SYSTEMIC SYMPTOMS

(Our peanut allergy research journey. May 15.)

SYSTEMIC SYMPTOMS.

That’s what happened to us today. That was the beginning of the end.

My son had a very very very small amount of peanut and his tongue began to itch. We were in a controlled environment trying to tightrope a delicate balance that would be life changing without being life threatening. When it comes to food allergies, that is just nearly impossible. We were with EXPERTS! Medical experts. They know their stuff. But do you know who else knows their stuff? Food allergy parents.

You want to learn about food allergies? You want to talk to an expert? Talk to a parent. I’M his expert! I know this stuff inside and out and if you lend me an ear I’ll Van Gogh that sucker. In ten minutes you will know more about the dangers and the nightmares of food allergies than you ever asked for. I know when to stop… It’s when I see that glazed look that says, “I’m enduring a mind numbing Shakespearean dialogue about cross contamination … how did this happen to me when all I did was ask about your kid’s Halloween costume???” Yeah… I know that’s when it’s time to stop. But I don’t stop. I’m an expert and you aren’t breaking away until I make you a mini expert. It’s a process; we’ll schedule a follow up next week…

And yet today I got shamed. I got OWNED by what I thought I knew and how ignorant I actually am. He began with an itchy tongue and I didn’t get very alarmed. In a food challenge, you are fed a tiny bit of your allergen and if you don’t have a “reaction” within thirty minutes, you are fed a little more. He knew what was happening and I expected him to get jumpy and maybe “feel” something that wasn’t actually happening. The experts didn’t seem worried.

He ate the next increment, an incredibly small amount of peanut, and said his tongue itched once again. Okay, you have my attention. But I trusted the experts. Turns out those guys have poker faces that could take them to the top table at the Texas Holdem World Series.

The third increase of peanut was the game changer. His lips started to swell, very slightly. I’ve seen those things blow up like bad Botox before, this wasn’t awful. It was expected. I was cool. But suddenly… Are you ready for this? ….
HE SNEEZED!!!

Ugh! I HATE the sneezes! The germs practically fly through the air with hazard lights on and don’t even get me started on the snot. While I was frantically trying to find a tissue, the experts descended with a barf bag, a stethoscope, and a blood pressure cuff. Hold up guys! He sneezed… I just need a tissue. No need to …. Whoa.

Anaphylaxis!?!?!? They checked their symptom checklist, called it, and intervened. It wasn’t anaphylactic shock. Not yet. But more than one body system had symptoms and DID YOU KNOW THAT IS CLINICALLY CONSIDERED TO BE ANAPHYLAXIS??? Because I did not know that. I sure did not know that. I have the peanut allergy action plan in my desk drawer, in the school nurse file, in each teacher’s copy of the IEP, and filed with the athletic coach and the Scoutmaster. I tell them what to look for and it isn’t a sneeze!

A whirlwind evaluation revealed that he was reacting in his integumentary system (skin, swelling and itching), circulatory system (blood pressure rose), respiratory system (lungs and SNEEZE), and neurological system (he had a behavior change). I didn’t notice the change in behavior. I didn’t notice a lot of this. I noticed I couldn’t find a tissue and that’s about it.

When all was said and done, the quick intervention stabilized my son before he was truly unstable. And that’s when I began to comprehend the difference between anaphylaxis and anaphylactic shock. The first leads to the other and I preach it, but I did not know about the one-two hit. I did not know that a sneeze PLUS an itch, or abnormal blood pressure PLUS slight lethargy needed immediate intervention.

He made it to a level that qualifies him to move on in treatment for his peanut allergy. And I bottomed out at a level of inadequacy that I had not reached in a very long time. How am I going to do this at home??? Give him peanut and know when to intervene? I couldn’t even understand what was happening today. I have two months to figure it out. And tonight… For the first time in quite awhile, I have peace…

We met the criteria in the food challenge. We move on to the next step of meeting criteria for the life changing treatment for his peanut allergy. And we get closer on our journey from the beginning to the end .

I have peace that there’s a promise of an end to what we’re beginning. I have peace that it doesn’t all fall on me, that I still have much to learn, and that I am part of a tightly knit team. I have peace because God brought us here to do this very thing right now.

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