Longest 20 minutes of my life. My EpiPen Experience

I don’t use our company blog for too many personal things anymore, but this one I just needed to share to the largest audience as I can to help explain what I learned about our experience and possibly help you understand allergic reactions.

Last night we experienced our worst fears in the life of an allergy kid’s parents.   I guess we knew it would happen eventually, we were just extremely proud of our 3 year track record of defending our little angel from the foods her body considers toxic.   To set the scene she is allergic to (in order of severity) Dairy, Egg, Peanuts, Tree Nuts, Shellfish, Fish, Wheat, Soy.  Based off the 3 rounds of skin testing; and backed up with a thorough blood workup we are able to assess the severity of her allergies; but the top line reaction we were hoping to never experience.  (BTW she is allergic to cockroaches based off her blood work, lol )

We can’t even begin to explain our methods of keeping her safe on a daily basis.  Everything from her own placemats at the table, to completely changing the family’s diet to be safe around her as well, to even buying our own mobile kitchen (our camper) so that we can vacation.  Take you quickly to last night.  We were at a friend’s house for dinner; and as always Jen prepared Shayla’s meal to bring with us.  She deliberately made the same items that we were going to be enjoying at our get together so she doesn’t have to feel “different”.  Made a small batch of pasta salad (quinoa pasta) Burger (bunless) Even brought safe cookies for dessert.  On the “Adult” table were chips and salsa.  The Hint of Lime Tostitos that I love so much but we never get because we know there is dairy in them.  Not sure what they need dairy for, but you learn there are a LOT of things with unnecessary ingredients in our food supply.  (How about some sandwich meat having dairy in it.. figure that one out for me) While the kids were playing in the yard we enjoyed some of those awesome chips and salsa.  As a note we do have whole corn chips normally around our house.  The organic all natural ones that have corn in them, and nothing else.  (kinda the way it should be you think) Skip to the end.  After dinner was cleared the platter of chips was still around and after seeing the other kids take a couple of chips, Shayla naturally wanted one too; she reached up and took one without us seeing.

She took one bite out of the corner of a chip.  Jen and I looked her and then at each other and said.. “She can’t have that!” Jen smacks it out of her hand then runs and grabs wipes and Shayla’s “Bag”.  In the bag is a bottle benadryl, two epipens, and her inhaler; she is never without it.  Trying to keep calm I said.  It will be fine, she just had the smallest bite of the corner of a chip.  And it’s not like she ate a piece of cheese.  It’s just the powder on the chip that might have a little sour cream dust on it..???  I expected hives; which appeared within a minute around her mouth.  I prepared for a possible vomit or something and that’s about it.  After a few minutes she ventured back into the yard to play with the kids.  Still being calm I was confident it couldn’t escalate too far.  About 15 minutes later She walked back over to the patio we were sitting and fighting for every breath… she said… “I…. need… my…. inhaler.”

We sprung into action.  As calm as can be as to not induce any traumatic anxiety; we ventured into the house where we can see she is struggling to breathe, bright red, feverish, blinking slowly, mucous pouring out of her nose, and hives.  Not to mention drooling.  We tried to administer her inhaler, but she couldn’t even breathe enough to pull that off.  We knew then it was time for the hospital and the cap was off the EpiPen.   Our hosts offered to keep Leighton while we head to the ER.  So we did and are so incredibly thankful they could.

What’s happening to us right then.  Its not about us… but my heart is in my throat, I can feel the beating of my heart in my earlobes… I can’t look at Jen because she is shaking and crying; mascara down the cheeks kind of crying.  If I look at her it would in turn make me cry and I just can’t do that for Shayla’s sake.  She needs to be as calm as possible.  Anxiety increases anaphylaxis (blood flow and pressure).  I want to give her the pen but am so scared.  Worried I’m overreacting.  Worried it wouldn’t be necessary.  As we frantically look online at the medical care facilities nearby (and open for business besides the hospital 20 minutes away); we knew the only real option was the 20 minute ride to the hospital.  Do we call the ambulance? Do we drive?  We have to drive.  We have to go now.   Jen and I both agreed I would give her the Epipen in the truck and she would drive.

20 minutes… the LONGEST in my life.  After about 4 minutes of being in the car, Shayla was struggling worse than before and extremely hot.  Fighting for every breath and not able to say a full word.  Feverish, the kind of fever you can feel from a few inches away.  I knew right then I couldn’t wait another minute.  She needed the shot and she needed it NOW.  I was terrified.  Not terrified of the shot, or administering it; rather of how much it will hurt her.  How will she scream? She can’t even catch her breath to say a word…..  I showed the Epipen to her and said “Ok sweetie, I have to give this medicine now.  Do you want me to?  She said “Yes” It’s going to bite your leg but you will feel better”   All I could think about is that it had to work.  It just couldn’t fail.  I couldn’t fail.  I can admit it today, but she wouldn’t have made it to the hospital if I didn’t.  So BAM…………. and press hard, hold for 10 seconds.  Trying to keep calm as my sweetheart looked me in the eyes with disbelief that I would be hurting her this bad.   The eyes… the ones I only see full of smiles are now looking at me in terror.  She screamed a scream I’ve never heard.  I kept pressing.  And counting.  One one thousand, two one thousand…  She kept screaming.  “Why is that hurting me so much!!!!!?????” She yelled.  I hear Jen crying while driving….

