Anaphylaxis Fun! by Cat Reilly
And so, on Wednesday, death and I just narrowly side-stepped one another, which takes on a whole new dimension when you’re a parent.
I have lived for several months now in excruciating sciatic pain down my leg. If I’m not lying down, my leg is in agony. I have tried six different prescriptions, three different doctors, chiropractors, acupuncture, yoga, massage, meditation, and everything else on God’s green earth, and nothing has made a dent in the pain. I could write a book on the sadness and helplessness of a mom who can’t do all that she wants to for her child because of her pain, and ends up doing it anyway, making the pain worse, because that’s what we do—we’re moms!
So, on Wednesday, I was scheduled to get an epidural steroid injection in my back, as a last-ditch effort to ward off surgery. Ever since I had first heard about the shot I had a bad feeling about it, even though person after person assured me that I was being silly, the risks were minor, etc. But you know the feeling I mean—that little tweak in your gut that tells you something isn’t right.
But, left with absolutely no other options, I finally conceded, convinced myself I was scared for no reason, and agreed to the shot.
And it started innocently enough. I let the doctor know, as I always do, that shellfish causes me to go into anaphylactic shock. I have always been told this might be an iodine allergy, so I asked him not to use iodine on me.
“Well,” he said, “that’s never really been proven. That’s kind of a myth.” He was cavalier, dismissive, made me feel silly. “I’m allergic to shellfish and I’m not allergic to iodine. We inject iodine to guide the needle. You’ll be fine.”
Well, what do I know? I’m not a doctor, and he gives these shots all day and seemed more than confident. I found it strange that all my other doctors had treated the allergy very seriously, but again…what do I know?
So, at 9 a.m., I had the procedure.
At 10 a.m., I was checking into the ER. My throat was closing, my face and tongue were swelling, and my skin was erupting in hives so fast I could watch them grow. They said I was lucky: steroids slow allergic reactions, so the fact that I had a steroid injected right after the iodine actually bought me time. Each time you go into anaphylactic shock, it happens faster than the time before, so your risk of actually dying from it increases.
As you can imagine, I’m enraged with this doctor.
You can picture the panic he caused my family, all of us rushing around the house to get my confused son dressed and in the car, my breathing getting more difficult, me telling my husband to pull over and call 911 if my throat closed completely.
I had to send my family away and go through the treatment and recovery alone, because I did not want my son to see me hooked up to so many machines. Nonetheless, he briefly saw me being hooked up, my body shaking uncontrollably and teeth chattering violently from the adrenaline response. Also, it tortured my husband to have to leave my side while I was still at risk, and to play happy for my son when all he could do was worry about me.
This doctor has also put me more at risk in the future, given the ever-increasing speed of anaphylaxis.
Life is short, ladies, and terribly unpredictable. Hold your family now, while you can. It’s cliché, it’s typical, and I’m sorry I have nothing more poetic to say. Just grab those babies and squeeze them, and live in every moment. That’s all we got.