There are some days in your life that end not exactly how you pictured them ending. Friday, was one of those days in our house!
Georgia and I had a great afternoon. We chatted with a bunch of the neighbors outside and enjoyed the beautiful weather late into the afternoon. Nick got home and we all sat down to dinner. We ate Mexican ground turkey, guacamole, and tortillas. Salsa and cheese for Nick and I and black beans for Georgia. She still seemed hungry after dinner, so Nick gave her a new type of cereal bar that we had found. After dinner, we played outside for a bit before Nick brought Georgia up to bed and I headed to Target to pick up some stuff. I walked into the house around 9pm and Nick was heading up from the basement saying that Georgia was fussy and coughing in her crib. We headed upstairs together thinking that we'd take her temperature and see what was going on.
We did not expect to find her COVERED in hives! Dinner was 2+ hours ago and we had eaten all "safe" foods. Obviously, something must have been cross-contaminated and not listed as an ingredient on something she ate. I immediately ran for the Benadryl and grabbed the epipen case out of Georgia's bathroom as Nick stripped her down. The poor thing was scratching like crazy all over her body. Thankfully, she loves the taste of the Benadryl, so down the hatch it went.
This was the first reaction that she's ever had where she sounded wheezy to us and was coughing periodically. It wasn't intense and she was still happy as could be. Curious as to why she had the run of the house past bedtime, she ran around laughing and playing with her toys as Nick and I debated on what to do. Do I stab her with the epipen and dial 911 or wait to see if the Benadryl kicks in?!? I ran downstairs and grabbed the action plan that our allergist had written out for daycare. In summary, it said that if more than one body systems were being affected, we should inject. Well, it seemed like her skin and respiratory system were two different systems, right?!?! UGH. Nick and I debated for a good 5-10 minutes all the while Georgia ran around happy as could be. Do we call 911? Do we bring her to the hospital ourselves? What in the world do you do? The wheezing and coughing quickly subsided, but the hives and scratching were just terrible. We decided to dunk her in a cool tub while I called our pediatrician's office. Of course, I got the answering service but a nice nurse called back and we chatted about the situation. At that point, it had been 30+ minutes since we discovered her upstairs. The nurse asked a million questions, especially about her breathing and whether she had any swelling. The nurse said that it was safe to put her back to bed, keep her close, and give her another dose of Benadryl at 3am. If she started having any trouble breathing, we should administer the epipen and call 911. Although she didn't outright say it, she made it seem like we should have used the epipen the moment we found her. Sigh. Parenting fail.
We set up the pack-n-play next to our bed and Georgia went right to sleep snoring away (in my head, I over-analyzed the snoring --- was it a good thing that she was in a deep sleep? Was it benadryl induced? Or was it a bad sign that her airway was compromised and swollen?). I sat down and sobbed for the next hour. What did I feed my child that made her have that reaction? Mothering is such a guilt-ridden job. Should I have given her the epipen the second I found her like that? And, of course, those deep dark thoughts cross your path... what would have happened had we not had the monitor on and not heard her coughing? What if we were out of the house and a babysitter was with her? What if had not grabbed the monitor as we have done on occasion as she has gotten older? Needless to say, I didn't sleep much Friday night. I lay awake just listening to her breathe. And when it got quiet, I would tiptoe over and make sure her chest was rising and falling. Talk about bringing us back to the NICU days all over again. As we jokingly said the next day, "Could she stop trying to die on us?!!?" I know, not funny. As 3am approached, I saw Nick reach over and check the time on his phone. I was able to state with certainty, "it's not 3am yet." Of course I knew the exact time. My eyes hadn't drifted from the clock since the minute I put my head on the pillow.
Of course, as I lay in bed listening to my daughter's snores, I had to start googling. Those initial searches of "when to administer epipen" led to "I should have administered the epipen." I found out that I wasn't alone in my hesitation to stab my daughter in the thigh with that gadget. I think my hesitation came from the admittance that if we did this, if we passed this invisible line of no return, then Georgia just doesn't have "mild food allergies." This is serious. This is her life. This could kill her. That's a very hard pill to swallow. I think I needed to read all those articles late into the night and early into the next morning so that I could get into the mindset of it's not a question of IF we will ever need the epipen, but WHEN we will need it. And we will most likely need to use it many times over the course of her life. Nick and I had our debrief the next day and decided that next time, we wouldn't hesitate. The embarrassment of using it when we don't need to is far easier to deal with than the thought that our delay could cause more harm.
As I reflect back now, almost 36 hours after the event, I'm still not sure if we did the right thing. I think we wouldn't have questioned the need for the epipen had her demeanor and attitude been different. But, she was still happy Georgia. She may have been bright red and covered in bumps, but she seemed herself. Shouldn't a child in crisis look different?! I think it comes down to the fact that if it had been anyone else - daycare, a babysitter, etc., I would have wanted them to give her the shot and call 911. Which means, that yes, we should have given her the shot and taken her to the hospital. We should have had fire trucks and ambulances pull up to our house and cause a stir in the neighborhood. We should have had neighbors standing on their steps watching in horror and curiosity as our 16 month old was wheeled out on a gurney.
Do we know what caused the reaction? No. My best guess is that something we ate was cross-contaminated with peanuts. We know what her egg and dariy allergy looks like and this was much more severe. My worst fear is that it was a different ingredient - some other allergen that we don't know about yet. Or that her allergies have progressed and gotten worse. You can imagine that she will not be eating anything from that dinner again for quite some time. Back to our "safe" foods for awhile. Back to boring. Boring is such a good thing in life.