I just got back from the 7th grade nurse where I had to drop off paperwork and an Epipen for Katie “just in case”. When Katie was a very young toddler we discovered the hard way she had a peanut allergy. Thankfully she didn’t actually eat the PB&J I had made for her, only played with it. I don’t know if it’s because she was too tired to eat – we’d just gotten back from a hard morning of grocery shopping – or if she didn’t like it.
I was busy putting groceries away while the kids were eating lunch, but she was being so fussy. When I looked up I was shocked to see her looking something like Quasimoto with an eye swollen shut, the other very puffy and lips so big she couldn’t drink from her sippy cup.
I left the rest of the groceries, managed to get some benadryl down her and packed up the kids for the pediatrician’s office. One look at her when we walked in and our wait was extremely short. The few minutes we sat in the waiting room, however, was horrible. Parents looked at me like I had beaten my child. It was an easy assumption to make. Her swollen eyes were a reddish/purplish color and she just looked awful.
Scratch testing at the allergist’s office the following week confirmed she had a severe peanut allergy and mild allergy to most other nuts. The doctor then proceeded to scare me witless with stories of people dying of peanut allergies when they ordered chili from the new restaurant with a “secret ingredient” that happened to be peanut butter and stuff like that.
She has eaten things with almonds and pecans, though she’s not a big fan. Most people who are allergic to peanuts are not allergic to tree nuts – completely different family. As I said, she had a mild allergy to most tree nuts. If they show any symptom at all it’s just mild congestion. Nothing life threatening.
So when she was in second grade and wanted to try pistachios I said okay. Todd was at his parents’ condo in Little Rock hanging pictures and the kids were supposed to be helping me in the kitchen. Their job was to empty the dishwasher and both had grumbled about it.
She ate one pistachio, said it was okay and asked for another. So I let her have another. Then she started saying her tongue was itchy. “It’s just the salt making your tongue feel funny, Katie. You’re not allergic to pistachios.” She took a couple things out of the dishwasher and started complaining about her itchy tongue again.
I told her to go brush her teeth and rinse real good. She skipped down the hall to do what I told her, only to come back and say it didn’t work.
By this time I was getting exasperated at her use of a true medical problem she had to manipulate the situation. I truly, with everything in me, thought she was faking.
She walked over to the dishwasher again, pulled out an item or two, and complained about her itchy tongue.
“Kaitlyn Louise, you are NOT allergic to pistachios! Come here and I’ll prove it to you.”
She came over to me, I de-shelled a pistachio, ran it over her check and immediately a red welt sprang up. Um, apparently I was wrong.
I very calmly told Taylor to get his shoes on, grabbed some flip flops for Katie and called Todd while we drove to the hospital. By the time we got there about five minutes later she was talking funny as her throat was starting to close up. We walked in behind a teenage girl with a broken arm and her father, but when I said, “nut allergy,” to the triage nurse we were immediately seen by another nurse. She asked to look in Katie’s mouth and when she opened up my poor baby threw up.
That was all the nurse needed. Katie was in a hospital gown and hooked up to an IV faster than you can imagine. She was given epinephrine and benadryl – the epinephrine wiring her and the benadryl making her drowsy.
Todd showed up and offered to stay with her so I could take Taylor home, but I had done this to my precious little girl. There was no way I was leaving. Within an hour or two all the swelling had gone down and we were told as soon as the IV was finished she’d be able to go.
Before the IV was done, however, she broke out into traveling hives. They’d start out on her legs then clear up and show up on her back, moving from one spot to another. Instead of being released she was admitted to the pediatric floor for observation.
It was a rough night only because she was hooked up to a pulse-ox machine and every time she’d fall asleep it would go off. I don’t think it actually had anything to do with the allergy as I do the same thing when I’m in the hospital. But we didn’t get a lot of sleep that night.
Todd showed up in the morning and I did go home then to take a shower. She was released a little after lunch and was pampered silly after we got home. People sent her flowers and teddy bears and mom waited on her hand and foot. Guilt was definitely working in her favor.
She may have been whining about an itchy tongue at home, but she was so brave and hardly complained at all in the hospital. She actually looks back on that event with fondness. The cafeteria makes a mean chocolate cake and, ever my girl, she loves her some chocolate cake.
The next week we went back to the allergists and he did another scratch test. Sure enough, she had a rather quick reaction to pistachios. Still nothing like her reaction to peanuts, but now we just stay away from all nuts.
I still feel horrible when I think about that evening, but I’m so thankful it turned out okay.