Allergic Reaction: A letter to my daughter

The past couple of weeks, life has been a little overwhelming so I haven’t been posting much.  Anna had a bad allergic reaction.  She had her normal safe foods, no contamination, yet she had a bad reaction that needed epinephrine and an ambulance ride to the Emergency Room.  My thoughts have been a bit consumed with trying to figure out what happened.  I wrote this letter a couple days after the reaction, to try and help me process everything.

To my dear sweet, little girl, 

First of all I love you and I am so sorry you have food allergies.  This past weekend’s allergic reaction scared me more than I can let you know.  I try to be strong and brave to help you remain calm.  Yet I can see it in your eyes that it worries you, even if you aren’t able to express that in words to me.  I ask how you feel about it and you say your ok, but I am your momma and I can tell you are worried.

You ate the same meal you have had many times before.  A few minutes after dinner, I heard a cough so I asked if you were ok.  You said yes and wanted to go outside to play with your brother and sister.  As you were all getting ready to go out, you came over and sat on my lap.  I asked why you didn’t want to go out and you said you changed your mind.  You wanted to stay on my lap and I think you were concerned you might be having a reaction.  You coughed again, so I looked more closely at your lips.  They looked a little grayish blue but I thought you might just be cold.  So I asked if your throat hurt and you said no.  I decided to put you on our pulse oximeter anyhow (you have due to how severe your asthma was a few years ago).  You seemed to be breathing a bit faster.  Your oxygen saturation was down into the 70’s.  I got the epi pen out to give you and asked Papa to call 911.  For some reason it took a little longer this time for you to respond to the epi, so it was such a big relief when it finally helped and when they medics finally arrived.

What scares me most is that I don’t know what happened, what it was that caused your reaction and that your symptoms can be so difficult to notice yet so severe.   How am I to keep you safe when I don’t know what caused the reaction?  You ate the same foods you’ve had many times before.  If I knew what was the culprit, I would keep the allergen away from you.   I am calling the manufacturers of the food you ate to try and see if they changed their manufacturing processes and if it possibly got contaminated with one of your allergens.  I am calling your allergist to talk it through with her and see if she may have some helpful ideas.

Sending you to school today is nerve wracking for me.  I wonder if you are scared too.  Will you tell an adult if you start a little cough or start to feel your throat get tight, like we talked about?  Will you get to the nurses office when you need to and quickly enough?  It is hard to trust other people to recognize your symptoms and to act on them when I myself, often question if your symptoms are a reaction.   I’ve gone in this morning to talk with your teacher and the school nurse, who will also talk with the clerks that help at lunch and at recess.  

What is the solution?  Do I volunteer at school everyday over the lunch and recess hour so I will be near you?  Do I home school you?  How do I ever leave you with a babysitter or go away for the weekend again?  How do we travel with you?  These are questions your Daddy and I need to consider and wrestle with.  We care about you so much and don’t want this to happen ever again.

I love you up to to the moon, 

When Anna was in the ambulance, I asked her what she would do if this happened while she was in school.  I told her she had to tell her teacher or an adult if she needed to see the nurse, to go at the first sign of a cough or a funny feeling in her throat.  To go with an adult to the nurse and quickly.  We talked about how she needs to go right to the nurse even if she is not sure.  Her school nurse is there to help her recognize her symptoms and treat her appropriately.

But it is still so hard to have her out of my sight.

How do you deal with your fears and food allergy realities?   Do you ever struggle with leaving your child in the care of someone else?  Are you ever afraid to feed your child?

I was thinking about my fears and remembered that God loves Anna more than I do and that our children are a gift, no matter how long we get to share this life with them.  “And so we know and rely on the love God has for us” 1 John 4:16. 

~ A week has now passed and we had some more allergy testing done on Anna.  We learned that she has added a couple more moderate allergies, rice and green beans.  Yikes!  Thankfully, she should be able to tolerate a small amount of rice but unfortunately, it is in so many of the things she eats.  I am so relieved to know her bread recipe doesn’t contain rice.  The all-purpose flour mixture we use has rice as the main ingredient so I might be trying to mess around with that to reduce the amount of rice in it.  We still don’t know why she had such a bad reaction.  I wish there was a blood test that could be done right after a reaction to determine exactly what the cause was.  Maybe someday.

*  This is not to be considered medical advice in any way, rather just our own families personal experience.