AS POSSIBLE. There is no downside to one dose. If the victim doesn’t have the medication on them then ASK EVERYONE. Most likely someone will have one. DON’T WAIT. Administer it in the upper thigh, hold in place for 10 seconds, massage the site. Call 911.
With any medication there are risks, but administering one dose and then determining the next course of action is lower risk than not giving the medication. Once the medication is in the system you’ve bought yourself some time.
If you want to read more about this:
Eating Peanut: Hesitation: There are a growing number of visual images and sensory memories I carry around with me in my head — I think of them as …
Anaphylaxis: What happens?
When we say that a person has anaphylaxis, what is happening inside his or her body?
Wait a minute, last time I was here I had all the attention in the world, this time the nurse came by every few minutes to check in on me. What don’t these people understand about Emergency Room? I wouldn’t be here if it wasn’t an emergency. I was dumbfounded and confused (another anaphylaxis symptom, in case you weren’t aware.) I’m not sure if this was relevant or not, but last time I ate peanuts on an empty stomach and the reaction started right away and ramped up over about 15 minutes. This time I ate the peanuts after a full meal and now I’m sitting there 10, 15, 20, 25 minutes and all I had was an itchy throat. I actually had a bunch of other real symptoms, BUT I JUST THOUGHT I WAS FEELING THEM BECAUSE I WAS SCARED, I didn’t realize they were real symptoms. The nurse had just checked on me again. Taken my vitals and noted in the chart. So I laid back in bed for a little while, wondering what to do next.
I didn’t have to wait long. One minute I’m laying there and then I feel this wave wash over me. I sit up and bed and call out to the first person walking by “Excuse me”. It was a different nurse, she turned and looked at me and cried out something, not sure what. But instantly I was surrounded by medical personnel. They laid me back on the bed then flattened the bed out. It felt like they were doing the same drill as last time; dual IVs, IV epi, but to me it felt different. Very, very different.
I was sure I was going to die.
I didn’t come to this conclusion while I was waiting. It came to me after they laid me down on the table because it felt so different than before. The speed at which the reaction came on was terrifying and it felt stronger, and it certainly felt like the ER personnel weren’t going to be able to treat me fast enough to pull me back.
Did I lose consciousness? I don’t think so.
Did I close my eyes and see a light? No.
Did I see an angel or God? No.
None of those. I was just certain I was going to die.
Not too long ago I was using a razor knife in my workshop trimming a piece of wood. As the knife came around the corner of the piece it was aiming at my left hand and I said to myself “I need to move my left hand”, but before I could the knife slipped and in that moment of time before the knife slashed into my thumb I thought “You idiot, you weren’t careful enough, and now look what is going to happen.”
When I was laying in the ER bed that’s what I thought,
I wasn’t careful enough, this was all my fault and I was going to die.
There was another big difference;
this time I was really, really scared.
The Boy Who Lived
I felt like I was skydiving naked, being chased by the medical team who was trying to catch me and get me into a parachute as we were falling through the air. They succeeded and pulled the ripcord.
How close was it? I don’t really know. My face was swollen and I couldn’t open my eyes, so I couldn’t see the ground rushing at me … but the parachute opened and I could breath again.
What was happening to me? What just happened? What’s going to happen next?
I tried to rest, but I couldn’t. The boomerang. What about the boomerang? You know, when the epi wears off like it did last time? Will this boomerang be the same as what happened before, or will it also be worse this around?
BAM! The boomerang hit me hard, and the medical team responded. Was it worse? I couldn’t tell, I didn’t care, just make it go away … just don’t let me die … Why is this happening to ME??
I am exhausted. I am spent. I don’t know what to do, what to think. I just need to rest.
“But there is no rest for you, my pretty”, says the boomerang. This time I duck and it was a glancing blow. Me and my new friends Epi and Pred pushed the boomerang away one last time. Finally, I could rest.
Meanwhile, back at the End of the World party:
“Where’s Michael?” she asked my roommate, having just arrived.
“He’s in the hospital” was the slurred reply.
“What happened? Why aren’t you there with him??”
“I had to be here, so I could tell you where he was.”
She was energetic, passionate and full of life, everything that I needed*. When she arrived at the ER they told her she couldn’t go in because she wasn’t related. The nurse tried to stop her. Security tried to stop her. Everyone said ‘you can’t go in there’. But I was not at all surprised when I saw her face, my angel.
“What took you so long?” I said teasingly. I could see on HER face that I must not have looked very good. Heck, I felt GREAT, compared to a couple hours earlier, but I could tell she was holding back the tears. Later, she admitted that I looked like the Michelin Man.
I ate the peanuts around 7pm and I was finally released about 5am. She took me home and put me to bed.
* – but didn’t realize at the time.
So that’s it. The back-story… I had to tell you that so now I can tell you the rest of the story of living with Peanut Anaphylaxis.