Here’s a brief video with quick tips on stopping the spread of the flu. For more, visit http://www.flu.gov
Here’s a brief video with quick tips on stopping the spread of the flu. For more, visit http://www.flu.gov
(Continued from the last post)
After F had her second reaction to cashews, I knew that it was serious. The following day, I got off the air, pulled into the Old Navy parking lot in Mission Valley, took a deep breath, and called our pediatrician. He listened to my description of what happened, and as I relayed the events back to him, I started to feel like maybe I had UNDERreacted, if there is such a thing. So I made sure to let him know that her airway never seemed compromised when she was having her reactions, that she could breathe the whole time – that OF COURSE we would have called 911 or rushed her to the ER if it had really seemed serious.
“So, here’s the thing,” he began. “I don’t mean to alarm you. But the coughing and gagging you described? That WAS her airway being compromised.”
I don’t think I’ll ever forget that sentence, that moment, for the rest of my life. My heart felt like it dropped out of my body.
“We are lucky that there is a GREAT allergy group here in San Diego: The Allergy and Asthma Specialists. Call them. Meaning, when you hang up with me, you need to call them immediately and get F in and get her tested. If you can’t get an appointment within the next two weeks, call me back and I will make it happen for you. This is no joke. This is serious.”
He was right. It was, and it is. We got our appointment, we held F’s hand as they did a skin-prick test, we watched as three big welts formed on her back during the 15 minutes they make you wait while the test happens. We sat in her allergist’s office as he showed us how to use an Epi-Pen and explained anaphylactic shock. We learned that she has a severe allergy to cashews and pistachios and that anaphylaxis can kill people – it’s not just about hives or barfing or coughing, but it affects hearts and lungs and it gets really bad, really fast – that’s why epinephrine, administered QUICKLY – is so crucial and can truly be lifesaving. I cried. We left with an Epi-Pen prescription and a whole new outlook on, well, everything.
And here we are, almost two whole years and no allergic reactions later, and our life feels really, really normal. It did take me a while to wrap my head around the concept of a life-threatening food allergy at first. Thankfully, I found all kinds of great support and information and resources online, and I have relied on them time and time again. It felt weird at first to carry an Epi-Pen in my purse all the time, but now it is second nature. We’ve worked with F on recognizing cashews and pistachios and how to handle situations where there may be food that is not safe for her to eat. That is an ongoing process, but she seems to get it, and has been really good so far about asking questions and saying no to offers of food if she doesn’t know if it’s safe. We read books for kids about food allergies – Chad the Allergic Chipmunk is one of her favorites – and we even found an Arthur DVD about a nut allergy that she likes to watch from time to time. Anything to normalize it for her is a good thing in my book.
When she started kindergarten at a new school this fall, I was anxious and worried, even though we talked with her teacher, the school nurse, and her daycare providers about it. We have put her Epi-Pens in her classroom, the daycare room, and the office too. She even has a new buddy in her class with a peanut allergy, so his mom and I have teamed up on providing a stash of safe snacks for the two of them to choose from when there are classroom celebrations where other parents bring in treats. I’m so grateful to have an ally there.
I’m still learning how to navigate the social aspect of food allergy, though, and that has been a tough one for me. I’m not one to rock the boat, so sending an email to her entire soccer team when snacks for the games were being discussed was a big step outside of my comfort zone. What keeps me going, though, is this: would I rather some parent think I’m being a little obnoxious, or would I rather put F’s life in danger? That makes it a real easy choice, every time. I’m getting the hang of talking to other parents about it before playdates, and we still deal with our fair share of people who just don’t get it, or who don’t realize how serious it really is. That’s ok. I will do whatever it takes to keep her safe and healthy, regardless of what anybody else thinks. I can only do what is within my power right now, and educating our friends and family about her allergies makes me feel safer and better, like I’m doing everything I can.
I’ll worry about her kissing boys who’ve just eaten cashews or pistachios later.
Much, much later. 😉
Over the past 10 or so years, the fact that food allergies have been on the rise had been on my radar, but I’d never given it much thought. I have a handful of friends who said they were allergic to shellfish or bees or you-name-it, but I’d never seen an Epi-Pen up close and I’d certainly never seen anyone go into anaphylactic shock. I think it just never seemed that real to me, or like that big of a deal. So, you’re allergic to something? You just avoid it, right? Hey, what time is the Chargers game tomorrow?
Then F had her first anaphylactic allergic reaction, and my attitude changed in a heartbeat.
