Saving Charlie’s life

Charlie, my son, was diagnosed with his milk allergy, egg allergy, dog allergy, and asthma around 2 years old.  The milk allergy was found when he was a baby and I was nursing him, but became more severe the older he got. By the time we saw the allergist, it was time for an allergy plan.  Basically, I was an overwhelmed mom of two toddler/babies.  I had an almost 1 year old baby girl at home that couldn’t eat anything but breast milk without vomiting (we didn’t know about her allergies yet).  The nurse at Grand Rapids Allergy (such a great place by the way) handed me our prescription for our new Epi-pen for Charlie and taught me how to use it.  He kept reminding me, “don’t hesitate to use the pen when the symptoms show up. Parents are always afraid to use it.”  Immediately I thought, “but I won’t need THAT, right?  It’s just a precaution, right?  We’ve never needed it before. That’s so extreme!” 

Crazy, I know.

It’s like when other moms tell you to sleep when your baby sleeps and you are like, “Ok”, but in your head you say, “I won’t need to do that.  I’m going to be a different kind of mom.  My life is different.” 

Symptoms of allergic reaction may include: redness around effected area of skin/mouth, itching, nausea, vomiting, swelling, hives, breathing difficulty, and sometimes loss of consciousness.
Charlie watching the first snow

If you haven’t read my post, It is Well With My Soul….Really?. It’s about some of my intense struggles with anxiety and depression. I’ve always struggled with depression, ever since I was a young girl, but mom life really hit me hard. Adding in kids with special needs compounded that. I have spent a lot of time blubbering and weeping alone and to friends and to therapists in order to make it where I am to today. Please don’t think it’s easy to talk about these topics. If you have kids with allergies, or you yourself have multiple nutritional issues, I empathize with you. I’m writing my stories because I believe God wants me to reach out to you. I have found healing (and daily need more healing) and I want to share that with you.

Saving Charlie’s life

Later that summer we had our first experience with the Epi-pen.  Let’s just say, I have a new appreciation for that weird pen and what it can do for my kid.  I also realized that I have the power to save my kid and I need to use it.  I waited to use the medication the first time we accidentally encountered milk at a restaurant because his symptoms didn’t seem SO bad.  I didn’t trust myself or my instinct. Thankfully my sister was there for support. And the ambulance arrived quickly when I needed them after he passed out.

The second incident I didn’t wait so long.  I knew what to do. 

(For any moms out there that are afraid to inject their kid with epinephrine, afraid to have a needle in your bag.  Don’t be.  You will feel so empowered the first time you have to use that on your kid.  It’s awful, but you’ll be glad you have it.) 

The second time I didn’t wait.  I saw the vomiting.  Then I saw the red and itchy eyes and mouth.  I stopped the van.  Jumped out.  Got out the pen.  Said the chant in my head, “Blue to the sky, orange to the thigh.”  Pulled off that blue cap.  Held down Charlie’s leg and jammed it in there.

One (one thousand), Two (one thousand), Three (one thousand).  Done.

My baby daughter just staring at us from her car-seat next to him.  I kiss him and ask him if he feels better.  Almost immediately his reddened face begins to clear and his cold-like symptoms vanish. Then comes the real scary part.  After my son gets the epinephrine he gets very lethargic and difficult to wake.  I wasn’t sure, at that time, if this was going to happen again.  Since I was alone in the van and only a few miles from home, and the hospital, I decided to get moving.  I jumped back in the driver’s seat, constantly glancing back and asking Charlie how he was feeling and to “stay awake.” 

Then I got a call.  The pediatrician was calling me back now.  She congratulated me for doing the right thing.  And once again I heard those crazy words, “you saved his life.”  Sigh of relief and tears come pouring from this momma all at once.  But I quickly have to get off the phone as I realize Charlie is starting to fall asleep or pass out (I’m not sure which).  I call 911 – still driving towards the hospital.  Meanwhile my husband is already aware and about to meet us at the ER.  Now I’m on the phone with 911 and shaking Charlie’s leg over and over trying to keep him awake.  She’s letting me know the ER is aware we’re coming and they are ready. 

“Would I like an ambulance?”

“No”, I say, “I’m almost there. I don’t want to stop.” 

I can barely keep him awake now.  I pull up to the children’s hospital ER valet parking.  They are very calm, but quickly responsive.  Most of the initial interactions are a blurred memory for me actually. Most of all I remember crying at the sight of my husband’s sweet face of concern as he greats us in the ER hallway along side the nurses rolling our Charlie down the hall to a room.  How did he know how to find us? How did he get here so fast? How did I get such an amazing man in my life? Why do we have to be here?

This time at the ER we did not need anymore epinephrine as the allergic reaction was somewhat under control despite what the scary appearance of my son in my untrained eyes.  We only needed some of the usual precautionary medications like benedryl and steroids.  But the first time, oh the first time!  Charlie started thrashing around and crying out in anger.  I was so upset because he doesn’t normally act that way.  Thankfully the ER doctor was attentive enough to notice that he had hives starting up again under his hospital gown.  More epinephrine that time.  Perhaps because I waited so long with the initial dose.  No one will ever really know.  I learned later from the allergist that a person has a real feeling or sense of doom during an allergic reaction and that may have been why he was reacting so emotionally at that time.  (More tears from momma at hearing that.)

But the second time I was “johnny on the spot” with that pen. 

And our Charlie? He’s doing great. We are now better at keeping him away from his allergens, but I’m also not afraid to step into action if I need to. There’s still anxiety, but there’s also some strength.

Have you ever had anxiety about providing epinephrine to your child or to yourself? Do you have questions about what it was like or how to cope? Please let me know if you have more questions. I would love to help provide support. This is not something anyone should have to travel in alone.

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