So it’s been a while since I have written, sorry. But life has been quite “boring” don’t get me wrong, we have had our every day adventures but those of you that know me, know, I’m not one to blog about the latest cafe opening, kids’ toys or the
Whopper Junior with Cheese Avocado I’ve had for lunch (nothing wrong with it for those that do, but just not my style).
Instead, I have been quietly considering whether or not I’m ready to go there with this post, and after almost a year, I’m
almost ready as ready as I’ll ever be. OneHalf was diagnosed with a nut allergy when she was one. It was no biggie, aside from educating our families (old school parents who think they know best and basically ignore everything we say while smiling and nodding at us).
The reason she was diagnosed was because the first time she had a bite of my peanut butter on toast she had a rash around her mouth, but it subsided within half an hour or so. The second time, she had a rash that spread from her mouth to her neck and chest, runny nose and cough. The hospital did a skin prick test, where they place a tiny amount of various nut oil(s) on her wrist and assess the reactions. The results were in. She was allergic to nuts (as we had suspected). We were told to avoid all nuts and to return for annual testing, which we duly did. The nursery was great and took our concerns with due regard.
My husband’s Our parents, on the other hand, seemed to think that we had constructed this fantasy allergy and would try and hide biscuits in other containers to conceal the fact they may contain nuts. I had to be on my guard. I circulated the health plan which set out what to do, if she accidentally ate nuts. As a good lawyer concerned mother I constructed a draft guideline of what to do while she was in your care. I guess no-one actually read it.
Years passed. Each time we went to a friend’s or family member’s house for lunch I carefully read the packets of any pre prepared food (sometimes digging them out of the bin). I have spent countless hours in Sainsbury’s supermarket reading food labels (which could be a damned sight better FSA). Every time we are at a restaurant we have run through the checklist as to ingredients and cross contamination risks. All of this, not knowing, how mild or bad, her reactions may be. It could be a rash and runny nose, it could be anaphylaxis, where her lips and tongue could swell, throat could tighten and she would be unable to breathe. We just didn’t know. Until we did.
In May, last year, we stayed at my parent’s house. As my mother was going through a hard time with her sister-in-law, I stayed up late chewing the fat. Mr.TwoHalves was off on a work
jolly trip in Barcelona. The next day, the kids were up early. On 3 hours sleep, I woke, got them breakfast, played. Later that afternoon, my mum said to me to have a nap. As any mum knows, the idea of a nap (especially on 3-4 hours sleep) is bliss. I snuggled into bed and was asleep in 5 minutes. Less than 20 minutes later, the house phone rang and woke me. No matter, I thought, and returned to snooze. 2 minutes and it rang again “FFS” I thought, and again snuggled in. The third time it rang a minute or so later, “This is a sign from God” I thought, clearly I am not meant to be sleeping. I dragged my lazy sorry ass out of bed bypassing OneHalf in the bathroom who appeared to be at the sink (washing her hands as she is Ob.Sessed. I thought) to the lounge. My mum, on the phone to a friend, self absorbed discussing the drama of the sister-in-law. As I began to sit on the sofa I saw a bowl of familiar looking crisps, I popped one in my mouth. Peanut crisps.
“OneHalf” I screamed
(ok, not really “OneHalf as that is obviously not her real name). No response. Again, I screamed, and she came in. A skinny four and a half year old scratching at her tongue. “Did you eat these?” I asked. “Yes, Nanny gave them to me.” “What are you doing in the bathroom?” “Washing my mouth, because my tongue itches”. I ran to my handbag and pulled out the anti-histamine, hoping that would suffice, the epipens were there too. Just. In. Case. My mum, in the lounge whilst all this was going on, continued the conversation with her friend about her sister-in-law. “I need a medicine spoon”, I rudely interrupted her flow. She came back with a tea spoon, “No, I need a medicine spoon”, she continued to chat to her friend. OneHalf looked up at me with her huge dark brown (ironically almond shaped) eyes, “I asked if it had nuts in”, she said, looking worried. It had been a long standing “joke” that OneHalf was so au fait with her allergy she would ask if a packet of crisps or some fruit had nuts in. In a second, my heart broke.
