The Scare of My Life.

April 16, 2012 at 8:32 am | Posted in allergies, doctor, motherhood, Parenting | 25 Comments

We were on my neighbor’s porch last night after Lucky’s dinner, having drinks with them. Lucky was blowing bubbles and gathering sticks, and we enjoyed the nice feels-like-summer night.

I watched when Lucky casually popped a cashew in his mouth.

You do that when you have a kid who’s allergic to eggs: you watch what he eats at other people’s house and mentally run through a quick checklist. Has he eaten that before? Any egg in it?

No, but peanuts are okay. No egg. Fine.

Two minutes later, when he climbs into my lap, quiet, I think okay, bedtime. He’s tired. I stand up to carry him home.

And then he gets sick.

It was quick, and just a little bit. And my radar goes up. Shit, I think, what did he eat?

Nothing he hasn’t eaten before. Except the cashew.

By the time I get to our house, he is trying to sniffle though a completely stuffed up nose. And I’m alarmed, but I think well, maybe when he got sick some went into his sinuses and it’s clogging him up. I ask him to take a deep breath, and he can, and I think, Ok, he’s breathing fine.

So I take off the pukey shirt and start the bath, and he’s laying down on the mat in front of the tub and crying. He says, I can’t HEAR from my ears!

And I see the hives running down his arm. I think: he needs benadryl. So I rummage through the upstairs cabinet. Tylenol, advil, claritin. No benadryl.

I find it downstairs. And I pour a teaspoon and a half into the cup, and go upstairs and have him drink it, telling him it’ll help him breathe better.

And he takes it, but he’s crying. And now I’m terrified now, inside. Something is VERY wrong.

I ask him to breathe deeply again, and he can, no issue.

WTF do I do?

Internal alarms are jangling. I haven’t been this scared EVER. But he’s breathing. That’s okay, right?

I call my best friend, the one with the host of food allergies, the one I KNOW will tell me what’s what. The one who recently had an ER visit because of cross contaminated broccoli. I whisper, answer, answer, answer as I hear the phone ring. She answers, and I tell her that Lucky ate a cashew and he threw up and he’s really stuffy and there are hives, and I needed her to tell me if I needed to take him to the hospital.

She tells me, call his doctor now. And so I do. It’s Sunday night, so the pediatrician’s office is closed. So I have to give a message to the call service, which I do. I tell Lucky that I called the doctor, and she was going to call me back and tell me what to do.

Lucky is crying, I want to go to the doctor! And his voice is all garbled, and now I’m really scared.

I call Charlie, who is still on our neighbor’s porch, and I tell him to come home now, that Lucky was having a bad reaction and I thought we might have to take him to the ER. And in the meantime, my best friend texts me that if I had any questions, I should use the epi pen. That it won’t hurt Lucky if he doesn’t need it.

And I’m thinking, where’s our epi pen?

And my stomach sinks. We’ve had an epi pen for years, ever since he was diagnosed with his egg allergy at 15 months. I had recently gotten rid of it, though, in anticipation of getting an updated one. THIS PAST WEEK I went to refill it, and they told me that it was going to cost $341 on the new insurance. And that day, I told them to hold off on filling it. Because, you know, his egg allergy wasn’t bad enough that we’ve ever needed it before.

While I’m thinking this, the phone rings – it’s the doctor’s office. I tell her the same thing I told my best friend, and she asks me, You have an epi pen, right? And I tell her I don’t. And she tells me to get off the phone and call 911.


Charlie’s there, all of a sudden, and we’re getting Lucky out of the bath, who is crying and crying, and tell him we’re going to go see a doctor. We get him into his pajamas, go downstairs, put on our shoes, and get in the car. There’s a hospital with an ER a mile from our house – we’re going there. I make Charlie sit in the back with Lucky, who has gone quiet now. It’s terrifying me, his quiet, and I look back and make him talk to me, even through the garbled.

I get stuck behind a guy going 30 on the way there, and I want to ram him. I’m so scared my kid’s throat is closing, and he’s going to suffocate right there in the car, while I’m stuck behind some idiot on a Sunday night who won’t even do the speed limit, the jackass.

Charlie says, calm down. It’s okay. Everything is okay.

Everything is NOT okay. My kid is really, really sick.

