So a few months back, I was stupid. I played chicken with a cheesecake and lost.
I thought that ordering a cheesecake, knowing full well that I am allergic to dairy and wheat, was risky, but I weighed up the options as I sat alone in the pub / restaurant / my office watching other people eating delicious looking food and decided that today was the day that I too would eat delicious food. I figured that worst case scenario would be half an hour of cramps and then a super-slimming bout of the shits; which considering I’d been constipated for almost a week, seemed like a bonus to be honest. I strode up, slammed my hand down on the bar and in full Clint Eastwood mode, I ordered myself a damn honeycomb cheesecake. I was a dick!
I have grade one allergies to a ridiculous number of foods and to avoid them completely is IMPOSSIBLE!! One of the allergies is to apple. Do you know how many foods and drinks have apple added to them? Just the other day, I was ‘enjoying’ my soya milk when it occurred to me to check the deets – bloody apple juice is in it. WTF? I have even looked at those ‘pure’ fruit baby mush foods that claim on the front to contain only vegetables but no, they have apple added to them too. Here’s a challenge for you. Have a think about what you ate today, then have a think about the food and drinks you love, now look at my list of allergies – would you live without these foods? Is it possible that you too might risk a ballooned belly, tummy ache and the squits for the joy of eating such basic staple foods?
I have no idea what grade one allergies means! I just figured that they obviously hadn’t killed me off, so maybe it just means ‘intolerance’. Past anaphylaxis attacks were caused by hay, radioactive isotope dye and aspirin, so when my cheesecake arrived, I savoured every bite … up until the final third of it, when I felt that telling wave of doom wash over me. It’s like a hot rush that shoots up your spine, sweat stings at your armpits and the air around you feels very, very heavy as your emotions become suddenly, overwhelmingly sad.
I reached down into my bag and quietly searched for antihistamines and my EpiPen. I had neither. I cursed myself for not putting them into this new handbag and tried not to panic. From experience, I knew that panic is the most dangerous thing I can do at that point, as it stops me from breathing properly and feels as though it accelerates the scary symptoms. I calmly packed up my laptop and books and stood up to leave. No dizziness, that’s good, maybe this will pass. Then my ears started to burn, which is a weird but recognisable reaction. I felt my heart quicken. I walked to the nearest toilet and checked my reflection. Shit – a reddening rash was already evident on my chest and I was starting to itch. I needed to get home quick, which luckily is only a few minutes walk away.
As I made it to the doorway, I felt my throat start to feel like a pair of hands were gripping it, or like I was in a neck brace. “Fuck, fuckity fuck” I remember saying to myself but the words were hoarse and I heard the rasping, wheeze sounds which I knew meant I was in trouble. I walked home as quickly as I could without exerting myself and debated calling an ambulance, but decided that my hubby would be home soon and I could probably handle this myself with antihistamines. Yes, I know it sounds stupid but there have been occasions when I have been able to handle allergy attacks by myself – I just didn’t know that, this was not going to be one of them.
I burst through my house door, wading through excited dogs wanting petting and a screaming cat that wanted feeding. I went to the medicine cupboard and grabbed a pack of antihistamines. I swallowed one and hoped that it was enough to do the trick, but clung to the packet in case I needed another; although I don’t actually know whether double dosing is overdosing in these situations – answers on a postcard people?
I could hear my 14 year old son in this room thank goodness, so I yelled as best as I could “Alexa” That’s not his name, but I exist in a digital family, so we use the Amazon Echo Dot to send messages to practically every room in the house, saves yelling or heaven forbid, walking to speak to each other. “Alexa, call my Son” A few rings later and he answered. “Erm.. can you find my EpiPen in my bedroom drawer Son, then come and sit with me for a bit?” There was not a hint of panic or concern in his voice as a few minutes later, he found me in the kitchen looking sheepish. “What did you do this time?” he asked. I bowed my head like a naughty child and answered “Cheesecake”. He shook his disapproving head at me and said “That was stupid” He then proceeded to bollock me for having only out of date EpiPens, as he lined them up in chronological order “2012, 2013, 2015” He selected the expired in 2015 one and got his phone out. “Ambulance?” I started to tell him no, as I was waiting to see if the anti…. oh shit….
