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The Best Medicine

Fatherhood Friday at Dad Blogs

Allergies All in the Family

I have a couple of major food allergies: chocolate and every nut on the planet Earth. There is no exception to this rule. Breaking it brings about a Jekyll & Hyde reaction in me which causes my skin to bubble up with hives, my tongue to swell, and my face to get droopy. I become nauseous and usually throw up and in some cases my breathing becomes labored. To say all of this in one tidy word: anaphylaxis. I don’t know what I’m missing by not eating this stuff because I HATE what I feel when I accidentally ingest a pine nut in pesto, or a macadamia nut in the crumble crust of an apple pie or peach cobbler that someone told me was nut-free. And all it takes is a taste to set me off. Chocolate no longer produces the hives, but the taste (real chocolate vs. artificial) makes me sick to my stomach.

As fate would have it, I passed my nut allergy on to my daughter. On her own she has a handful of others that are just weird, such as egg whites and on some days, peas.

My wife and I keep a close watch on the foods she eats, at home, at daycare and at the recent string of birthday parties she’s attended.

The Prescription Dilemma

About two months ago I was going through all the kids’ prescriptions when I noticed the prescription for my daughter’s untouched EpiPen, Jr. had expired. At the time my daughter was dealing with a cold and a lingering cough. Something inside me told me to renew the prescriptions she needed along with the ones she seemingly had no use for. The EpiPen was one of the latter.

Doing this one-shot renewal ran the risk of being expensive. I remember sharing my concern with my wife and her distinctly telling me to hold off on the epiPen because that wasn’t dire at the moment. I can’t say that I would’ve said anything different had I been in her shoes. My daughter has never had anything other than a mild scratch and other than eating two bites of an egg sandwich she’s never ingested any food she’s allergic to.

But I wasn’t in my wife’s shoes. Something told me to ignore her. By the time I got out of the pharmacy I was a hundred-plus co-pay dollars poorer but at ease with my decision.

Last Saturday

A week ago from tomorrow my wife and I attended a friend’s daughter’s birthday party. She was four and my daughter, now three, was very excited to see her friend. Once we got there we had to deal with the usual: pushing her into the crowd of girls (and boy or two) who were already there, a little bit of crying when she didn’t feel the kids were sharing and making sure the food and candy she ate contained no nuts (my son couldn’t be bothered, he went with his aunt to watch a horror movie).

After the party, my daughter told me she had fun and she fell asleep in the car on the way home. As it was late I fully expected her to sleep through the night.

But this wasn’t in the cards.

Around 10:30pm she woke up asking for something to drink. My wife brought into the kitchen and sat her on the kitchen counter so she could “help” pour her drink into her big-girl Dora cup. I was in the living room watching television when I hear:

“E., I think she’s having an allergic reaction.”

“To what? She just woke up.” I said more than asked based on the fact she hadn’t eaten in at least 5 hours and there’s no poison ivy growing in our house.

My wife’s voice became agitated. “Hives are all over her trunk!”

I got up and moved to the kitchen. My daughter was sitting in her pjs looking unawares and groggy.

“They’re all over her neck!” shouted my wife as I stood beside her. She reached for the Benadryl in the cabinet and poured her age/size appropriate dose into the dosing cup. My baby drank it willingly, but gagged on it as she took it down.

“Eric, is her throat closing up?!” I shrugged my shoulders in disbelief. My daughter was beginning to exhibit the Jekyll and Hyde symptoms that have made me famous amongst my tiny circle of friends and family. But I’m a grown man who can manage the suffering (sort of). I reached into the cabinet and pulled down the container that housed the EpiPens (they come in a 2 pack). They slipped out of my hand and spilled out across the counter.

My wife eyeballed them. “I don’t think we should give her that. We should go to the hospital.”

I looked at my wife like she was crazy and calmly said, “By the time we get to the hospital she’ll either be over her symptoms or dead.”

I picked our daughter up off the counter with EpiPen and a little sheet of instructions in hand and sat down on the couch in the living room. There was one thing I needed to be absolutely certain of before I used it. I called my son (who we picked up after the party) into the living room to hold her legs if necessary. He was eating a piece of cake in one hand and dragging his feet. His mother screamed at the top of her lungs for him to hurry up. I begged her to calm down.

I gave myself a quick refresher course on administering the shot. My daughter began to catch on to the fact that something was wrong.

At this point only seconds have passed.

“Are you okay?” I asked Babygirl. She nodded weakly, her nose was running and her breathing began to get shallow.

That was all I needed to see. It was what I had been waiting for and was hoping would not happen. I slipped the cylinder of epinephrine out of its casing put the device to her outer thigh and pushed down while my wife held her shoulders and my son held her legs. The needle sprang (auto-injected) into her thigh where I held it for 10 seconds.

Our daughter didn’t buck like I thought she would. Instead, she let out a blood-curdling scream and hollered, “Daddy, I’m all better now!” I smiled and kissed her forehead. When I pulled out the needle it left behind a spot of blood.

“You want a Dora Band-Aid or Diego?” I asked.

“Diego,” she whimpered. After I put it on she hopped off my lap and ran screaming to her mother. My wife was crying and my son went back into his room to slay some aliens on his xBox. I called her doctor to ascertain what the next steps were. There were none because her symptoms cleared up almost instantly. Thank God. Her doctor and I ruled out food allergies because she hadn’t eaten since 5. A delayed reaction of 5 hours, although possible, is very uncommon. Dr. G. gave me an A for Effort and Execution and put me to work to keep her posted through her service and to find the source of the reaction.

Five minutes later my daughter was drinking strawberry milk and yelling around the house, as she always does, in awe of the strength in her little lungs. Ten minutes later she was out cold in her mother’s arms on the couch, zapped by the ordeal and the Benadryl. My wife held onto her like a favorite Teddy Bear. “There were too many hives on this little body…” my wife’s voice trailed off into tears.

“Glad I refilled the prescription.” My wife agreed.

The culprit was a contact-allergen somewhere in our bed, which is where we deposited the baby when we first came home from the party. We stripped it, put on new sheets, and have been keeping an eye out ever since.

Funny thing, I had no reaction to the whole incident. I kissed my child on her cheek a dozen times as I always do, kissed my wife and let her know all was fine, and went back to watching television. The next day I mentioned it in passing only to my parents. My wife went on to tell a good amount of her friends and even mentioned it on Facebook (which left me bewildered based on the panic it caused online). But she was rocked to her core by the whole thing and that was how she dealt. I can’t knock her (other than the FB thing). I don’t believe I was so calm because I have allergies and it was no big deal. I was very aware that my daughter’s life was at risk. That’s why I reached for the EpiPen (of which I am now a believer) in the first place.

In my opinion my preparation for this day was better than the actual medicine I gave my child. I had the necessary tools to control the situation, prevent errors brought on by panic and get the job done with no regrets. Fortunately it was something that didn't require further medical attention.

Over the years I’ve been a bit perplexed by my own father’s cool under fire. Last Saturday, I think I got it.

Sorry this was sooo long. Happy, Fatherhood Friday!

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