Finding out Adly had a peanut allergy via a scratch test at 11 months old was a bummer for sure. However, I don't think either of us fully understood the gravity of the diagnosis. Yes, she now had a peanut allergy and it was going to make our life a little more difficult. But I didn't want that to stop us from living as normal people. I didn't want to be that overbearing mom I've seen plenty of times who refused to let my child "live" at restaurants, parties, and play dates. Plus, beyond a few spots on her face, I had never seen any type of reaction regarding peanuts. It is such an abstract diagnosis that it can be hard to fully comprehend the severity of it. Your child gets pricked with a needle yearly, some blood is drawn, and weeks later your notified over the phone whether the allergy is still present and the severity of it. As of age two, with the blood test results, we were told the following: Adly tested positive on a level 2 out of 4 in severity. However, she has a component within the allergy that identifies to present itself through anaphylaxis if ingested, which therefore makes it that much more serious.
We have been diligent about any food products we buy at home and making sure she always has her EpiPen on hand wherever we go. We make sure everyone close to us knows about the allergy, we inform any caretakers and send her to a peanut-free school with EpiPens. Because that is what you're told to do. But truthfully, I never really thought she'd ever be in a situation where she might have any kind of severe reaction. Because we're careful.
This weekend, we were invited to a neighbors first birthday party where we didn't know anyone. We were both excited at the prospect of meeting new people with kids in our neighborhood. It was a hustle and bustle kind of night, trying to talk to and meet everyone while chasing around our wild one year old and simultaneously keeping an eye on our 3 year old. It was at that party that my very smart and knowledgeable daughter ate two Reese's peanut butter bell candies, across the room from us, with another little girl. In the final seconds of the act, Adam happened to notice Adly chewing something.
Neither girl would admit to eating anything. Adam smelled peanut butter on her breath. It was only after some coaxing that I was able to get the wrapper from the other little girl. My heart sank to my feet when I carefully unballed the red foil to read "Reese's". We looked at her, she was fine. No grabbing her neck because she couldn't breathe, no redness, no hives; all of which I had expected to happen were we ever in this situation. For the next 10 minutes we held our breath at the party, trying to remain calm. No symptoms. Maybe she wasn't even really allergic, I kept telling myself.
"Maybe she didn't even eat it," I hopefully said to a dad who was sitting near the girls. "No, she definitely did," he confirmed.
After some back and forth we decided to leave and go back home to observe her. There, we peppered her with questions. She was over it; tired and annoyed. She wouldn't answer us. "Do you feel itchy? Does your throat feel weird? Does your tummy hurt?" Lets be honest, does a toddler really know how to answer those questions? Probably not. But in that moment, it was all I could do to keep myself sane. 10 minutes later. She's going to be fine. It was just a fluke, Maybe she really didn't even eat it. She KNOWS she's allergic to peanuts. She KNOWS to ask before she eats.
10 more minutes. Call the pediatrician, they can tell me its all just a fluke and it will go away. There were still no visible symptoms, but she had started coughing. I made the call. Left a voicemail on the emergency line in which they respond within 20 minutes. Two minutes later, our pediatrician called back, asking for a rundown of what had happened.
The pediatrician stated with a firmness and urgency I'll never forget: "Get the EpiPen and administer immediately. Then get to the ER as fast as possible. I know you don't see much now, but when it happens, the reaction is going to come fast."
I hung up the phone. Walked to the bathroom like a robot and instructed Adam to pull her pants down. I pulled out the EpiPen that was in its trusty spot. I scanned the instructions, walking to the living room. I popped the cap. I held her thigh. I stabbed. She screamed. Adam and I counted out loud over her screams, "one one thousand, two one thousand..." I lost it, sobbing through the counting. Time slowed to a halt. 10 seconds in the thigh.
And then it was over. Just like that. I dried my own tears and went back into robot mode. Move the cars, I thought. I ran outside with no coat, moving Adams snow covered car blindly into the street. I ran in and got our other car keys, hearing Adly screaming at the top of her lungs. Brush off the car, warm up the car. Go, go, go....
All this time I had been thinking Adam would take her to ER and I would stay behind with Ellie. He is the calm one who knows how to handle these situations far better than I. However, I've been the one to handle her allergies, take her to her yearly summer allergist appointment and receive the EpiPen education. After a quick back and forth it was decided I should go. To the car. Go, go, go....
