November 16th 2012 would probably be one of the most unforgettable moments of my life. And of course, when it comes to a food enthusiast, any kind of unforgettable moment usually involves food, so let the story begin with dinner.
Three weeks ago, my aunt arrived in Toronto from Hong Kong to visit family. Since yesterday was the last day of her trip, I decided that after work, I would surprise her by showing up at her place with Mia and take her out to dinner. On a side note, I’d like to tell you that when I take Mia out to eat, I usually bring something from home in case she can not have anything off the restaurant menu due to her multiple food allergies: cow’s milk protein allergy, egg whites, peanuts, walnuts and some other tree nuts. However, I just got back the night before the dinner from a four-day business trip, so I did not follow protocol and went out without prepping any food ahead of time for Mia.
I took my aunt to an Italian restaurant near by home. By the time we got to the restaurant, it was already passed Mia’s dinner time, so I anxiously told the waitress to bring some bread for us so Mia could have something to settle her down. When our basket of bread arrived, I had just ordered two glasses of wine, fries for Mia, an appetizer and two pasta dishes. I had informed the waitress that Mia had dairy and nut allergies before ordering our meal, so when the waitress placed the basket of bread before us, she had warned us that the bread “may contain traces of dairy products” in it. Since Mia has had bread from this specific restaurant before, and the bread that she could eat at home also has the same cautionary statement on the packaging, I decided to take a risk and give the bread to Mia. Let me tell you that I had made the biggest mistake ever! After Mia ingested a few bites of bread, she had a series of tumultuous sneezing spells, then became supper fussy and started to wail. I was not “cautioned” until I caught a glimpse of her swollen upper lip over the tea light candle. When I saw Mia’s swollen lip, combined with the unusual fussiness, I knew right then, that something terrible was going to happen. Mia was having an allergic reaction to the bread. I quickly left our table, sprinted down the hallway to locate our waitress so that we could get the bill. Perhaps it was because I was in a rush to go, waiting a couple of minutes for the bill felt like a life time! Our pretty-and-pretty stupid waitress seemed to not comprehend the desperation in my voice nor the urgency of my situation and left us hanging with a fussy toddler that was about to turn the restaurant’s dinning room upside down. I knew that if we stayed any longer, Mia could be in real trouble because in that moment, Mia’s upper lip was getting bigger and also sounded as though she was struggling to breath. So I turned to a random waiter nearby and commanded him as if I was a Sargent on duty: “My child is having an allergic reaction, go get my bill NOW!”
After I paid the bill, I told my aunt to wait by the front door so that I could go get the car and pick them up. As soon as I opened the door, I ran to my car like a mad woman. When I returned with the car, I had to force a VERY uncooperative toddler, who was screaming on-top-of-her-lungs into the car seat. Mia was so reluctant to be buckled up that it looked as though she was fighting a kidnapper who was about to snatch her away from her mom! Once Mia was buckled up, I gave her the inhaler, hoping that it may help open up her air ways a little during the ride back home.
Getting Mia into the car was just the first hurdle, the next hurdle was the ride home. Mind you, this whole ordeal happened on a Friday night around dinner time, when people were either trying to get home or rushing out to a dinner gathering. What would be a five minute ride home turned out to be at least a 10 minute ride home. Under the circumstance that I was in, a 10 minute ride home felt like an eternity! I was hitting a red light after red light. I was so anxious that I kept on flicking my high beam at any slow moving cars that were in my way like a lunatic possessed with an extreme case of road rage! To avoid the traffic, I even took the side streets to get home so that I had the option of “carefully” rolling over a small red light or a stop sign if I had to. During the ride home, Mia was so uncomfortable that she kept on crying and trying to escape from her car seat! Good thing my aunt was at the back seat with her, trying everything she could to sooth Mia.
When I reached home, the first thing I did was go grab the Benadryl and the EpiPen. Since I have never used the EpiPen before, I was hoping that the Benadryl would have been enough to settle her allergies, I was so anxious about the “unknown” and what “could” happen to her, that I decided it was time to use the EpiPen on Mia. I told my aunt to hold her leg down in case she wiggled around. My eyes scanned through the instructions quickly, opened the cap at the end of the EpiPen, then pushed the EpiPen against Mia’s outer right thigh with just enough pressure until I heard a “click” sound (exactly what the allergy doctor told me to look out for when administering the EpiPen), then held the EpiPen still for a couple of minutes for the drug to administer. Oh the moment I pushed the EpiPen against Mia’s thigh, she yelped in pain and instantaneously released extra large water beads from her eyes. My heart broke and shattered into pieces right there…
The drug must have kicked in fairly quickly, soon after the EpiPen, the swelling on Mia’s upper lip no longer looked like a fat chorizo sausage, she was a bit more calm, looked towards me and said: “eatEat eat EAT eat”! The poor thing must have been starving by then! Although Mia seemed to be getting better, I had to follow protocol and call an ambulance (I was so glad that I was not day dreaming when the allergy doctor last spoke to me). Soon after my call to 911, a couple of police officers came along with some paramedics. Before I knew it, I had a brigade of six, uniformed officers standing in my kitchen! Both the police officers and the paramedics took details of the incident and then suggested that we head to the hospital to have a doctor check on Mia. Apparently, the drug from the EpiPen would only work for about 20 minutes, we needed to make sure that medical care was available in case there was a rebound of the allergic reaction.
By the time we reached the hospital, we were exhausted. The doctor came in to check on Mia and gave her a dose of anti-inflammatory drug and then told us that we had to wait a couple more hours so that they could monitor Mia to make sure everything was “A” okay!
Mia at the ER after an allergic reaction
At this point I started trying to make all the phone calls necessary to inform my family members of our where about. By the time my husband got to the hospital, the doctor did another quick check on Mia and told us that we had to stay put, and wait till 1am before we could go home!
When the clock struck 1am, we got the final “okay” from the doctor, my husband immediately swept Mia into his arms and off we went. I followed my husband out of the ER and watched him as he walked in front of me. Mia’s head was resting on my husband’s strong shoulder, the very shoulder that I cried on countless times. For some strange reason, Mia looked to me like a tiny, sleepy kitten that my husband found on the street and cradled in his arms to provide it with unconditional love and care. In that moment, I found peace in my heart again.
When I put Mia back in her car seat this time, she was half asleep, and half mumbling: “I love you mama”… Oh I just melted right then and there. I wanted to tell my daughter that I am not the best mom in the world, but I will certainly try my best to be one for her.
I wrote this blog post not to only share my experience with you, but to also remind myself and other mommies who have kids with life threatening food allergies:
1. Not to take any “risks” when it comes to giving your child, food that “may contain” traces of allergens which may trigger an allergic reaction. You could be “risking” your child’s life.
2. Always carry the EpiPen when going out with your child. Some times things never work according to plan, because “life happens”.
3. Make sure you, or your child’s caretaker knows how and when to administer the Epi pen!
Hope this helps and comes in handy when you need it!