As most of the time these things do, it began innocently. My kids have all been passing a cold back and forth, and from all accounts, it's a doozy.
Saturday morning, my 14 year old woke up congested and miserable. He came down stairs and flopped on my shoulder, snotting and hacking. "Take some DayQuil," suggested his older brother and sister, both of whom have been dealing with this cold in various ways for a week or so. "It helps."
So, he took a dose of DayQuil. After he finished it, I handed him his basket of clean laundry and sent him upstairs. As soon as he walked in his room, he started to sneeze.
"God bless you!" we all said in unison.
He continued to sneeze. After the fifth sneeze, he grumpily said, "Stop blessing me!" He proceeded to sneeze twenty-seven more times. Yes, I counted. Must be a heck of a cold, I thought to myself as I got in the shower. I was getting ready to go to a funeral. When I got out of the shower, my older girls told me that I needed to see something, and my son came out of the bathroom into the hall, proclaiming that, on top of it all, he must be coming down with pink eye.
It wasn't pink eye. I've seen that face before - eyes swollen shut, red and puffy - it was an allergic reaction. I asked him how he felt, any chest tightness, and wheezing, and he said no, but I made his sister run for the epi pen as I grabbed his wrist and asked another sister to give me a 30 second count.
She said, "It's 30 seconds" and I said, "His pulse is 100, get your shoes, son, we are going to the ER." I dropped liquid benadryl number 1 in his mouth, grabbed my purse and we were out the door, epi pens and Avi Q's and extra benadryl in hand. i snapped a picture on my phone so I could have it for comparison while I drove.
In case things went south.
On the way, I called his fantastic pediatrician. To epi or no? No vomiting, no chest tightness, no wheezing. If he'd eaten something, then yes, definitely epi pen, because the odds would be that it was a cross contamination issue or an inadvertent ingestion of one of his allergens.
But he'd eaten nothing.
While we drove, she chatted with him on the phone so that she could hear his breathing and see if he was in more distress than he was admitting, and I gave him benadryl #2. The facial swelling appeared to have stopped, but my poor boy looked as if he'd been in a prize fight - and it wasn't going away.
Let me reiterate. No wheezing. No vomiting, not chest pain, no swollen lips, no difficulty breathing. Just - facial swelling.
He handed the phone to me, and his doctor told me that I was safe to drive - but at any time, if anything changed, to pull over, epi pen, and call 911. I promised and hung up, and my kid said to me
It's not your fault. I know it's not your fault. You are a good mom and I know you are going to blame yourself. If I die, I don't want you to blame yourself. You are a good mom. The tears started for both of us and I forced myself to stay calm and get him to calm down because, if he was to get even more upset - well, I knew he'd cause things to escalate. He repeated his words
And that, my friends, is the moment that I became a bit scared.
I called his allergist, and repeated the tale as we pulled in to the ER. As soon as we walked in, and I uttered the words, "Allergic reaction to an unknown allergen", they took him from me and pulled him back.
By the time I was in the room, which was all of two minutes later, he had his shirt off - and it was then that I saw his chest and abdomen covered with hives - his blood pressure was being recorded as 160/100, his heart rate at 110, and he was surrounded by at least ten emergency room workers.
It took two sticks, but he got an IV in place. He was given solu-medrol, high test benadryl and fluids, and we waited for four hours -
and got this super cool bracelet
as well as a chest full of electronic leads, a finger pulse ox, and a bunch of other incredibly necessary items that annoyed my kid
but saved his life.
We were put into a room, told to get comfy because my son would need several hours of observation, and offered a choice of movies on the in room tv.
Three hours in, we'd watched The Pacifier and were midway through some Raven Symone College Road trip movie - the swelling was half was down, his pressure had dropped to 151/80 and his heart rate was down to 73. An hour after that, his pressure was a cool 130/67 and we were cleared to go home with a fistful of steroids, high doses of benadryl every six hours, two follow up appointments
and a stern warning to not take any over the counter medications AT ALL. As in, none.
We don't know what it was. No idea what new allergen is out there. That right there is a high stress situation ready to happen, my friends. in addition to peanuts, tree nuts, neosporin and latex, we have to watch out for - what??
We stopped for chicken nuggets and french fries and super huge milkshakes - after that ordeal, my kid could have eaten whatever he wanted.
I saved the pictures that I took. I am not sharing them here, becuase yowza - but you can believe that the next time someone mocks me for checking labels, insists that food or medication allergies aren't that big of a deal, or refuses to do the responsible thing
I've got photographic proof.