On the 13 minute drive to the hospital we hit every.single.light. Adly began declining rapidly in the car. She was talking nonsense and continuing to attempt to pass out. Like a robot, I'd shake her leg and make her tell me a story. Like a robot, I was complaining about the lights. "We should've taken a f*!king ambulance", I muttered at a light. I heard Adly quietly remind me from the backseat, "it's going to be ok mama." Of course. My beyond her years daughter could speak so wisely, yet she couldn't remember in that moment to NOT EAT THE CANDY. Why?? Because she's three. She's still a baby. My baby.
When we finally raced into the ER driveway and I got her out, I was shocked. She was mumbling, beet red red, and swollen. There was a line at the sign-in and all I remember is shouting about how she was in anaphylactic shock and needed to get in to get another shot. The receptionist grabbed us and led us back into the triage where they immediately got to work. Suddenly my baby was being stabbed in her other leg, IV going in her hand, mask on her face. She was screaming and crying inconsolably. The doctor came in and that is when I slipped from robot mom into ohmygodwhatishappening mom and lost it. I couldn't even compose myself to explain the details of what had happened.
About an hour after being admitted to hospital.
It wasn't for another few hours that the symptoms began to subside. She had eaten a good amount and they needed to keep her overnight to continue observing. It is common for the reaction to take hold again even hours after exposure, because of the fat content in peanuts. Thankfully, by morning and after a lot of drugs, she was completely back to her old self.
Showing her handy dandy IV holder pad.
Checking out the snow the next morning from our room.
Playing with her new Barbie our sweet nurse gave her in the morning. Fully recovered.
In the days since that awful night, we've done a lot of reflecting and talking between Adam and I and with Adly. A few days later, it came out in conversation with her that she actually had asked the little girl if it had nuts. She really did know what to say. But of course, what does an unknowing three year old answer to that? "There's no nuts. You're fine. Here you go, eat it." For all that little girl knew, she was being nice to Adly and sharing her candy. To any other child without allergies, they know nothing about nuts and the danger of them. The bottom line is, so much education is required when it comes to these allergies, and sometimes, it's just not enough.
I wanted to share our experience to provide a helpful reminder to those with allergies and those without, especially during the holiday season. These allergies are serious, and can be life threatening. If you know someone has a food allergy of any sort, do your best to work around it if hosting. If you know your child has an allergy, do your best to assess all types of food available when going to gatherings. This is one of the things I always do. But on this particular night, I didn't. I saw random candies laid out carefully in pretty bowls and never stopped to personally remind Adly she couldn't eat them.
Adly experienced what is called a latent reaction. This reaction works its way from the inside out and therefore takes time to show any visible symptoms. Meanwhile, its wreaking havoc internally on the body. I often get asked how we even discovered she was allergic to peanuts. Common signs of any allergic reactions (and what we first experienced at 11 months) are red splotchy spots around the mouth. Any noticeable irritation after eating a certain food. We treated immediately with a dose of Benedryl and she was fine. It is important to note that reactions get worse the more times a person is exposed. Therefore, at 11 months, Adly's first exposure, the reaction was minimal. Fast forward two more years and it was life threatening.
We've now purchased Adly this bracelet she will wear day and night for as long as I can force her to. It was something I had considered buying but for whatever reason never did. No, this wouldn't have stopped that little girl from telling Adly the candy she wanted to give her didn't have nuts. But maybe it would've notified a parent who was standing closer than we were. Just maybe. Our child is very quickly leaving our very protective nest of safety, entering school, play dates, playgrounds, and gatherings where we can't keep our eye on her every little move. I can only hope she continues to be protected from any more incidents.
Ever since Thanksgiving, Adly has loved to randomly ask what I'm thankful for. Yes, we could have done a lot of things differently but I think if anything, I'm thankful we now know just how serious it is. I'm thankful we caught her eating it. I'm thankful we had the EpiPen. I'm thankful we have responsive pediatricians, no matter the day or hour. I'm thankful for the ER staff who knew what to do right away to make her better.
But above all else, I'm thankful my sweet girl is still here with us today.