With my father, just one bite of fresh fish, and he said he felt his throat closing. With my younger brother, just one bite of a walnut cookie, and he said he felt like he had worms on his tongue. And now, with my son Vinny, just one bite of some nutty bread, and he said, “My mouth started burning.”
Within twenty minutes, Vinny was covered in hives. The babysitter called Vinny’s father Eric who rushed to the house and read the bread’s ingredients: walnuts, almonds, pecans. He injected Vinny with the Epi-Pen and drove him to the ER, calling me on the way. When I showed up, Vinny was still awake, high on the epinephrine, playing with the hospital’s Ipad. I called the babysitter’s parents, who are Vinny’s godparents. They came right over.
The doctor gave Vinny an IV of Benadryl, also put him on oxygen, because he’s a mouth breather, and gave him the nebulizer. Soon Vinny passed out. His entire body, even his head, was covered in hives. For us, it was two-plus hours of hand wringing before he woke back up, looked better, and was “out of the woods.” His godparents stayed with Eric and me the entire day, their eyes wide, their repeated phrase, “We never knew it was this serious.”
Vinny was admitted over night just in case. He is nine, and this was his fourth trip to the ER.
1. At one year old, Vinny’s grandmother fed him a chocolate chip cookie with walnuts. He threw up, broke out into hives, and Eric rushed him to the ER. That’s when we learned he was allergic to tree nuts.
2. In kindergarten, even though we told the teacher Vinny couldn’t eat food brought from other peoples’ homes, during a holiday party, he ate a chocolate chip cookie. It was right before Eric came to get him. Vinny threw up and broke out into hives. Eric gave him the Epi-Pen on the way to the ER. The next day I went to the school and raised a little hell with the teacher.
3. For Christmas when Vinny was 7, a friend bought me a basket full of candy, nuts and other treats. I threw just about everything away, save two pieces of toffee, which I had no idea contained almonds. Vinny ate a piece of toffee. He almost died that time, and Eric said it was all my fault. I suppose it was.
Each time Vinny goes into anaphylactic shock, the reaction becomes quicker and more severe. This last time I started thinking about his future. Eric and I can’t hover around our son his entire life. The doctor recommended that Vinny learn to give himself the Epi-Pen shot. He knows how. But would you want to stick a needle in your leg and hold it for ten seconds?
Only 1 percent of the population is allergic to tree nuts. My father, my brother, my son. Not me, Eric, my daughters. Being a parent is stressful enough without the added worry of a life-threatening allergy. Vinny’s godparents now understand the gravity of his nut allergy. They are kind and intelligent people. They even offered to pay part of the hospital bill.
Eric and I will continue to watch over our son as long as we can and encourage him to be an active participant in his own health. We keep telling him to read the labels, only eat food that comes from a package with legible ingredients, and no strange bread. Not even one bite.