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Saturday, April 28, 2007

Did This Blog Save A Life Today?

Today our daughter had her second anaphylactic reaction. It was truly another formative experience. What was scary this time however is that we do not know for sure what caused the reaction. In December we isolated the cause to be peanut, her peanut allergy subsequently being confirmed by our allergist. This time we do not know what happened, which is more frightening than the emergency situation itself.

Anaphylaxis is an invisible condition. Your child goes from perfectly fine, to near death and then quickly back to being okay within minutes. It's crazy to watch and not being able to pinpoint the allergen makes it even more frightening.

We think it might have been a dog this time! Our daughter is allergic to dog saliva - wheals appear when a dog licks her face. This is tough as our daughter loves 'doggies'. A few of our friends have dogs and initially they did not really understand how serious the reaction was. Once our daughter had her peanut reaction in December our friends usually have the dog out of the home when we come over out of concern. They have been very accommodating!

Today our daughter ran her hand down a dog's coat before we could stop her. We think she then touched her eye. Within 10 minutes her eye had swollen shut, wheals appeared on her face and she started to get serious swelling down the side of her face and under her jaw bone. I was not with her at the time and my wife was amazing in this critical moment.

My wife did not hesitate to use the EpiPen. My mother happened to be in town and helped my wife prepare the EpiPen for the injection. In the interest of full disclosure, my mother was the Teacher in the It Takes A Village series. She spent her whole career fearing a scenario just like this. Instead of facing an anaphylactic episode with a student, she was forced into a potentially fatal emergency situation involving her granddaughter.

My mother and my wife were incredibly calm and effective in the heat of the moment. They quickly and calmly administered the EpiPen, became emotional only after the reaction started to subside. It is very difficult to check your emotions and deal with the situation objectively when so much is on the line.

Once I arrived home I made sure my daughter took a little more Benadryl as the swelling had returned. We then rushed her to the hospital. I called 911 on the way to let them know what was going on. Out of concern for my ability to drive safely under the circumstances, 911 asked me to pull over and they sent an ambulance. Though I knew I would be fine I thought it best to not second-guess 911 so I pulled over. For the second time in a row the paramedics were amazing, arriving within 5 minutes and creating an overwhelming sense of calm. Though the reaction was not nearly as bad as the peanut response, the standard three hour wait in the ER was prescribed to make sure that the reaction safely subsided.

The paramedics and doctors were very impressed with the use of the EpiPen. They noted that all-too-often parents bring in a child without the EpiPen being used, often toting an unused EpiPen. The Emergency Room doctors have these parents administer the EpiPen in the ER under supervision, all the while coaching them to do this right away next time. The doctors reinforced the fact that you have to act quickly and that many parents just cannot bring themselves to drive a needle into their child's leg.

Bottom line: you simply have to do this!

My wife said afterwards, "If I hadn't heard so many stories from other parents through the blog, I can easily see how difficult it could be to use the EpiPen. You don't want to believe that the reaction is as serious as it is. You don't want to believe the situation is truly life or death. It would be easy to convince yourself that a good dose of Benadryl and a hug would be enough to make her better and that using the EpiPen is only for the greatest of emergencies. Being exposed to the experiences of other parents gave me confidence to use the EpiPen without hesitation. There was no questioning the use. It was simply the next step.

I credit the blog for giving me the confidence to use the EpiPen. It was awful to inject the needle into her leg but I knew I needed to do it. Before today I really wanted to believe that the first reaction was an isolated incident. I would never have driven a needle into my daughter's leg if I did not know about cases where children were lost due to a delayed response. Though we'll never know for sure, it is possible that today I saved my daughter's life and I credit our blog for that."

I agree with my wife that writing and discussing the blog played a major role today. She was calm and knew exactly what to do. She was also reassured by my past blog posts about the fact that these reactions are (unfortunately) commonplace for children with multiple severe allergies. Avoidance is never going to be absolute so it is critical to be prepared for an allergic reaction.

Our daughter was again a brave little girl today. It was very interesting this time to explain to her why Mommy drove a needle into her leg. She now understands that doggies make her sick. Her ability to communicate is going to be a great ally in managing her allergy ... she already says 'No Peanuts Please' when she sees cookies or other food and 'Doggies Make Me Sick' is now added to her list of phrases.

Today was a very tough day but it is comforting to know that we were ready. We acted swiftly and with confidence. Though you never want to see your child in a life or death situation, today we learned a lot about ourselves. It is very satisfying to know that we are able to execute our anaphylaxis emergency response plan.

Let's hope these skills are not needed again any time soon.


allergicmom said...

Hugs to you and your family, and to your brave little girl, too. I'm so sorry to hear about her reaction to dogs -- it's tough when little kids like animals so much.

Did you ask if the dog ate/eats anything with peanuts in it?

My mom's neighbour makes peanut butter dog cookies and feeds them to his dog. I keep my kid faaar away from that dog.

NoPeanuts said...

It is tough ... it breaks my heart to have to keep her away from 'doggies'. I am not a dog person at all but we are definitely getting her a dog of her own once the allergy passes (let's hope!).

We *think* that she rubbed the dog's coat and then touched her eye. She has had contact reactions to dogs before but the eye was the focal point this time and that might explain why the reaction was more severe. We have no way of knowing for sure.

I also have no idea if the dog ate peanuts ... scary thought! I suspect that if that had been the case the reaction might have been even more severe than it already was.

Thank you for your kind note. It was a tough day and your support is valued. The silver lining in this episode is how proud I am of my wife's response. She was amazing in the heat of the moment!

Anonymous said...

To Mr. and Mrs. Peanuts
Your strength is admirable and will definitely be an attribute your daughter will endure for her allergies. As her auntie it is with utmost respect I have for your dedication to this web site with the ambitions of making our little girl's world a safer place. We are learning a little something each day through your words of wisdom to provide protection.

Growing in Grace (Nicole) said...

Thank you for sharing your stories. Each one helps the rest of us feel more confident in knowing how handle reactions if we need to. It's always a good reminder to be prepared to use the epi quickly and without hesitation. I'm glad your daughter is doing okay now.

chichimama said...

I just found your blog via grand rounds. Your wife did an amazing job. I am one of those parents who broke down in the face of using the Epi. Thankfully it turned out fine.

I also feel your pain in the not knowing what your daughter reacted to, as we still have no idea what my daughter is allergic to after two years of reactions and allergist visits. Makes it hard to go through life wondering if the next thing they touch is going to cause hives or not...

You are both doing a great job. Thanks for sharing your stories and research.

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