I carry him into the ER with me, snot everywhere, telling him that we were at the hospital and we’d make him feel better soon. Under the flourescent lights inside, I can see that Lucky has hives all over his face, too, and he looks a little swollen.

And the receptionist takes my ID and Lucky’s insurance card and then calls back, There’s a four year old who’s having a pretty bad allergic reaction. Can you come get him? And a nurse appears, and takes us back. And I sit on the bed with Lucky in my lap, and five people appear.

There are nurses and doctors and an EMT and a resident. The come with needles for an IV port and I’m closing my eyes as Lucky screams, holding him, telling him it’s going to be okay, the doctors are going to help him. And the people swarm around, doing whatever they’re doing.

And I say to the doctor, I didn’t have the epi pen. He’s never reacted like this to eggs.

They put a port into his arm, in the crook of his right elbow. They take his pulse and his blood oxygen levels and they give him the epi medicine through the port in his arm. And Lucky screams, It’s going into my arm!! And the nurse gives him another shot in his left arm – what, I’m not certain. But I don’t really care – they know what they’re doing and I don’t care what they have to do as long as they make him better.

Things settle down. The people leave. Charlie goes to do paperwork, and it’s just Lucky on my lap and me. He’s facing out, and I’m rocking him, wrapped in my arms, whispering that I’m here. And we just sit there, and I can feel his breathing even out. And he’s not as garbled sounding breathing, and he’s relaxing in my arms. The medicines are working.

Shortly, a nurse comes in and gives us another medicine – this time a steroid, she says, to help with inflammation.

And I’m so damn thankful that we live so close to the hospital, the dinky ER which, when we talked about it, we’d likely never really use, except for real emergencies.


All in all, we were at the hospital last night for an hour and a half. We got back to the house a little after 9, and Lucky was asleep within minutes. We had to check on him every two hours last night. Every time I went into his room, he was sound asleep, breathing steady.

And this morning, he’s completely fine.

I talked to my best friend last night, who I knew would be worried. And she told me that peanuts and cashews are not the same thing – cashews are tree nuts, where peanuts are ground nuts, more like legumes.

After Lucky was asleep, Charlie and I drank a bottle of wine. And we wondered. Has Lucky had mixed nuts before? He eats peanut butter every day, since the allergist tested him for it when the egg allergy came back. He’s had cereal with almonds in it.

So today I owe a call to his allergist. I want him tested for all tree nuts now.

And $350 or not, we’ll get his epi pen. And will make sure it’s always with us.

Not the way I wanted to learn my kid’s allergic to cashews, that’s for sure.

Thank god he’s okay.



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  1. That is so so so scary. I am so glad he’s okay.

  2. So incredibly scary – made me sick reading it. Glad he’s okay for now, and I hope you figure out exactly the allergy so you can educate him about it as well.

  3. Jesus. That was nice and scary. I know you feel bad about the epi pen but I would have made the same decision based with a $341 co-pay and a kid who never had a bad reaction. Thank god your dinky ER was able to get a line in a child and get the meds in – the one nearby us has had trouble getting lines in Maggie every time and it really pisses me off!

  4. Wow, this is so scary. I was in tears reading it. I hope you get in with the allergist soon and never have to go through something like this again. I am so sorry.

  5. I am so glad he is ok! We have been very lucky that our kids don’t have any food allergies thus far but I do watch them and worry about something new popping up. They do have nasal allergies and I have asthma so I’m always worried about something like that for them. You is awesome though and hopefully the more allergy testing will help you know for sure what to watch out for.

  6. wow – how scary! so glad he is ok. I can’t imagine your fright – my heart was in my throat just reading your post. so so glad everything turned out ok. thanks for your warning to all of us about how fast something like this can happen.


  7. Scary.
    Glad he’s ok.
    Glad you live near the ER.

  8. Terrifying. So glad your baby is ok. My 4 year old son eats peanut butter like crazy, never thought of other nuts being a problem but I will pay more attention now.

  9. Holy crap. Holy holy crap. I am so glad to hear he is ok, food allergies scare the bejeesus out of me. I think extra testing sounds like a brilliant idea. It would never have occurred to me that a kid could eat peanuts but be allergic to cashews.

  10. Such a scare and yeah the difference between peanuts (which gets so much of the allergy attention) and tree nuts does not get the attention it deserves. Glad you did what your instincts told you to do.