J isn’t allergic to anything that we know of, and the only thing I’m allergic to is something in sunscreen, but that’s about it. We knew F’s preschool/daycare had given the kids a little peanut butter here and there and she’d been fine, so we figured we were good to go. So one night right before her 2nd birthday when she reached for her dad’s cashews and he looked at me and asked, “You think it’s ok?” I nodded. I mean, why not?
It crossed my mind that according to our pediatrician and just about every baby book I’d read, we were supposed to wait until she was 2 years old to introduce nuts, but we figured since she’d been fine with peanuts and neither of us had any food allergies, it was a no-brainer. She’s almost two! Nuts are healthy! Let her go to town. So, she did just that. She popped a cashew or two into her mouth. And all of the sudden, she was so sick it was scary.
Within 20 seconds, she was projectile vomiting.
Immediately after that, she developed red, splotchy hives around her mouth.
She gagged again and again, but that soon changed to just coughing. Her dad and I were at her side, and because she was breathing fine aside from the coughing, we just cleaned her up and watched her… and wondered out loud what the h*ll had just happened.
Now, F had been in daycare since she was tiny, so we’d been through more than our fair share of stomach viruses and random illnesses here and there. And because her reaction was so strong, so instant, so unexpected, and over so quickly, we were totally caught off-guard and we didn’t know what to think. Food allergy crossed my mind, but it just seemed so far-fetched. After about an hour, she was 100% normal again, so we decided it must have been a little bug, but that we should mention it to our pediatrician and see what they thought, just to be on the safe side. We did, and they suggested we avoid cashews for a while, and just go from there. Fair enough. That sounded easy.
For the next year or so, we got used to avoiding cashews. We don’t eat Chinese food very often, so we didn’t miss Cashew Chicken too terribly much; the biggest sacrifice we had to make was not buying them by the bag every time we went to Trader Joe’s. No biggie – we just switched to almonds. By the winter of 2009, we’d gone an entire year without any other exposure to cashews, and I began to second-guess her reaction as the memory started to fade. Was she REALLY allergic to cashews? Or was it just a random reaction to something her body was rejecting?
We got our answer in December of 2009, just before her third birthday. At a friend’s house for a party, there was a bowl of cashews on their counter that I kept pushing out of arm’s reach. A lot of people were in the kitchen, eating and moving things around, so when F came running up to get a snack, she grabbed some cashews out of the bowl that had – despite my efforts – ended up right in front of her. Luckily, I was right there, so I told her to drop the cashews, that she needed to choose something else. She dropped them back into the bowl, then grabbed a grape with the same hand, and popped the grape into her mouth.
Immediately, she began gagging. Hives broke out around her mouth. I freaked out. The dad of the family who was hosting the party is an EMT, so he grabbed some Benadryl while my friend AM helped me race F into their bathroom. We poured some Benadryl into her mouth and within 5 minutes, she was fine again… but I wasn’t.
To be continued next week…
Great babysitters are not the easiest thing in the world to find, am I right? If you are one of the lucky ones and you have family who live nearby and love to help out, I envy you. The closest family we have are in Los Angeles, so we’ve had to rely on sitters since our girl was a wee beeb. At first, I was clueless about how to find a sitter, so we decided to use a highly-recommended babysitting service, and we ended up getting burned in the creepiest way (more on that in a minute). Thankfully, once we figured out that teachers and daycare providers at our daughter’s school also loved to babysit, we were set: we knew them, we trusted them, F loved them, they had CPR training and early childhood development education, it was all good. We found one in particular who we really bonded with and she was our regular sitter for a few years. But then last summer we moved, and now that we live a half an hour away rather than 10 minutes away, we decided it was time to find a sitter who is more local.
Easier said than done.
J and I just put date nights on the back-burner, and the few times we got really desperate, we paid our old favorite sitter extra gas money to come babysit for us. I mean, it’s not like great sitters just fall out of the sky, right? I didn’t really know where to start (and I definitely wasn’t going to use another babysitting service – see below, you’ll understand) but I finally figured out that I should just ask around. And lo and behold, we hit the babysitting jackpot! A good friend recommended her favorite sitter and it has worked out better than I could have hoped for. She is prompt, reliable, has tons of experience, genuinely loves kids (and people), she even leaves notes for our girl to find when she wakes up in the morning. We are thrilled.
