This is anaphylaxis
From the time Big Guy started eating solid foods, I insisted that it be done the "right" way - the way doctors recommend for any child, but particularly for one with a family history of food allergies. With a mother who has 20-plus food allergies, Big Guy definitely fell into that category.
Give him only one new food at a time. Wait a few days, see if he reacts, then move on to the next. I came home from work one night to find six baby food jars in the garbage - only one had contained something he'd eaten before. We had the talk again.
The situation improved, but I still got the "Mean Mommy" and "control freak" looks when I told someone they couldn't give Big Guy whatever goody they were dangling before him.
They still didn't believe me.
One evening five years ago this month, though, they became believers.
Dad and I were thrilled at dinner that night, because it was the first time Big Guy had enthusiastically eaten the big people food. Only 10 months old, he already was a picky eater. He knew what he wanted, and if he didn't want it he wasn't going to open his mouth.
That night, he wanted shepherd's pie, made with French cut green beans instead of mixed vegetables.
The beans were squirmy worms. The potatoes squished and squeezed in his chubby fingers. Some - probably no more than a quarter cup - made it into his mouth.
I popped him on the living room floor after dinner while I cleaned the kitchen, but I noticed a few minutes later that he was curled up on the floor and half asleep. Odd, I thought. He usually wants to party all night.
He didn't want to splash during his bath - another oddity. I dressed him in new Winnie the Pooh pajamas and started reading. He was out before we finished the first book, and I put him in his crib.
Minutes later, there were shrieks over the baby monitor. I ran down the hall and found Big Guy clinging to the crib rails and crying in between volcanic eruptions of vomit, his eyes wide with panic. I handed him to Dad and started another cleanup.
Then Big Guy started turning colors - he wasn't so much breaking out in hives as transforming into one big hive. There's something going on here, and it's more than a tummy bug, I thought. Seconds later he started gasping and choking, and I knew.
"Call an ambulance," I told Dad.
"What? Huh?" he asked in a near stupor. It was escalating so quickly now.
"Call an ambulance," I screamed. "It's a food allergy."
A firefighter who lives up the street was listening to his radio at home and ran over, bare foot, the second he heard "baby can't breath." He didn't have an Epi-Pen, but he was able to assess Big Guy's condition and get the EMTs up to speed as soon as they arrived. The crew quickly gave Big Guy epinephrine and albuterol.
His breathing was better by the time we reached the hospital, though we had to remain there for hours in case he was attacked again. Anaphylaxis can be sneaky that way - you think you have it knocked down, but then it will rise up.
Within an hour, though, he had improved enough to be livid over the mask that administered the albuterol. He still was crimson from the hives.
One of the doubters - the one who'd given me the most grief - walked in. She took one look, turned and said, "I'll trust you from now on." I was too drained to bother with any of the million biting retorts that popped into my brain.
It took a week to get the test results back, in part because there were so much stuff in the simple casserole. I'd used canned tomato soup, and any manufactured product is going to bring up a whole laundry list of ingredients.
The test came back positive for an egg allergy - yolk and white, which is unusual. Big Guy had had egg before as an ingredient in custards, but he'd never reacted. Anaphylaxis is sneaky that way, too.
There was one egg in the entire two-quart casserole. Big Guy had eaten only about a quarter cup of the dish.
The Winnie the Pooh pajamas were never handed down to Boots. I couldn't look at them again after that night.
I love shepherd's pie, but I haven't made it in five years even though I easily could prepare it without egg.
Anaphylaxis and food allergies are real. They're not something parents make up to grab attention or feel important. They're something that could have killed a baby - my baby - one evening about five years ago had his parents or a barefoot firefighter been just a step slower.
Sadly, though, they're something some folks have to see to believe.
Copyright 2009 Debra Legg. All rights reserved.