Today is an anniversary for our family. It's not one we remember fondly, but it makes us thankful that we made it though without any major incidents (well since the first one that is). A year ago today our family entered the oh so fun world of severe food allergies.
This last week I've been really thinking about how our lives have changed. How my parenting style has changed. Our lives are more stressful, and I've become that helicopter mom at parties (not how I envisioned myself at all). In fact I dread parties now. I have bad dreams about him riding the bus and bullies. I also have arguments with strangers in my head when thinking about the future and the situations we may encounter. I've always been outraged about intolerance, but now it makes me weep when I know my child is the target.
However that is not all. I've become more tolerant and educated. I've come to appreciate our family and friends even more than before. Without their love, support, and acceptance of our situation, things would be much harder. I cry when someone goes out of their way to make my son feel safe and included. I've connected with other parents through this blog to get support and hopefully to give it. I've also met another local mom who is working with me as a co founder for a community support group Food Allergies Families of Rockland. So it's not all bad.
I don't think I even told you our story of how this all began. Since today is our anniversary, it's time I shared it with you. Let me start with that there was no family history with nut or peanut allergies that we knew of. Neither my husband nor myself have any food allergies. We were not told to wait till he was 2 years old since there was no history. When Cormac was about 14-15 months old we decided to try peanut butter. I waited until we had some Benedryl in the house just in case. It was a first time mom thing. I really didn't think he had allergies. I first tested it on his skin, again no real reason just did it that way. No reaction. So he had his first PB&J. Still no reaction. So I'm thinking we're all good. That year at Easter he had some Reese's Peanut Butter Cups and other chocolate candies. Again no reaction. Two more PB&J's later and all was still good.
So that's at least 4 times the kid had peanut butter without a reaction. Well #5 was the winner. A very good friend came over for a play date which we planned on having lunch. While I was getting our food ready she asked if Cormac could have a peanut butter cracker. I said yes, so she made him and her son some. When I come out of the kitchen she says I think his eyes look funny. I thought, oh he's just tired since it was very close to nap time. Within five minutes we knew it wasn't that he was tired. His eyes were swelling and swelling fast!
She said I think it's the peanut butter. I still was not convinced because he had had it at least 4 times already, and he hadn't even eaten any of it this time. Well we figured out he rubbed his eyes with his peanut butter coated hands.
Now we're getting really scared. His eyes were now swelled closed and the size of golf balls, and he was getting a bit lethargic. I gave him some Benedryl, started a bath and, called the Dr., as well as my husband who was luckily down at the library in town. The Dr was out so I called the emergency number. He called back fast, told me to give him more Benedryl and if his breathing started to get bad go to the ER. Luckily that didn't happen. The Benedryl seemed to calm things down pretty quickly.
Photo 1. taken 20 minutes after exposure. Photo's 2. and 3. taken 3 hours after exposure.
He was now able to open his eyes, but when he did I was totally freaked out! The whites of his eyes had swollen so much that they were starting to cover his iris's! They looked like someone put a ton of clear jelly like stuff in them.
He was no longer lethargic but was crying in pain. This however didn't last long thank God. The Dr called back to check on him 20 minutes after our first call. We updated him that Cormac seems to be improving. He again said to watch his breathing and call 911 if any hives appeared, his breathing changed, passed out, or started vomiting. None of that happened so we stayed home. It took over 24 hours for the swelling to go completely down.
I think back now and think why didn't I go to the hospital? Part of it was I didn't know what was happening. It didn't make any sense to me. Cormac was able to communicate to me the same as if he were ok. I had an experienced mom with me and then my husband who both kept me calm. At no point did I feel his life was in danger, but that was my inexperience with food allergies talking.
That's our story. I can't imagine what would of happened if he actually ate the peanut butter that day. Instead of his eyes swelling it could have been his throat, mouth or tongue which would have been much more serious. After seeing a pediatric allergist twice now, and living with this for a year, we have learned so much. The one thing that scares me the most is that his next reaction could be much worse. But if and when it happens you can bet we will be calling 911. When they say knowledge is power, it's true. The more you know about food allergies the better you can keep your kids safe.
Do I wish he didn't have food allergies? You bet! But when I think about all the other illness's or disabilities he could have, I am grateful that this is just it.