We see a police officer at a convenience store….. pull over….. Excuse me can you help us get to the hospital? Through this traffic?  “Um… I CAN’T do that?!  That’s Taboo.  If you got into an accident I wou……..”  Jen peels out of the parking lot.  (That’s about all I have to say for that waste of 40 seconds)

After about 3 minutes Shayla is breathing a little easier.  We are playing all her favorite Frozen songs off the CD permanently installed in the car radio.  I’m Singing,  Jen’s Singing,  Shayla is smiling but can’t sing.   I open the window.  I close the window.  Fresh air.. No she’s cold.   We get off the exit and follow the blue H signs….   The road is blocked off……. Paving.  Jen jumps out of the truck and asks the officer blocking the road how we are supposed to get to the hospital.  He orders a construction worker to lead us through the construction zone with his work truck.  Yellow lights blinking everywhere we drove over fresh lose pavement, manhole covers, blew street lights… Slammed the truck in park in front of the ER door and Jen ran her inside as I parked.

I walked into doors of the ER and see a completely packed waiting room.  My heart sank.  Was this the right choice?  It had to be.  They opened the doors right up and took us in moments after that.   I’m still terrified, but know we are safer now that we are in the hospital.  Shayla is progressively getting better.  She’s the hit of the ER.  Telling funny stories.  Using the barf bag as an elephant trunk and encouraging the others around to make elephant sounds with her.  Explaining to the doctor what the stethoscope is and calling it the telescope.  She also asked why they didn’t do the “pressure” thing on her arm; pointing to the blood pressure monitor.    After a couple of hour stay, the doctors prescribed some steroids and released us.

Released us????  Um I’m pretty sure you are supposed to stay and be monitored because as good as she is progressing the Epi will wear off and her toxins are still in her.  Anyway.  We live 3 minutes from our hospital and with that in mind; it was just a waiting game.  Before Shayla was released I went back to get Leighton and we returned to pick up Jen and Shayla.  The truck ride home was just about an hour.  I cried for almost all of it.  Jen sat in the back seat in between the kids car seats.  As per their request she held each of their hands and they passed out for the whole ride.  The only sounds were our sniffles.

We stayed up most of the night watching her sleep in our bed between us.  She kicked me a lot in her sleep.  She sweat ALL night.  Soaking wet sweat.  (A side effect of the Epi Pen)

There WILL be a next time.  And next time I WILL not wait, or hesitate to administer the EpiPen.  And I know Jen will not either.  It brought us the time we needed.  My only regret was not giving it to her 7 minutes earlier when we made the decision that it was in fact, serious.  They say 2 or more symptoms are enough to need to administer.  She was showing 6.  I get it.  I hope you do too.  If you have the prescription, don’t be afraid of it.  Be brave, use your head, YOU know best when you should use it. Everyone told us… you will KNOW when it’s right. Well now we do.  Then go get the help from there.

Today she is strong as can be.

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Food Allergy Emergency Care Plan Download. 

Heather Richardson - August 15, 2014 - 4:21 pm

So glad you are all doing ok now. I’m allergic to cockroaches too haha. I wonder what they use in the skin test to test for that. Maybe Shayla and I have Spiderman like powers or something ;)

Danielle Karsch - August 15, 2014 - 4:24 pm

Oh my god. I had tears streaming down my face reading this. I have a five year old and a two and a half year old, both with allergies. This was terrifying to read. I felt like I was there with you. Thank goodness for your quick response times and for your ability to administer the Epi. My husband is a firefighter/EMT and I’m a CNA, still terrifying when it involves our children. So happy she is feeling better today! Hugs to all of you!

Joelle Walasewicz - August 15, 2014 - 4:32 pm

As someone who has struggled with severe anaphylaxic allergies and asthma all my life, I can’t tell you how happy I am to hear that she’s ok! It’s a very scarey moment when you can’t breathe as an adult…nevermind a child! You and Jen are awesome parents and should be so proud of the job you have done to protect your sweet baby!

Jacob Bergmeier - August 15, 2014 - 4:44 pm

Much love to you all. So incredibly sorry you had to go through that.

Erica Louise Lord Edwards - August 15, 2014 - 4:45 pm

Sweet, brave little Shayla… thank you for sharing guys.

Tania PaRosa - August 15, 2014 - 4:50 pm

I’m so glad to hear that she’s ok Jerome and Jen!!! I was teary eyed reading this! As scary as it was, I’m glad you are sharing this because people don’t often understand how sick allergies can make a person or severe it can get. I hope you little sweetheart is back to normal today and I pray that she doesn’t have another episode…EVER! And I know that may not be realistic, but I hope it is. All my love to you guys!