THAT BEING SAID… I wanted to share our horror story. I’ve copy/pasted this from my personal blog, so please pardon my lack of proper punctuation. I have a feeling it won’t take away from your feelings of disgust. Now, I don’t want to disparage babysitting services in general; I’m certain there are plenty of wonderful, trustworthy babysitters and services out there that are doing it right and plenty of grateful parents who utilize them. That’s awesome. We just happened to have one awful experience, and thankfully, NOTHING happened to F, it was all about what the sitter did after F was asleep. It could have been FAR worse, thank goodness it wasn’t and it’s actually something we can look back on and laugh at… sorta. This is what happened:
for the first year of our daughter’s life, we used a local babysitting service that had been highly recommended to us by more than one person. we used them 3 times total, and only when we were really in a pinch. the first two times were fine. and then we hired one of their sitters, a girl in college, for new years eve 2007-2008. she seemed great, all was fine, that was that. she was on the phone with her boyfriend in florida when i got home at 2am, and we chatted about how they’d been on the phone for a while and how it was 5am in florida. whatevs. or so i thought.
fast forward to almost exactly a year later. as i was uploading some pictures to facebook on our mac, it brought up every single photo that had ever been put on our computer (even the deleted-out-of-iPhoto ones) and i noticed some nudie pictures in the mix. they were thumbnail sized, and i didn’t bother double clicking on them, but figured i’d mention them to my husband to see if he could “explain” them. i told j about them and he seemed honestly clueless & said he’d check them out when he got a chance (you do that, honey!).
a few days later, he comes walking out the office with a freaked out look on his face. “babe, you HAVE to come look at those pictures. i have no idea who the girl is, but the pictures were taken IN OUR HOUSE.” insert chills here. we immediately thought of every possible situation: did someone break in? that would be weird. was it from when we had a (male) friend staying as a guest for a couple weeks? maybe. but really, we were just like WTF? we went back into the office together, blew the pictures up big on the screen, and as soon as we saw the LIT UP baby monitor (!!) in the background, we figured it out: it was the babysitter from last new year’s eve. taking nudie pictures, in our house, while our little girl was sleeping upstairs. taking nudie pics of herself in our guest bathroom too. and then uploading them to our computer, maybe sending them to that florida boyfriend? and then deleting them… or so she thought.
when i called the babysitting service (which was run by two moms) they were great – they were horrified, falling over themselves to apologize, and assured me she’d be fired. i told them i needed at least a follow up call after they indeed confronted and fired her, which they gave me. they said at first she denied it all, then called them back and said the pictures had been for “an art project.” right. real artistic. she was fired and that satisfied us. just knowing she knew WE knew, and the fact that she lost her job, was enough for us. she made a really, really stupid mistake, our little girl had been sleeping and was never harmed, and as freaky as it was, we felt like that was about all we needed to do. needless to say, we’ve never hired a sitter we don’t know again. and if we did – she’d have to be mary flipping poppins for me to be ok with it.
I used to love working out, and J and I were pretty active together – lots of walking, classes at the gym, weights, yoga, you name it. I worked out at the YMCA the day before I gave birth to F. And then? Wait, did you say “workout”? What’s that again?
I exaggerate a little here, but I have to admit: since I had F, I’ve had the hardest time making workouts a regular part of my routine. When she was tiny and I was on maternity leave, we took a lot of walks, and it was one of the few things that helped me feel sane. Once I went back to work, however, I found it harder and harder to make a workout happen. Most of the time, I was just exhausted after being up half the night with a our little non-sleeper, and then working on the air for hours during the day. Workouts just weren’t a priority for a while. Once we started getting our mojo back, though – and to this day – I started feeling guilty about leaving her at daycare just so I could go exercise. Yes, she’s happy there, but I still get this feeling in the pit of my stomach that makes me feel bad that I’m not rushing to be with her when I get off the air. So, most days I do just that – I choose picking her up as soon as possible rather than taking time for myself to hit the gym. And we take walks together through our neighborhood, or we ride bikes or take hikes, but any of you who’ve ever taken a walk with a 5 year old knows it’s not the fast-paced, challenging workout one would like to indulge in.
Don’t get me wrong here. I adore our time together, and I love the rambling, exploring walks and bike rides we take together. Seeing the world through her eyes – it’s such a cliche, but so dang true – it helps me to slow down and appreciate so many things I would miss if it weren’t for her. It is worth it to me to get as much time with her as possible every day, because our time together is precious and priceless (except, you know, when it isn’t, but even then, I’d rather be together than not). But it also sucks to not feel my healthiest, strongest self anymore, and I know it wears on me in more ways than one. So, what’s a mama to do? Is it just a “working mom’s guilt” thing going on here? Or do I just need to get more creative about my workouts? Maybe I can cook dinner while bouncing on a pogo stick.