I woke up this morning with a tightness in my chest, my head throbbing. I didn’t have to guess at the cause, I knew it. All night Isaiah had been tossing and turning, and in those few moments when he was motionless I would put my hand on his chest to make sure he was breathing. The epinephrine making him restless, the triple dose of Benadryl making him tired. Several times in the night he woke up like a traveller lost in the desert croaking for water. Worried I would not be there when he needed me, I only ever half-slept. I don’t know what added to the anxiety the most, googling anaphylactic shock, or googling the side effects of epinephrine
This wasn’t the first time. The first time he went into anaphylactic shock from allergy shots was September 12, 2012. You can read about that here.
We knew it could happen.
His doctor used to joke that if anyone was going to be allergic to something it would be Isaiah. Yet, the understanding was, it is extremely rare, although possible, to have an anaphylactic reaction to allergy shots. Rare. But possible. Rare. But possible, three times?
I’ve often said Isaiah doesn’t like to follow the rules. This time, he really broke them. The rule is, wait 20 minutes to make sure you are OK, then leave the office. We follow that rule. We actually stay 25 just for good measure. So imagine my surprise when as we are walking into Grocery, a 20 minute drive from the Doctor’s office, Isaiah says, “Hey mom, look at this, as he’s scratching at his side.” I took a deep breath, I looked, and sure enough a little patch of hives were cropping up. I pulled him aside and proceeded to check other body parts. I was not disappointed, hives were appearing before my eyes, on his neck, on his arms, on his back and his face. I didn’t even bother with his legs. I calmly told him we were going back to the car. For one of the first times, I had left the Benadryl, the epi-pens and my cell phone behind. In the car, he popped a Benadryl, it’s practically candy to him. I called the Doc. The response? We had to come right back. “Are you sure?” “You need to come right back.” The nurse said a little more forcefully. Isaiah began to freak. I made the mistake of panicking the last time this happened, and I think I may have damaged him a little. But in between begging not to go back and me trying to calm him, and drive without panicking, he informed me of two things, and I witnessed one other. He was getting tired, he was getting queasy and he was beginning to cough. Not only did we have the trifecta necessary to qualify as anaphylaxis (when you add in the hives), we had one more, a superfecta. Man is it hard to stay calm when the end result of untreated anaphylaxis is death.
We arrived safely at the Doctor’s office. Isaiah was calm, this place is a second home to him, and he is always the life of the party. After checking his vitals the anaphylaxis was confirmed, and the treatment is epinephrine with a “let’s help it out” mega-dose of Benadryl. I have to admit I couldn’t really read the Doc. I mean, he seemed concerned to me, very calm with Isaiah and no-nonsense but he also seemed determined. The allergy shots were working. The boy who was once so allergic to cats that being at my mother’s house for more than 20 minutes was always a crapshoot, could now stay there for hours on end with relatively mild symptoms. They were working. They were working and although this was his third anaphylactic reaction, we dealt with it, he was fine and if I felt up to it, he wanted to continue the shots. How could I say no? These shots were curing my son’s asthma. My choices: Anaphylaxis I was aware of and could treat because of my diligence? Or dying on a soccer field from an asthma attack at 15 because he’s too cool to carry an inhaler?
On the ride home, Isaiah was happily singing in the back seat. The kid he always is, almost completely back to normal. Chattering non-stop, singing non-stop. Admittedly, feeling a little tired, and wishing to watch a movie when we got home. I think he was milking that one a little. This boy who I describe as a rambunctious, fun-loving, thrill-seeking, gun-toting, fire setting boy. The boy who has never broken a bone, needed stitches or even had to visit the hospital for an injury, is brought to his knees by two tiny injections. The tears rolled down my face. My baby boy. My strong boy. Strong? What exactly did that mean? How can he be strong, an hour ago he was so fragile. His face ashen as his blood pressure dropped, his body failing to do his bidding as the epinephrine worked through his system. That realization, that without the miracle of modern medicine, my son would not have even survived to this day, let alone this day.
It is at these times I reach up. I remind myself that God has a plan for Isaiah. I believe he will do great things. But then I am plagued by self-doubt. I think of all of the families who have lost a child. So many, so many I actually know. Didn’t they think that? Didn’t they think not my child, my child is destined for something bigger? Then I wonder if that destiny is to teach us something, a lesson to be learned if his time comes sooner than we expected.
I can’t go there. I can’t. I have to leave that alone. I can mourn for the people I know who have lost their little ones, I can mourn for the people I know who’s little ones are struggling with life threatening diseases. Isaiah does not have a life-threatening disease. He has a life threatening condition. There is a huge difference. I have to suffer through one or two sleepless nights. I have to be diligent, always. I do not have to assume that his end is in sight. I am thankful. I am thankful that he is mine, and that I will do whatever it takes to ensure his safety. I am reminded, oh how I am reminded, that life is a gift. Please, do not read that as a cliché. Life is a gift people.
In the morning I looked at him differently. I hope this will stick. I looked at him with new eyes. I looked at him with complete acceptance, with unconditional love and with pure joy. Ask anyone, I doubt they will ever admit that they take their children for granted. I never would have said I did. Yet the big picture is different. The big picture is this, no matter how much they annoy you, test you, grate on your every nerve, they love you, no, they worship you. They will learn everything that is good about life through you. In them, you have the ability to see the world through fresh, imaginative, funny sparkling eyes. Through you, they will understand security, love and acceptance. Life does not have to be hard, life does not have to be a struggle.
Every morning you wake up and you have a choice, you can simply tolerate the people you love, or you can love the people you love.
It is easy today, and maybe tomorrow, however, I know soon the memory of my fears will diminish. Then I will have to make a conscious decision, I will have to remind myself, that this boy who literally swings from the rafters, and does flips off of the counter-tops, this boy who sets fires “by accident” and rides his bike like a daredevil, this boy is fragile. Life is fragile. And I will make the decision to smile, to take a deep breath, and to love every minute of it.
This post was originally published March 3, 2013. We have since had 2 more reactions to shots and the doctor has made the decision to lower the dosage. We still believe we are on the best path for his lifelong health.