I couldn’t swallow. There is nothing you can do to stop the panic when you suddenly find that you cant swallow your own saliva. You gulp but your entire throat is totally numb and it feels like all the air in the room has been taken away. All you can do is clutch at your neck and gasp, over and over, in the hopes that air will come in and the water in your mouth will go down. Your heart rate becomes rapid and dizziness is so intense that your head starts rolling and you know you may blackout at any second.
My Son called for an ambulance and the First Responder kept him on the phone, asking him about my consciousness level, what I was allergic to and reassuring him that an ambulance was on the way. He was then told how to use the EpiPen and he calmly stabbed my leg, firm but gentle and held it in place for a count of 10 seconds before withdrawing the needle. It was at this point which we both looked at each other and knew we were thinking the same thing – what an epic fail it was when my hubby used the EpiPen on me last time!
Flashback – My bloke is a former squaddie. He told me that he had been trained to use EpiPens in the army. He talks shite! Last time, he had repeatedly slammed the thing into my thigh, swearing and losing his shit about how it wasn’t working. wham, wham, WHAM, that twat nearly broke my bloody leg in half, until I managed to get enough breath to tell him to “take the fuckin cap off” He then whacked me one last time, so hard that I bet half the needle is still jammed in my thigh to this day. I was black and blue for weeks! It was high drama, but with my Son – calm, affectionate and not a mark on my skin.
As he stayed on the phone with the First Responder, my hubby’s car pulled into the driveway. Hubs strolled into the kitchen, plonked a kiss on the top of my bowed head and started nattering away “Hello my lovely, how was your day….” My Son and I both held our hands up to tell him to shush. He looked thunderous to be shown ‘the hand’ and started stropping round the kitchen, making himself a cuppa tea and pulling out food to make a sandwich. If he had just walked round to the front of me, he would have seen that I was practically turning blue. A few minutes later, as he stood with us in the kitchen eating his butty, we heard the sirens of multiple ambulances screaming outside our house. Hubby plodded over to the window “Ohh Wonder what’s happening next door?” The look on his face as the crews came bounding up our driveway.
My Son let them in as my hubby is whirling round trying to ask everyone “What is going on?” The paramedics knelt down beside me and started trying to find veins to extract blood and put a cannula into my hand. It’s at this point I should let you know that, my veins are pants! They never give it up. The medics were stabbing my inner elbow, upper arm, wrist and then eventually, my foot. That feckin hurt! A Oxygen mask was placed over my nose and mouth and I was told to breathe slowly.
Five paramedics were working on me, trying to ensure that I didn’t die, when my hubby piped up “So, I hear there was another mass shooting in Texas today” Everyone in the room turned and looked at him. Seriously? I am trying not to die, I am relying on these dudes to keep the Grim Reaper away, and he goes and changes the freakin subject – SERIOUSLY?
After what must have been around 20 minutes, I was put in the ambulance and with blue lights flashing (I enjoyed that bit) I was whizzed off to A&E, to be monitored in case the allergy kicked off again. Hubs and my son arrived about an hour later. They had stopped off for a takeout, knowing that the hospital canteens would be shut. They arrived all jovial, having taken it all in their stride and proceeded to rip the mickey out of my rash, bloated face and swollen neck. “You changed the subject” was all I could say to my hubby. He shrugged his shoulders, not prepared to admit what a divvy he’d been; lucky for him I know he always changes the subject when he doesn’t know how to manage something which scares him.
My Son walked up to my bed and announced “I saved your life”. I could see from the smug look on his face that this would be a sentence I would hear a lot from now on. I was right. Ever since, any time he hears the word “No” from me, it is quickly answered with “I saved your life”. I suppose he has a point *tut*…
For more info on EpiPens, click here
For my previous post on my first anaphylaxis attack, click here
Note: This is a recounting of my personal experience and is an excellent example of what NOT to do when it comes to allergies, anaphylaxis and keeping out of date EpiPens. If you experience any symptoms such as those I have described in the post, don’t be a dick – just call 999 immediately.