My son was born with a milk allergy, so in order to continue nursing him, I had to remove all dairy and soy from my diet. I had eaten peanut butter through both pregnancies and was now starting to add more nuts to my diet; I was trying to find healthy snacks that did not contain milk, but could provide some protein. I found a few brands of vegan fruit and nut bars and would eat them as snacks.
My daughter was two weeks away from her third birthday and I had never given her tree nuts. I held off as long as possible due to doctor recommendations that this will help prevent nut allergies. She had very recently had a chipmunk-sized bite of a peanut butter cup and had no reaction, but I was still nervous about peanuts. Almost daily, she watched me eat these fruit and nut bars and was very interested in them. She kept asking to try one. I decided that she was almost three and we have to try it eventually (like the peanut butter) and I gave her a tiny bite. When she eats it and appears to be fine, I breathe a sigh of relief. I decide that she must not be allergic to nuts since this particular bar contained almost every kind possible. A few days later, I found out that this was not the case.
It was now Friday, October 15th. My daughter normally went to preschool on Fridays, but this particular day happened to be a teacher work day. I had a regular babysitter who came one day a week. My son was 6 months at the time, and the weekly babysitter allowed me to get out (without my children) and run errands. Anyway, I had our babysitter there that day and I made a run to target for diapers and to grab a few things for my daughters birthday party, which was set for that Sunday. On the way home I brought her some chicken nuggets from a place called chick-filet and I grabbed myself a salad. Well, all was well that morning. I got home around lunch time, we all ate together, then the children went upstairs with our babysitter to play while I did laundry. Around 2:00, I decided to start making the spaghetti sauce for dinner. Our babysitter left at three and this gave me some alone time in the kitchen. Well, pretty soon, the crew comes downstairs and my daughter tells me that she wants a snack. I gave her a cup of juice and she asked to try the sun chips on the counter. I let her have a little hand full of the sun chips and then decided that I would try one of my new larabars which contained finely chopped dates and cashews. I was down to the last bite and my daughter asked if she could try it. I decided it would be fine, since she had a different bar last week and had no reaction, and I gave her the last bite. She said that she liked it and asked to have another bite, but I told her that dinner would be ready soon. I told her to go play because the babysitter had to leave soon.
As she got up from the table, I looked at her and noticed that she scratched her tongue with her fingers and then took another sip of juice. A few minutes later, she told me that she needed to go potty and set down holding her tummy. She then decided that she did not have to go “poo-poo” and got up and ran upstairs. I was hustling to take the clean clothes into our bedroom when I heard my name being yelled from upstairs. I went up and saw my daughter sitting on the bathroom counter and my babysitter told me that she had just thrown up. I looked at my little girl and asked her if she was ok. My daughter said “yes mommy. I feel much better now.” I had not put this all together yet. I grabbed a towel and started to clean up the mess wondering if she was getting a tummy bug. I cleaned it very quickly, then went to check on my daughter. I noticed her face was getting red and she was starting to rub her arms. I went down to grab the phone and call her doctors office. I told them what happened and they told me to give her a teaspoon of Benadryl and bring her in. I ran and got the Benadryl, forced my child to take it and I got her dressed. I asked the babysitter to lay the baby in the car seat and I grabbed a towel to lay on my daughters lap in case she grew up again. I got them both buckled in the car, and as I was saying goodbye to our babysitter, I saw her face. She looked at me and said “this is not good is it?” then hugged us and went to her car.
As I was backing out of the garage, I noticed my daughters face was much more red. It is about a mile to the back entrance of our neighborhood. I finally got there only to be behind a very old man driving a uhaul. As I sat there waiting for this old guy to decide to turn, I looked back and saw her face starting to swell. The panic was starting to set in but I was caught behind a guy going 32 miles per hour, on a very curvy back road, with no way to pass. Knowing that my cell reception did not work until I reached the next intersection, which was one mile up, I held my phone with my husbands office number already programmed in. I pushed call and heard my husband say “I’m in a meeting. I will call you back”. I screamed in the phone “NO! You will talk to me right now!” I quickly told him that our daughter took a bite of the nut bar, vomited and now her face and eyes were completely swollen shut and her head was starting to bob around in the back seat. He told me to go to the emergency room and I told him that I did not think that we were going to make it. The traffic was horrendous. I was driving as quickly and safely as I could. I was blowing my horn and asking old goats to move over, but having no luck. Our pediatricians office was in two miles and the hospital was at least 10 minutes past that so I decided to stop at the doctors office first and they could help while I waited for the ambulance. I grabbed the stroller and attached the infant car seat, that my son was in, and then grabbed my daughter and carried her inside. The nurse that I had just spoken to on the phone happened to be standing at the front desk handing the receptionist a form. She looked up at me and my daughter and I said very quietly “help please”. She walked back and yelled “We’ve got anaphylaxis! We’ve got anaphylaxis!”
