Wednesday, July 29, 2009

Preparing for the Worst

For whatever reason, Brody’s mind has been on anaphylaxis lately. I’m thinking it may have to do with the fact that summer seems to be slipping by too quickly and another year of school is fast approaching. A couple of nights ago as I was tucking him into bed, he started asking me question after question about his allergies. Some of these included questions about past reactions he has had, scenarios of future reactions he could possibly have (especially at school), questions of how epinephrine actually helps stop an allergic reaction, what to expect during an ambulance ride to the hospital, etc…This went on for 2 hours. At one point he told me that he wishes that he had already experienced using an EpiPen so he would know what to except as far as pain from the needle and how quickly the medicine would help make him feel better. I couldn't agree more. There have been 2 times in Brody’s life that he absolutely should have received an EpiPen shot for a serious reaction, but unfortunately he never did. The first time was when he was only 13 months old. After grabbing his brother’s peanut butter sandwich and taking a nibble, he began projectile vomiting within minutes, but at that time we didn’t even know that he had food allergies yet and therefore no EpiPen. The second time was about 3 years later and was by far one of the scariest moments of my life. This time the poison to his little body was a tiny amount of milk when he accidentally took a sip out of his cousin’s cup instead of his own. Within 30 seconds he was clawing at his tongue because it “burned”, he was coughing and wheezing, he felt sick to his stomach and weak, and his face was flushed and broke out in hives. It was a terrifying experience. But yet we didn’t give him the EpiPen. Why? Because unfortunately up until that point we were very ill-informed from our allergist. He had told us that the EpiPen was to be used if Brody was ever exposed to peanuts again. He never once told us that some kids do have anaphylactic reactions to foods other than nuts, such as milk. In fact we were told that most children outgrow milk and egg allergies by school age and that these were most likely not very serious and would probably only cause a flare of his eczema if he was to accidentally ingest them. So in my mind at that moment of the reaction all I could think was “What in the world is going on? This shouldn’t be happening!”. I was completely overwhelmed and mentally unprepared for the whole experience. Thank God (!) the allergic reaction started to calm down after a dose of Benadryl and a couple puffs from his inhaler. But when I spoke to the allergist the next day about what had happened, he said “you’re lucky he’s alive”. Those words are forever burned into my memory. I still replay that night in my head over and over and beat myself up about it constantly, but I also know that because of that experience I will never hesitate to use the EpiPen again when Brody has another severe reaction. Notice I said when, not if, because odds are that Brody will experience more life threatening reactions throughout his life as unfortunately accidents are never planned.

The day after Brody asked me all those questions about his allergies, I decided we should dig out one of his expired EpiPens and practice injecting it into an orange to refresh his memory of how it all works and then we used an EpiPen trainer to do some role playing. He seemed to feel much more at ease and satisfied after we did this. As parents it is up to us to educate and prepare our children for how to keep themselves safe and healthy, and for Brody that includes knowing how to save his own life with an EpiPen.

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