After she’d had the anti-histamine I watched her like a hawk. Within seconds, her lips looked plumper and I called the emergency services. Should I use the epipen? The emergency services said to use it if she was struggling to breathe, she wasn’t. Within minutes a paramedic turned up. He took the epipen and was about to use it when a second ambulance arrived, and shortly after, a third. They didn’t use the epipen but strapped her into the ambulance and we set off to hospital. Along the way, I tried to laugh and joke with OneHalf to distract her from the clip on her toe measuring her oxygen and the paramedic looking over her. Within ten minutes she was scratching like mad. Her skin, indescribable. The closest thing I can say, is it looked like a reptile, scaly. And so itchy. She was coughing (struggling to breathe) and I could see on the monitor her oxygen level dropping. The oxygen mask was fixed to her face. Her eyes, puffed up, in an instant. The blue lights and sirens on the ambulance were switched on (“because she’s so itchy. nothing to worry about”, yeah right).
As we flew past the traffic, and people on the street, I saw the looks of bypassers at the ambulance storming by. My heart was crushed. I tried to distract OneHalf with stories of how we were passing my old school. She was in agony. Her face ballooned, angry, red, swollen. Her skin, taken over, my an impassioned diseased looking rash. I heard the paramedics call ahead to the hospital with their ETA and “anaphylaxis” diagnosis. This had been what our nightmares were made of. I smiled at OneHalf telling her we were nearly there and all would be ok. In reality, I was churning, wondering, was my baby going to make it. I’m not a panicker, I have already had to undertake the Heimlich (with success, thank God). But, this time, I just didn’t know where we were going with this.
We arrived at the hospital, pediatrician consultant and A&E consultant on stand by. She was rushed into the cubicle, and attended to immediately. When the nurse asked me if I wanted a drink, the tears filled my eyes, but I couldn’t let OneHalf see I was concerned. Shortly after the medicine, my mum arrived with the OtherHalf. “Don’t worry” I told her, “It’s not your fault”, in my head I thought otherwise, but didn’t want to cause offence, even though my own baby lay like a damaged doll in an adult sized bed, life threatened.
Eventually the meds kicked in, and we were allowed home. I took OneHalf, tucked her and the OtherHalf into bed and while Mr.TwoHalves headed home, I sobbed. Loud, unadulterated sobs. I cried for what my baby had been through. I cried for the fears I face (and she doesn’t yet know but will face in future). I cried for the fact that most girls look forward to a first kiss, but she will always have to be ever vigilant to make sure no adolescent
fucker chancer has had a chicken satay or Snickers before their night out.
For everyone that knows OneHalf, they know, her allergies (because to top it off she developed a shellfish allergy within a week of Mr.TwoHalves last June which is now worse than her nut allergy) do not define her. She is an amazing
(sometimes, very annoying!), independent, strong, kind little girl (ok I’m biased). Not a day goes by where she, or I, do not contemplate her allergy (restaurants, friend’s houses, lunch boxes)… and now it looks like the OtherHalf has also developed a nut allergy, eating out can be a laborious process. At the weekend, we went to Wagamamas and with the Manager in toe it took almost half an hour to order our food (no nuts, no shellfish, no pork)… but I would rather that and have a safe, happy, little family any day of the week.
If I had my time again I should and would have used the epipen. If someone close to you has an allergy that warrants an epipen, practice using it (an expired one or trial one) on a piece of fruit like an orange and when the time comes, if it crosses your mind that you need to use it, then you probably do. Next time, I certainly won’t think twice.
The thing with these dreaded allergies is, as we found out the hard way, you just never know what the next reaction will be. So next time, someone mentions they have a nut, shellfish, kiwi, strawberry, latex,. gluten, milk, the list goes on…. allergy, please be patient. Their life, may be, well and truly, in your hands.
Lots of love,