I am trembling, shaking, and my heart is racing. It seems anything triggers hysteria, as I have been crying for two straight days now.
“Is he breathing, Mom? Check to see if he’s breathing. Please,” I kept repeating frantically as I was driving home from the store. He had just vomited three times in his car seat and complained of a stomachache. After going through all the reasons what could possibly be wrong, we finally identified the cause.
For all who know me, I am a candy addict. I have at least two bags of various gummies with me at all times. I am very careful about making sure they would be safe for my son to have, just in case I do share. So, when he saw a bag of sour punch straws, and asked if he could have one, I answered, “Yes, you can have ONE.”
As we were ruling out the stomach bug and food poisoning, I grabbed the bag of candy to move it and noticed it was significantly lighter. I asked if he ate them. He said, yes. I asked if he ate a lot of them. He nodded his head yes. Without anyone seeing, he ended up helping himself to almost the entire bag. Immediately, I looked at the ingredients listed on the back of the candy bag.
My son has severe food allergies. He is allergic to wheat, eggs, milk, peanuts, and tree nuts. I am neurotic and meticulous when it comes to reading food labels and protecting him.
I lost my breath as I read from the back of the bag out loud, “Contains Wheat.” Feeling horrific and terrified, I did feel some relief that it was only wheat, and not nuts. I followed his emergency plan, and immediately gave him the appropriate dosage of Benadryl. He fell asleep within minutes. It was then that I became paranoid that he stopped breathing.
Call it PTSD, anxiety, or pure psychosis, I am traumatized. I watched him almost lose his life two years ago from a bite of a peanut butter cracker. He couldn’t breathe, his throat closed, he vomited uncontrollably, and he broke out completely in hives. I learned about anaphylaxis quickly. But, wheat, thank goodness, I thought, wouldn’t cause that type of reaction.
We pulled up to our house, and he woke up. He happily declared he felt so much better. That was until he threw up again minutes later. I screamed for my husband, who cleaned the vomit, and then noticed my son was breaking out in hives. Within seconds, the large welts started connecting to form even bigger ones, and quickly his entire body was covered in what looked like one enormous welt.
His nose started running, and said he didn’t feel good in a very nasally voice—congested. Then he started coughing more, struggling to breath. My husband, who doesn’t ever panic, pronounced he needed epinephrine. I was hysterical. An absolute sobbing, weak, terrified, and helpless mom. He ran to get it, and I watched as he skimmed over the directions just as a reminder before injecting him with the epipen. My son screamed for dear life. Was it fear? Pain? Anger towards me? We threw his clothes on, and got him to the hospital as fast as we possibly could.
The epinephrine put the reaction to a halt. He appeared stable, and I just prayed he and I would get another chance.
He was alive. I’m talking life or death here.
Everyday of my life, I feel stressed, scared, nervous, anxious, and terrified. Though I have experienced these feelings throughout my entire life, nothing compares to how I feel since my son was diagnosed with food allergies.
I’m not talking where he breaks out a little, or gets a rash, or even maybe a hive. I am talking anaphylaxis. I am talking excessive vomiting, stomach pain, shortness of breath, wheezing, and congestion. I am talking symptoms that can lead to death.
As a parent of three children, I am fortunate to know what it is like to care for a healthy child without allergies, and, also, one with allergies. And while the children without allergies present many challenges, none have been even close to the life-threatening food allergies.
To keep my child alive is, without question, the most demanding job I have ever encountered. You are saying, well, that is every parents challenge. No. No. Not compared to what it’s like with a child who has life-threatening food allergies. I will take this as a lesson, learn from it, and hope and pray he doesn’t ever have to go through this again.
Austin, I am sorry for making a careless mistake. I am doing the best I can as your mother. We paid for it, but you are the bravest, strongest, most resilient boy I know. I love you with all of my heart.