October 16, 2007

Baseball without peanuts

I think that life, in small part, is a constant process of risk assessment. Some risks you can control and some risks you cannot control but you assign a probability factor to the uncontrollable risk and then sort of just move on with your life, knowing, as best you can, that the uncontrollable risk has a high or low probability of happening. You know what I am talking about, even if you don’t recognize it. You do it. You hear someone has some horrible disease and you become concerned about yourself or your family and you run a quick, unconscious, check on your genetic history (no one in the family has had this or anything similar) and a quick check on the standard environmental factors (I have not worked in the chemical/asbestos/whatever industry or likely been exposed) and you breath a sigh of relief as you think to yourself, gee, I am not likely to get this, and you move on to express sympathy and offer help. Sounds familiar, right? Of course it does.

Sometimes, though, you get a curve ball. No one on either side of my or my wife’s family has an allergy to peanuts. So, while we have run into people who have kids who have these allergic reactions, I was pretty sure that it was not an issue for my family.

Well, until now. The baby has one. A severe allergy to peanuts.
We discovered this on Sunday when, at lunch, his face swelled and become covered with white, raised welts and he began coughing and crying and sneezing. The doctor, hearing he was crying and believing he was breathing ok, advised me to drive him down to Greenwich hospital (where he was born, coincidentally).

So, there we are, whipping down the Merritt parkway at 85 miles an hour, in the SUV, when, exhausted from his ordeal, he decides to take a snooze (I realize later). Only, he doesn’t respond when I reach back and grab his leg. Nothing.

I pull into the gas station by New Canaan going 70 mph, convinced that my baby has stopped breathing and that I better get 911 on my cell phone right away. I screech to a halt and the noise and motion wake him up. So, I decide, ok, he is breathing and maybe he is just completely exhausted. I pull back on to the parkway to continue on down, my heart going a million beats a minute, or so.

Have you ever gotten your SUV up to 90, on a twisty parkway, while reaching your right hand back into the back seat to get your index finger under a baby’s nose to make sure you can feel him breathing?

I may have lost two years, or so, of my life on that drive.

We get to the hospital and an EMT immediately comes over to my car, saying, “I figured something was wrong when I saw you come speeding up the ramp”, and he brings us right into the ER and directly to the doctor in charge. By this time, the swelling now includes the whites of the boy’s eyeballs (this was really quite disturbing; I have never seen anything like that before). They need to weigh him but he flips out when I try to put him down on the scale.

His crying continues at a very high volume and with great intensity as they take his clothes off and put him in a baby hospital gown. It then takes two nurses, and me, to hold him down on the bed to get the intravenous line in his arm so they could start the steroids and the other medicine. It upset me to watch this line go in his arm.

It takes forever to calm him, after that.

We sit there, he and I, in the examination room, my shirt soaked from chest to back by his tears, as the medicine starts to work. The benadryl makes him sleepy and he naps on me for about two hours. When he wakes, I feed him some lunch and we wait.

We wait until a little after 8 that night; some seven hours after we pull in to the ER. They need to observe him for a six or seven hour period after the medication is administered.

He was a lot better after his nap. He ate and the swelling had gone right down. He took my hand and we took several laps together in the ER, him in his little gown and diaper, all smiles, by that point. All smiles, up until I asked a nurse to hold him so I could go to the bathroom. He came with me, in the end.

We were home very late, with all sorts of prescriptions for things like Epi Pens and with instructions about making sure he eats no other nut products. The house is being purged of them and when we went out to eat on Monday, we confirmed that the restaurant was not cooking with peanut oil.

We are all a bit exhausted and kind of freaked out by the need to be even more vigilant going forward.

You assess these risks for your life but, like all risk plans, your assessments do not always survive contact with reality.

Posted by Random Penseur at October 16, 2007 03:49 PM | TrackBack

My dad once described to me the time that they rushed me to the emergency room, when I was about three months old. He was telling me this thirty years later, and I still detected a note of fear in his voice.
I can't begin to imagine how you felt. I'm so glad your baby is ok, and good luck with avoiding peanuts. That's going to be a joy, I'm sure.

Posted by: nic at October 16, 2007 05:18 PM

I'm so glad he's ok!

Posted by: Kathy at October 17, 2007 12:28 AM

oh my! I'm glad it was nothing more serious!

Posted by: caltechgirl at October 17, 2007 04:14 PM

My son isn't allergic to peanuts but to aspirin, penicilin and sunflower seeds. Although he's all grown up now, I still remember making several of those hospital runs (once with a police escort) and get light headed. You're fortunate in that the public is becoming better educated about peanut allergies.

I can't say it gets easier because it doesn't but being ever vigilant does become a habit. You'll all be fine.

Posted by: Jocelyn at October 18, 2007 01:31 PM

I can't imagine going through that horrifying experience. But 90 mph on the Merrit Parkway?!!

Glad to read that the little guy came through it all right. The downside is, of course, macadamias nevermore.

Posted by: Tuning Spork at October 22, 2007 07:41 PM

Zoicks. I have a couple of students every year who have to tote Epi-Pens, and so far, I've been heaving sighs of relief that it's not me ... yet. Can't imagine what you lived through just there. I'd be set back on my heels a bit, too.

Posted by: Caroline at October 22, 2007 08:47 PM

Scary, scary! So glad it all turned out ok!

Posted by: Monica C. at October 24, 2007 03:59 PM

Holy Cow, RP! I am glad to hear the he is doing well. I cannot imagine going through that.

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