Chapter Five, 2016 – March 2017

This post will update Elijah’s food allergies from the fall of 2015 through March 2017.

After one EpiPen incident, well, one really does not hope for another!

We remained diligent after that incident in the fall of 2015 and he had no more issues or incidents until recently.

Elijah finished the flag football season of 2015 (as slim as it was), joined competitive speech and debate for the spring of 2016, and played in a local softball summer league that summer, all without incident. He also joined a summer flag football league in 2016 and loved that (only a few games, and it was super expensive because it was sponsored by the NFL, but he enjoyed it). His team actually won the “super bowl”, and they even got little “rings”. (Starting them young, aren’t they?) Anyway, the local TV station came one evening to do a quick story and Eli was on TV, playing football (they didn’t interview him), but of all the teams and footage they could have gotten or shown, in that brief segment that was only a few seconds, he was playing.

Last fall, he played flag football again with the homeschool league, and this time, they had more games planned. He continued to take speech and debate classes in the fall, too, in preparation for the competition season this winter/spring.

In January, a few months ago, we were headed to the first tournament of the season in the Indianapolis area. Elijah made sandwiches for himself and his brother to eat on the way, and labeled the ziploc bags with our names: mine, his and his brother’s. I don’t often eat cheese, but that day, I did add a slice of cheese to my sandwich.

Well, Elijah inadvertently mislabeled the ziploc bags. He accidentally switched mine and his. So when he pulled out his sandwich, near the border of Illinois and Indiana, he took 2 bites out of my sandwich, instead of his own, thinking it was his sandwich he was eating.

After the second bite, he realized something was different, and asked me if my sandwich had cheese. I said yes. He looked at the sandwich and could see the cheese.

I told him to get out the Benadryl and EpiPen. I was driving and he was next to me in the passenger seat. He was ok for a while, but then he began sneezing. So, I asked Siri for the nearest hospital. It was about 5 minutes away, and by now, one of his eyes had turned red, and he couldn’t stop sneezing, and he was having a little bit of trouble breathing. I made the decision to go to the ER.

Thankfully I was in a city with a hospital just off the interstate… in 10 more miles I’d be in rural Indiana with farms for miles (does something like this happen without God’s grace??) I pulled in the ER, took my EpiPen with me, told them what happened, and it took them a few minutes, but they FINALLY gave him epinephrine (and I didn’t have to use my own- they told me not to use my own, because it’s outrageously expensive, but that’s a different subject entirely).

Within 15 minutes, the transformation was visible. He stopped sneezing, his eyes cleared up, he was talking, he was breathing better, he was back to himself.

I could have given him the Epi in the car, but I was thankful to have a hospital nearby. (Did you know you are supposed to go to the ER after administering the EpiPen yourself?)

Once more, the EpiPen was there.

Now fast forward to the present. Very recently, he had diarrhea and vomiting. It was a lot during a few hours, so I called in and asked for something to stop the vomiting.

But here is what happens with someone with so many allergies: you have to talk to the pharmacist and ask them to find out all the ingredients in the medication and they have to call the manufacturer. If it’s not right, you have to call the doctor again, and start the process again. I tried to preempt all this by talking to the pharmacist first, because I had gone in to pick up something over the counter for his other symptoms, but normally the doctor prescribes first, then you talk to the pharmacist. If the doctor knows the allergies, they could help by asking about the allergies first. (So, it got me thinking: in a true emergency, how quickly could we find out this information? Should he be wearing some sort of medical ID bracelet? Ha, I can’t imagine how well that will go over….:)

The other questions are: is this illness food-allergy related? is this a virus? is this a food-borne illness? I couldn’t figure it out. With a food-allergic child, it can be hard to pinpoint in the absence of other symptoms. He had no other symptoms, other than the fact he had a cold a few days before.

Finally, we could eliminate food-borne illness probably since several others had eaten what he had eaten at home, but for a few hours we were suspecting grapes (but no one else had gotten sick from grapes). Then we realized it was either a virus or food-allergy related.

I spoke to my father on the phone (he thought it was a virus). That is what is sounded like; the medications did help.

But after 10 days, he is still experiencing stomach aches off and on. So now, we are suspecting wheat or eggs. :( Or maybe it is a certain kind of wheat or brand of bread (a new type of bread that was brought in the house). The bread has no allergens listed, but that doesn’t mean they aren’t in there (that isn’t a comforting thought- we do have to depend on food labels), or it could be that this particular bread just isn’t agreeing with him.

So now, I am thinking it is possible that he had both: a virus, plus food-allergy related symptoms.

With food allergies, there are always new challenges.

At this point, I have him scheduled for his yearly blood test soon (which I haven’t done yet for 2016, so it’s overdue), and we’ll check all those numbers again and all sorts of things. I’m not going to Children’s lab for the first time in all these years (because of the cost and distance), so we’ll see how these numbers compare to the other lab. (That is another issue to watch for: comparability among numbers in different labs. Let’s see how that one goes. For consistency, I’ve always gone to the same lab.)

There is always so much to learn. Not only do I have to learn and keep up with all of this, I have to teach him to learn it all, too. One day, I am not going to be there to be an advocate for him, and he is going to have to speak up for himself.

Because I have a daughter in college, facing challenges of a different sort, I am in the middle: trying to help her, but she also has to do some things on her own. College students are in that middle ground; they still need help but are also learning how to get help where they are located. So, I can see that Elijah will have to figure all of this out, too. Eating at college for him (if he still has all these allergies) is going to be a new sort of challenge. But this child likes to cook (God’s grace once again).

We’ve had long spans with no reactions. This is not childhood cancer or some other debilitating disease. He lives a normal life. He is healthy. I recognize it for what it is. Yet, at the same time, it is constant. We have to remain constantly vigilant to keep safe from those ingredients. There is no “rest” from this issue, these questions, from trying to be continuously and constantly “safe” and there are some days I really feel the weight of that (and he does, too). Yet at the same time, I’m trying to be thankful: for medicine, for help, for many safe foods to eat, for the “warnings”. There is much to be thankful for.

One day at a time.