My plan was to post about the vacation we just took and how it went pretty well, especially due to the hotel being very accommodating in giving us a mini-fridge for free and the reception people being very nice in heating up some of Ainsley's food in the staff microwave. But that good experience has been overshadowed by the events of the last night - the day after we returned from vacation - when I had to administer the Epi-Pen for the second time in my poor little 4-year-old's life.
The day started out great. I went to work, the kids had great fun with their new babysitter, and after work I took them to a music class. Driving home from the class, Ainsley noticed (as she always does at this particular intersection) a giant TCBY sign shaped like a yogurt-filled cone. For the first time, I told her that I had heard from the family of another food-allergic child who has the same allergies as her that the sorbet at the TCBY was safe and asked if she'd like to try it. Ainsley immediately got excited and wanted to try the sorbet. I turned the car around and we decided to make a go of it.
When we got into the yogurt shop, I immediately located the owner and asked him about the sorbet and he assured me it had nothing in it that Ainsley was allergic to and that the soft-serve machine that dispensed it was used only for sorbet and not also for yogurt. He showed me the machine and said there was no risk of cross-contamination. I told him that I had been referred there by another food-allergic family and he said, "Oh, yes, the Smiths, they've been coming here for years." That made me feel good. The kid had been eating there for years with no reaction. Everything was gonna be okay. Not so much.
I ordered two kid-sized cups of sorbet (strawberry-kiwi flavored) and watched the owner put the sorbet in two completely clean paper cups. We sat down at one of the tables and began eating. I asked her at least every 30 seconds whether her mouth itched or anything hurt. She repeatedly told me "No Mommy" and kept gobbling up the sorbet.
I began to exhale. Everything was okay. No problem. We'd be able to bring her back again and again and this would be the one ice-cream-type place she could actually eat at - whoo hoo! But my fantasy quickly began to evaporate as she began coughing after finishing the last few bites. Probably just environmental allergies, I thought. As I was buckling her into her car seat for the ride home (after wiping her hands with a wipe to get any residue off that she might have picked up from the table - which had looked very clean - or chair), I noticed some slight red blotches above her upper lip and on one cheek. I thought hopefully, "Maybe it's just coloring from the sorbet," which was red.
Then she told me her throat hurt. Uh oh. That was a new symptom. In all of her reactions, she'd never mentioned that before. It scared me silly because I knew that anything involving the throat could mean her throat was swelling shut. So, even though she had not exhibited any of the other big signs indicative of her previous reactions (vomiting, large patches of hives), I gave her 2 teaspoons of Benadryl and pulled out the Epi-Pen.
I'd like to say I immediately gave her the Epi-Pen, because that's what I'd want anyone to do in this situation, but the truth is I hesitated. As soon as Ainsley saw me pull it out, she began wailing and begging me not to use it. She even lied, telling me "No Mommy, my throat really doesn't hurt!" to get me to put it away. Finally, I had to explain to her, "If your throat really does hurt and I don't give this to you, you could die. So you need to tell me the truth about your throat. Does it hurt or not?" To this she admitted, "Yes, my throat hurts - give me the Epi-Pen!"
I finally got my courage up and shot her with it, patiently counting to 10 before pulling it out of her leg to ensure all the medicine got in her. After getting that over with, I decided I should get her some medical attention in case the Epi-Pen didn't work (even though I had two extra Epi-Pens in my bag, I have read stories of how children needed more than just epinephrine). So I had to decide whether to drive her to the hospital or call the paramedics. Because there was no hospital nearby (the closest was at least 15 minutes away), I did the latter. Thankfully, within 5 minutes the ambulance arrived and two wonderful guys began very sweetly tending to Ainsley -checking her breathing, blood pressure, and pulse - and reassuring her very freaked out mommy that I had done everything right and that because of what I did, she was going to be fine. They even gave her a stuffed dalmation puppy, which has barely left her side since.
While the paramedics were tending to Ainsley, my husband arrived, and was able to hold Leighton, who was completely oblivious to the situation, while I continued to concentrate on Ainsley. After about 30 minutes, we all agreed that Ainsley seemed fine and didn't need to go to the hospital or any further medical attention, so the ambulance left. As soon as it pulled out of the parking lot, though, Ainsley began crying and saying that her throat still hurt and she wanted them to come back. We asked her if it had gotten worse and she said no, but wanted the paramedics to stay with her until it stopped hurting.
Because she had checked out okay, we decided that, in lieu of taking her to a hospital (where they would likely make us wait a long time in the waiting room), we decided to to take her to an after-hours pediatric clinic we have used before where we knew we could get in quickly. We drove there and the kind doctor - who told us he empathized with Ainsley because he was allergic to eggs and beef - checked her and assured us she seemed fine. He told us to give her another dose of Benadryl 4 hours after the first but that we didn't need to do anything else.
After we got home, I watched her for several more minutes and then put her to bed. Dave gave her the Benadryl as directed and, by this morning, she was as chipper as ever and showed no indication that she had endured a massive trauma the previous night.
As is probably obvious from my telling of this experience, we are unsure (a) whether Ainsley actually had an allergic reaction (she had coughing and some red splotches, but that could have been environmental, and the throat hurting could have been because the cold sorbet aggravated it) and (b) if she did, what caused the reaction (Was it the sorbet? Was it something she touched on the table or chair that she got in her mouth? Was it from simply being in a yogurt shop, where milk and nut protein might be present in the air and she breathed it in?). Her symptoms were so different from her previous reactions that I think it might not have been a true reaction, but I know that I did the right thing by giving her the Benadyl and Epi-Pen anyway - when one of the complaints is throat or mouth pain, it could be a life-or-death matter and the safest course is to give the medicine.
Still, I have been beating myself up a fair amount today. Why on earth did I think it was a good idea to take my milk-, egg-, peanut-, and tree-nut-allergic kid into a yogurt shop? To tell you the truth, I had known for over a year about the other child and his mom's recommendation of the sorbet at this place, but had been too afraid to try it with Ainsley. But during our vacation this weekend, Ainsley felt left out when Dave and I and our friends ate certain restaurant foods (e.g., pizza at one place, waffles at another), and so I think I pushed myself to try the TCBY out of guilt - I wanted her to have a treat that normal kids eat because our vacation highlighted so much of what she can't have.
But the TCBY experience reminded me why we must sacrifice Ainsley's emotional well-being to some degree for the sake of ensuring her safety - it's just not worth it to me for her to feel included if that means risking her health like that. It left me a total wreck and Ainsley has some pretty awful memories of her first trip to "the ice-cream store," as she called it. Needless to say, I am not stepping out of our comfort zone again in the foreseeable future.