On July 25, 2012 our son turned 5 years old. Exciting day, right?! Turning 5 is a milestone, soon he would start kindergarten and be a “real” big kid like his sister. Little did we know that his 5th birthday would change our lives forever.
Daddy had to work, so mommy took the kids to spend the beautiful day at the park with friends. The park we went to has a river running through it and it was hot that day so the kids wanted to play in the water. I didn’t give it a second thought, I was going to be right there, no concerns about drowning, etc. Just fun playtime in the water. About 20 minutes after we got settled in by the water, I heard my son scream “Mom, I got stung!” He had been stung before, no big deal. It took him less than a minute to navigate the rocks and make it back to me, so I could check out his ear where he was stung.
I was looking at my baby boy’s ear and thinking “wow..that is swollen.” I suggested to my friend who was with us that we go to her house and grab some Benadryl. I figured the swelling was simply because the sting was on the upper ear, a small area, but I didn’t want him to be uncomfortable. As we were hustling to the car I looked down at my baby boy to discover that I was so very wrong. At this point, I could no longer see the bridge of his nose and his eyes were swelling quickly. ”Forget the Benadryl, we are going to the hospital” I said. The 3 minute drive to the hospital felt like forever and by the time I rushed him through those E.R. doors, his nostrils were closing and he has massive swelling under his armpits. He was in full blown anaphylactic shock. The E.R. staff took one look at him and rushed him into the back without even admitting him, they could see that time was of the essence (There is not a day that has gone by that I haven’t thought about that and felt gratitude toward them for that).
The E.R. doctor gave our son an epinephrine shot, a benedryl shot and a steroid shot of some kind, then hooked him up to an I.V. and that is how he spent his entire birthday. We walked through the hospital door at 12:05 and stayed there until after 8:00 that night. For 7 days after, his face remained swollen, he was on a 10 day dose of steroid medication as well as Benadryl around the clock (literally 24/7, I couldn’t let it leave his system) for those 10 days to continue to fight the reaction that his body was still trying to have.
Since the bee sting, our lives really have changed forever. Most people think “oh, it’s a bee sting, so just stay away from bees.” This is not the case for us. After the bee sting, he kept developing major allergic reactions to foods, strawberries, hot dogs, enchiladas, red licorice to name a few. While these reactions were not life threatening (no breathing issues, throat swelling, etc.) he was developing huge hives and was understandably miserable.
We had begun the process of taking him to an allergist for desensitization treatment for the bee allergy. Desensitization is where he goes in weekly/bi-monthly/monthly for the course of several years in an effort to lessen his allergy to bees, so that they are no longer a threat to his life. During the process we ran allergy tests to see what all he was allergic too. His came back with a yellowjacket/hornet/wasp allergy, with a low level peanut allergy and nothing else. He wasn’t actually allergic to any of the foods that he had developed a reaction from. His allergist explained it as this: Our son had an allergy to bees so severe that his body’s allergy system was put into “hyperdrive” at all times. Any time he comes into contact with food preservatives, food colorings or anything else that his body doesn’t recognize, it then assumes that product is an allergen and must be fought off.
So now, we must carry 2 epi pens with us wherever we go as well as a bottle of Zyrtec (Benadryl is no longer strong enough for him). He has a difficult time eating anywhere besides home. Any fruits and vegetables have to be washed and washed again to rid them of any and all pesticides that may be lurking, candy is a no-go, pre-packaged food is forbidden and if that boy goes anywhere near a hot dog (his absolute favorite food) he will develop golf-ball sized hives throughout his body. Whenever he attends a birthday party, he avoids the cake because it inevitably contains food coloring and the list goes on.
On the bright side, his body has proven to be an alert system for all of us on what we should or should not eat. We don’t need chemicals in our bodies anyway, so this has been a wonderful reason for our family to eat as close to nature as possible.
I shutter to think of what may have happened to my son had I been further away from the hospital that day. I now go no where without the Epi-Pen that could very well save his life one day and I highly encourage each of you to join the fight to be sure that all schools be required to keep Epi-Pens on hand in case of emergency, because many of them do not.
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