*takes deep breath…
This is difficult to share.
EVERY time I look at this picture of my baby, my heart drops. My stomach turns in knots. I could literally cry. I see this picture and it takes me back to the absolute scariest moment of my life.
Because every time I see this picture, even now (three years later) I’m hit once again with this thought: my baby…he could’ve died.
Matthew had his first anaphylactic reaction just a couple of weeks after his first birthday. He’d been a pretty picky infant with baby food, so I guess we had just never put green peas in front of him at any point prior to that life-changing day in June 2013.
We prepared peas for the whole family for dinner that night, and placed a few on Matthew’s tray. He ate 4 or 5, and we immediately could tell something wasn’t right. His face began to swell and turn red, and he was struggling to breathe. My husband and I were panicked.
We very quickly got him out of his high chair, and my husband strapped him in the car and rushed him straight to the urgent care facility up the street (I stayed home with our three year old). The next few hours were hell. My husband is amazing, but to not be with my baby at that time was the worst feeling ever.
In hindsight, we probably should’ve gone to the ER, or called for an ambulance…but that was what we did in the moment. Fortunately, the urgent care staff took it very seriously and rushed him straight back and administered appropriate medication. The photo above was taken after the medicine was administered. He actually looked worse before then (we just weren't thinking about taking pictures at that point). My husband sent this picture to me to help me feel better about his improvement.
I’m so thankful for so many things about that day. First, of course, that this was not a fatal reaction. It very well could’ve been, and that thought crosses my mind still way too frequently, even years later. I am thankful for the urgent care facility that took good care of my baby. We know now we should’ve gone the ER (and we’ve been there since for two additional anaphylactic reactions, one of which resulted in an ambulance ride), but he received excellent care at urgent care.
Anaphylaxis is a life-threatening, serious matter. I pray daily that we will never have to go through another episode of anaphylaxis. I know that I am not the only parent saying the same prayer over their child, either. My heart breaks for those who have lost a loved one as a result of an anaphylactic reaction.
One final thought (and I’ll keep it short for now, but trust me when I say I have a lot to say about this): jokes about anaphylaxis are not funny. They will never be funny. In the last few weeks, my husband and I have seen two jokes about anaphylaxis in two different sitcoms. Both times, we were sitting on the couch and could only look at each other, cringe, and say, “Nope…not funny.” Making light of anaphylaxis diminishes the seriousness of anaphylaxis, and can result in it not being taken seriously when it actually occurs. Also, in all honesty, these jokes make me feel like I’m listening to someone make fun of my own child. It is hurtful. It is wrong.
FARE (Food Allergy Research and Education – get used to seeing that acronym on this blog) is sponsoring a Food Allergy Awareness Week beginning on Sunday, May 8. Their theme for the week is “React with Respect” – and I hope that by sharing our story, you will rethink your response to food allergies and anaphylaxis. Our daily lives revolve around making sure that every bite of food that goes into Matthew’s mouth is a safe bite. Those with food allergies don’t really need sympathy, and certainly don’t need jokes…but your respect is crucial.
During this month of food allergy awareness, I encourage you to take anaphylaxis seriously, and to take the pledge to “React with Respect.” For more information about FARE’s efforts to raise awareness and funds for food allergy research, please visit my Food Allergy Awareness Week page, or go to http://www.foodallergy.org/food-allergy-awareness-week