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.
My son Mason was diagnosed with a severe milk allergy at the age of 7 months. Looking back, there were other signs of milk allergy back to when he was only a few weeks old, but because he was breasted until he was almost 7 months, I didn’t realize it.
He had blood in his stool and colic at only a few weeks old. The Nurse Practitioner thought it was reflux and prescribed drops for that. She also suggested it could be an intolerance to something I was eating and to cut things out of my diet like milk, eggs and peanuts. I cut those out and after about a month, his “reflux” seemed better.
(I had some experience with food allergies because my then 5 year old nephew had been diagnosed with allergies to milk, eggs and peanuts at 1 year. I had a lengthy discussion with the pediatrician about food allergies and the introduction of solids. He didn’t seem overly concerned but I knew enough to be cautious.)
At almost 7 months, I quit breastfeeding and started him on milk-based formula. We had just begun trying rice cereal and other solid foods. The first week on formula was rough. I attributed it to difficulty weaning and maybe Mason wasn’t ready for it. But after a week, I knew something was wrong. He began vomiting shortly after taking a bottle. I finally decided to switch him to another formula. We tried soy, and then finally Alimentum because he wouldn’t take the soy and I was afraid he could be allergic to that too. During this time I was calling our Pediatrician almost daily requesting a referral to an allergist. He kept telling me it was really “no big deal” and tried to convince me it wasn’t an allergy. I knew he was wrong.
One day, I gave Mason some cereal treats to munch on. He ate a couple and then began rubbing his eyes. His eyes became horribly bloodshot and he broke out in hives on his face. I immediately gave him Benadryl and watched him very closely, bags packed and ready to head to the ER if we needed to. Luckily the Benadryl did the trick. Afterward, I read the label and sure enough, milk was listed as an ingredient.
Fast forward a couple of years and a finally convincing the pediatrician to refer us to an allergist, we had been diagnosed with severe allergies to milk and egg (tested negative for soy and peanuts). At age 2 1/2, Mason had been going to a daycare center for nearly a year. The director and staff had even very understanding and diligent about Mason’s allergy. We worked together to adapt his meals to the menu, figuring out what they could provide and what I would bring for him.
One summer day, I got a call from the daycare on my cell phone while at work. This was unusual and I got nervous before I even answered. The teacher calling was very calm and stated that Mason had drank some milk and immediately vomited. She said he was pulling at his throat and struggling to breathe. I asked if they had called 911 and given him any medication. She said another teacher was on the other line with 911 right then and they were just about to administer the EpiPen. It took me a few minutes to realize that I was already in my car and a couple of blocks down the road. I don’t remember much of that moment at all. I hung up and called my parents, who lived about two miles from the daycare. They headed there immediately. The drive that typically took 15 minutes only took me half of that. I was praying constantly and thank God for all the green stoplights that day.
I pulled into the daycare right behind the ambulance. My parents were there and my dad rushed out to meet me. I think I jumped out of the car before I even had it completely stopped. He assured me that Mason was okay and was just a little scared. When I came in and saw my baby boy surrounded EMTs, red faced and trembling, I burst into tears. The severity of it all hit me at once. The EMT tried to check Mason’s vitals but he was clinging to me and wouldn’t let them touch him. Based on the way he was crying, they determined his lung capacity was good without even checking. We decided to take him to the ER to double check and my mom drove us there. After a couple of hours and a prescription for Prednisone, we were sent on our way.
Thankfully, everything worked in our favor that day. Mason is now 4 1/2 and still severely allergic to milk, but has outgrown his egg allergy. He’s attending a new preschool now, which was a difficult transition for me. I worry the staff won’t recognize the symptoms of anaphylaxis, or not remember how to use the EpiPen if they had to. I get nervous at the sight of the number showing up on my caller ID every time. They are very good about calling and asking me before giving him anything but it sets of some anxiety for me that it will be another one of “those” calls.
I get emotional telling that story even 2 years later because I know that God protected my boy that day.
Mason is old enough and understands enough about his allergy and loves to talk to others about it. He won’t take food (or even a glass of water!) from anyone without asking Mom if it is okay first. I know as he gets older I won’t always be nearby to ask. I am doing everything I can to teach him (age appropriately) to be his own advocate.