I walked into a room, while holding my daughter on my left side, and pushing the stroller with my right hand. I parked the stroller in the corner and held my little girl very tight. They asked me when all of this happened and I told them “around 2:30. I gave her the Benadryl about 15 minutes ago and the swelling did not start until we got in the car”. They asked me how long it took to get there and I told them about 12 minutes. One nurse had put a monitor on her finger and was yelling out numbers to a physicians assistant, while someone else asked me questions. A nurse ran in with an epi-pen and a tear slid down my face. The nurse looked at me and said “this is scary, but she is going to be all right”. At that moment I heard these horrifying words, “You can’t do the epi. She will arrest!”. Her heart rate was off the charts and she was heading for cardiac arrest. I heard a cart being pushed down toward our room and listened while the doctor and nurse brainstormed. “What about ………” one would say. Then the other would say “No. She will arrest” or “it is too dangerous”. Finally the nurse shot out some name and the doctor said “let’s try!”
For a split second, my daughter starts to wake up and is freaking out. Her eyes are completely swollen shut, her face is so big that she is completely unrecognizable, her entire body is bright red and she is clawing at her arms. They had already given her a second dose of Benadryl and they were now trying to get her pants leg up to give her this shot. Someone at the door yells “just stick it through her pants”. They stick her in the leg and then she let out a horrible scream; it was truly awful! The doctor looked at me and said “The swelling is so bad that we are going to call an ambulance. Is there anyone who can watch your baby so that you can go to the hospital?” I tell her no. We don’t have any family here and my babysitter had to go pick up her own children. “I will just have to bring my baby and meet her at the hospital” I say. My husband had been calling and wanting to know why they would not give her the Epi. Finally the doctor gets on the phone with him and she explains that even after all of the Benadryl and steroid shots her heart rate is still too high and that this is a very serious situation. She then tells him that he will need to meet us in the ER. She walked out and patted my shoulder as she looked at my swollen-faced little girl and my screaming baby. My baby was due to eat at 2:30, when all of this happened, and now he was starving and mad.
I was still holding my daughter on my lap and all of a sudden she turned to look at me and tried to talk; I had never been happier in my life. Through the entire experience she was eerily quiet except for two blood-curdling screams, but all of a sudden there was a change. She had not actually spoken since we were in the car. She was answering my questions in the car until she started slurring her words. Right after the started slurring, her head just started bobbing and rolling around The nurse came in and asked if she could help. I told her that I needed to feed the baby. At that time the doctor walked in and saw my little one looking up and trying to talk. The doctor smiled and I felt such relief. She looked at me, my daughter, and my screaming son and said ” look, I don’t want you to have to go to the hospital unless you absolutely have to. You really have your hands full and your husband is still pretty far away. It looks like she is starting to come around. Do you still want to go to the hospital?” I was very confused at this point. Nobody wants to go to the hospital, but I want what is best for my child. I looked at the doctor and tears quietly ran down my face while I said “I don’t know. I don’t know what to do”. She looked at my daughter and they checked her breathing and heart rate and she said “i think the swelling is finally starting to go down. Just sit here a few minutes. I don’t think you are going to have to go to the hospital. Call your husband and tell him to come here instead.”
A wonderful nurse held my daughter while I fed the baby. She rubbed my daughters arms and back to try to keep her from scratching herself because she itched so badly. By the time my husband got there, her swelling was much better. Her eyes were slightly open now and her face was not nearly as large, but it was still very shocking and he immediately got tears in his eyes when he saw her. The doctor told him that this was a major improvement and it was the most swollen she had ever seen someone. I had been there over an hour now and she was continuing to get better. One nurse stayed in the room with us for over three hours that day. She talked to us and asked my daughter questions. They found out her birthday party was in two days and asked what she wanted. At that point I would have promised her anything. I was just so happy that she was ok.
Around 6:00, they came in and gave me an Epi pen and told me how to use it. They also told me, that if she is given the Epi pen, she must be taken by ambulance so that they can resuscitate her. They explained that her allergy and her reaction is very severe and that she was heading into cardiac arrest. They told me to watch her very closely and sleep with her that night because these things can rebound and she may have difficulty breathing again and have to go to the hospital. The doctor looked at my husband and said that if I had waited for an ambulance, “there is a good chance she would have died”. We took our red-faced little girl out of the building and I asked my husband to drive her home. I put the baby in my car and called my mom. I had been very clam through this entire ordeal but, as soon as my mom answered the phone, I lost it. “She almost died! They told me she almost died and how lucky we were! Mom, I almost lost her today!”
A cashew almost took my daughter away from me! This was the day that food became scary!