My husband was insisting that the cheese had no milk in it, so I didn’t really know what was going on. But I said, “I’m calling 911.” Once I got on the phone with them, I felt so much better. They said help was on the way, and to get my EpiPens out and ready just in case I needed them. After a few minutes my son was coughing and seemed to be wheezing, so I thought we should give him the EpiPen (I had already given them Benadryl in the first minute). I had never used the EpiPen, and I was so glad that my husband was there, because he was very calm and gave it to my son. I didn’t remember that you had to hold it in position for at least 10 seconds, to give all the medicine a chance to come out, but he did it correctly.
The ambulance arrived within about five minutes of our call. The drivers seemed shocked that we had used the EpiPen on my son, and I was thinking I shouldn’t have done it. They said he was wheezing a little, and my daughter seemed fine. But they said they would take her in the ambulance, too, since we were going for him. She sat next to me in the ambulance, and my son was on a stretcher. As we neared the hospital (about 15 minutes’ drive), I heard one of the EMT’s say, “I don’t like the sound of his breathing,” and for the first time I was really scared. When we got in there, several doctors and nurses were buzzing around him.
The ER attending said that his pulse-ox was very low at 88. When I asked if I should have given him the EpiPen, she said it saved his life, which really scared me. Meanwhile, my daughter was sitting next to me very silently. An EMT told the doctors that she was a patient, too. They checked her out and she was in some distress, as well. Her throat was swelling and she was wheezing. She had a bit of a delayed reaction, it seems. They both had to be transferred to a critical care unit for overnight observation.
I am now not going to hesitate to use the EpiPen. I have been told to use it whenever there is any doubt. My husband has also gotten more diligent about reading labels. In the case of the soy cheese, he thought since it said “lactose free” on the front that it was fine. It contained caseinate, which was listed in the ingredients.
I went on a strict elimination diet while breastfeeding to ensure his safety. He began eating solid foods at almost 10 months old and I have never been so stressed in my life. I worried over every bite he took thinking the worst. As I began to do more research on finding and preparing foods for him and I, I became more calm and relaxed in our own home. I began preparing meals for our entire family that were completely allergen free but on occasions I allowed my girls, 8 and 3, a special lunch or treat that they had been missing. It was July 28th, 2011. I will never forget that day as long as I live.
I fed my son lunch and then sent him on his way to play in the living room while I prepared that “special” lunch for the girls. My son’s father was sitting in the living room watching him play. I served the girls their lunch, gave them the “put your bowl in the sink, wash your face
and hands before touching your brother” speech. I left the room to get ready for work figuring my son’s father would monitor the situation. I’m applying my make-up and I hear my daughter announce she has to go to the bathroom. She has always been good with putting any food on the counter when she leaves the room so I didn’t think anything of it. (Again my boyfriend was right there.) I now hear the clank of a spoon on a bowl and my heart dropped. I came running into the kitchen to find my son eating the entire bowl of mac & cheese. I felt so many emotions at that moment because I knew how severe my sons contact reactions are and what was this going to turn into now that he’s ingested a bowl of mac & cheese. I immediately grabbed him up and washed his face that was already beginning to swell. His eyelids were puffy in a matter of seconds. His lips began to swell and then he began coughing. I gave him Benadryl, the 1 teaspoon I was told to give if this should happen.
I could barely get it down his throat and I knew at that moment that I needed the EpiPen Jr. I grabbed it and my son’s father took my son from my arms and said “give him a few minutes.” I knew that was not going to work. That Benadryl was not enough. He was gasping for air. His whole face was swollen beyond recognition. I grabbed him back and told my boyfriend we had no choice and to get the kids’ shoes on and in the car immediately. I took the cap off the EpiPen Jr. and turned to my son and said “Mommy loves you.” I grabbed his thigh and jabbed him, held for 10 seconds. He never screamed so loud. I was happy to hear him scream because seconds ago he was gurgling and struggling to breath. Our hospital is 15 minutes away so we chose to drive him ourselves only because we know that the medics take forever to get to our house. I sat in the back with my son who seemed lifeless but his swelling had gone down I bit. I talked to him telling him that I loved him and we were going to make it through this.
As we arrived at the hospital, his reaction started to come back. I literally jumped out of the car as it was coming to a slow stop and ran my son through the doors of the ER. I got to the desk and told them I had just given my son a shot of Epinephrine and he needed to be seen immediately. The man at the desk was very laid back. I guess you become numb to emergencies when you work at the desk of an ER. He asked in a very lax voice “what’s his name?” I said that doesn’t matter please let me back to have him looked at.
He then asked “do you have his insurance card?” I was livid. I began to scream for someone to help me. A nurse came running around the desk and asked what happened and immediately turned to the man at the desk and yelled at him to buzz us back and call them to tell them we were bringing A BABY back. I’ll never forget this next moment. The man says on the phone “yeah, I’m sending a guy back that had an allergic reaction or something.” The nursed yelled at him again and said “he’s a baby! Not a guy!” She rushed us back and quickly hooked him up to check his oxygen levels. At this point my son was swelling and he was purple. He had a very high fever and was completely lethargic. I kept asking them to hurry and do something. The nurse said, “look his oxygen is ok, he’s going to be ok once we get him fluids.” They tried 6 times to get an IV started and they couldn’t because he was so swollen that they could not find a vein.
I then turned to them and said that they needed to do something else. They agreed (after an hour of trying) that they would give him subcutaneous medications. They gave him another dose of Benadryl and a shot of steroids. I held my baby tight and watched the purple slowly fade and his normal color return. His body temperature started to normalize and I knew then, that he would be ok. He was given steroids to take for a few days in case he had another delayed reaction.
I called his allergist the next morning and explained what happened. They were shocked at how the ER responded to this situation and told me if ever they do not administer another shot of Epinephrine after 15 minutes and he is still having a reaction to do it myself. They told me to always carry his EpiPen Jr. to the hospital if this should happen again. I didn’t know that. I am happy that I remained calm enough to save my son’s life. Had I listened to others he may not be here today. I pray we never have to go through this again.