    And, it could be that he has been exposed to tree nuts once before with no reaction only to get this reaction the second time. Having him tested will put your mind at ease.

    Take good care of yourself.

  11. Holy Crap!!!
    I am so glad Lucky is better but my eyes are all teary. How completely scary for all of you and thank G-d you guys live so close to the hospital.
    My nephew is deathly allergic to eggs and peanuts but recently got the “all clear” for tree nuts. Even so, I was hesitant to send along Macadamia nuts to their house out of sheer fear for him. I do know someone that is allergic to Walnuts/Pecans but can eat almonds. It sounds like detailed allergy testing is the way to go.

  12. Reading this on my phone while I wait to pick up Bo with tears in my eyes. So scary! So glad he is okay!!

  13. This was so scary, I had to click away and stop reading for a bit. YIKES! So terrifying. Glad he is ok.

  14. Shit Serenity, you had me yelling at my damn monitor. ER runs are a million times worse when it’s for your kid!
    I hope someone figures out why so many kids have such horrid allergies now. Until recent years you never heard the kind of numbers you hear today. Somethings up. I am soooo glad you were RIGHT THERE and you listened to those alarms in your gut.

  15. Yikes! So glad it ended well! We had a mega scare with E the day she came home from the hospital, so I can relate to the fear. (She choked on spitup and couldn’t breathe at all; thank goodness I thought of the bulb syringe b/c it was several minutes before 911 arrived.) It’s terrifying to think (in both of our cases) of how differently things could’ve ended up. So glad you listened to your instincts.

  16. Even though I knew from your FB post that everything and everyone was ok, I still could not keep back the tears when I read this.

  17. How absolutely terrifying. I love the stream-of-consciousness writing, though. A gorgeous post.

  18. Oh my gosh. So scary. The worst feeling not being able to protect your precious one.

  19. Oh, this post terrified me! I’m so glad Lucky is OK…so scary!

  20. I’m glad you’re all OK now. What a terrifying night.

  21. So scary! Glad Lucky is okay. And I always thought either you were allergic to all tree nuts or none, but I once saw my cousin’s daughter get hives from some tree nuts (i forget which) when she’d had others before. I hope the allergist can test for them separately. And in my (limited) experience, dinky local ERs are really good for things that are fairly common (for them, I mean) but where you really need customer care and prompt response time more than anything. Glad you had one nearby.

  22. OMG. Even though I knew this story had to have a happy ending I am in tears. Thank god everything is ok.

  23. That must have been so terrifying. I’m so glad he is old enough to be able to tell you his symptoms. Poor little guy. Poor mom and dad!

    We also live a few minutes from a dinky ER, and last fall I had to occasion to visit it. Totally well staffed and competent. A huge relief.

  24. So glad he is OK! Out of the blue, I developed an allergy to tomatos (of all things) a couple of years ago. Hives, sometimes a bit tight in the throat — very scary. I’ve been dealing with seasonal allergies for many years now, but this was a whole different kettle of fish & really gave me a new appreciation for people with food allergies, & what parents are dealing with. I went to the ER a couple of times (after taking Benadryl), but usually, by the time I got seen, I was feeling better. :p I think the anxiety/panic was the worst part of it all. Fortunately, through careful avoidance, I haven’t had a reaction in over a year now (knocking wood), but I know it’s so hard to keep track of what your kids are eating. 😦 Benadryl usually does the trick for me, but I do have an epi-pen that I carry in my purse, just in case — I’ve never had to use it, but I feel better knowing it’s there. I can’t believe you have to pay $300+ for yours, though! — my workplace medical plan covers the entire cost but even if I had to pay, it would (only?) have been $100. (More reasonable than $300, I think, especially when you have to get a new one every year.)


  25. It’s Jen, Deanna’s friend. On Easter Sunday, our little guy had an allergic reaction to a PB egg that he found and ate. We just had him tested and he’s allergic to peanuts. 😦 I was allergic to peanuts as a child and outgrow that one but I am still severely allergic to all other other nuts. It’s so scary. We just got epi-pens too and I need to stock up on Benadryl. Ryan tested slightly allergic to walnuts, but nothing else. We’ll just avoid, but I dread the worry that comes with this type of allergy. It seems we now have something else in common. Send me an email if you want to chat.

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