Lynn Sobol - August 15, 2014 - 4:54 pm

Jerome and Jen…I am Amand’s Aunt… (her favorite Aunt, by the way!!)
I work at CCMC. I have seen a lot of scares, sadness, failures and successes here.
I have NEVER read and felt something as poignant and aa brutally honest and as heart-wrenching as this post.
I was crying with you as I read. Sobbing, at this ordeal you faced-together!
This touched me unlike anything else I have encountered so far here.
Your bravery to share this is beyond amazing.
God bless you all! ((Hugs))

Betania Costa - August 15, 2014 - 4:56 pm

Oh my! Tears streamed down my face as I read this. I can totally relate to the feeling of seeing your baby struggle to catch a breath. My little Ava had a severe chocking episode when she was only 9wks and after hearing from the doctors and nurses at the hospital that what I had done had saved her life I completely lost it. Waiting is never an option. When something happens to my girls I’m immediately on the move

Nancy Gaspar - August 15, 2014 - 4:59 pm

Omg! SO sscary! Glad she’s fine and everyone is ok.. (*hugs))

Daniella Ramos da Silva - August 15, 2014 - 5:06 pm

Oh my! Couldn’t help but cry! Prayed for her last night right after I read your post on Instagram.
I’m so happy she’s better. God bless guys!

Christine Kennedy - August 15, 2014 - 5:21 pm

I am so relieved to read your happy ending. What a vivid account of what your family went through.

Bruce Plotkin - August 15, 2014 - 5:23 pm

omg. so happy that she’s doing well. love to all of you.

Elaine Midolo Horn - August 15, 2014 - 5:30 pm

You just made me cry. So glad she is ok and thank you for sharing this.

Denise Pulaski Grodzicki - August 15, 2014 - 5:34 pm

Thank you so much for sharing this. I’m not a cryer and I cried reading this. I also carry Tyler’s inhaler, Benadryl and Epi with me but I have to admit I’ve been slacking alittle since things have been fine this past year. I tried not to think about the ‘what if’s’ because that is so scary to think about. Think about how much stronger you and Jen are now because of that experience!

Marlene Zipin - August 15, 2014 - 5:42 pm

wow. definitely have tears in my eyes. so so scary! but so glad to know she is ok now. :)

Melissa Anderson Morello - August 15, 2014 - 5:46 pm

Thank you for sharing, Jerome it’s a tear jerker, but there is a message. I’m so sorry you all have to to through this and continue to live in fear of when this will happen next. I will continue to pray that she grows out of it. It’s just not fair.

Amy Stern Dauphin - August 15, 2014 - 5:50 pm

OMG – your post brought chills. Thank goodness she is OK

Amanda Harris Herzberger - August 15, 2014 - 6:04 pm

Crying reading this so glad she is ok. xoxoxo

Kurt Hilmerson - August 15, 2014 - 6:18 pm

I am so glad that Shayla is same and well! You don’t know me but my 7 year old daughter has several major allergies. We have had several minor scares but have yet needed to use the EpiPen. Thank you for telling your story! I feel like I lived through the experience and learned the same lesson that you did. I know that it’s just a matter of time before my wife and I need to use the EpiPen and I will never forget this lesson. I wish you all the best in your journey with allergies.

Kate Loveland Altman - August 15, 2014 - 7:08 pm

Scariest story ever. I have tears running down my face as I’m reading this. SO thankful she is ok and praying you and Jen never have to go through this again.

Melody Harrison Esposito - August 15, 2014 - 7:31 pm

Oh my! You had me crying. This is such an important lesson. Dairy allergies are tough and the poor girl has many more. Happy to hear she is doing well now. Thanks for sharing

Karen Weiser Kelly - August 15, 2014 - 9:17 pm

I’m soooo glad she’s ok now. What an ordeal you all went through, I was hyperventilating just reading about it! Blessings to you all.

Kimberly Denney - August 16, 2014 - 1:54 am

Thank you for sharing your traumatic story to help other know that ‘Yes, this is the moment we have been training for, use the Epi-pen’. I am so glad your little girl is ok.

Cristina Santos Tomas - August 16, 2014 - 2:19 am

So scary but so glad she’s ok and am so proud of you and Jen and your bravery.
Such an important and powerful post to give parents strength

Meg Chase - August 16, 2014 - 3:16 am

Jerome, the way you tell that story paints such a vivid, painful and worrisome vision. I felt like I was experiencing your trauma with you. That being said, I am so relieved to hear she’s doing well – I love that victory cheer she seems to be doing in this picture! With your calm composure, quick response time, and team work, you and Jen surely saved her life. Being a teacher, I always have students equipped with EpiPens and thankfully have not had to use one yet. I even get uneasy when I have to practice injecting the EpiPen into an orange! I know the fear of not wanting to hurt the child and thinking, “Is it really necessary?” Before reading your story, I worried that I would, but hoped that I wouldn’t wait too long before ever having to give an injection to a child in need. Now I KNOW I will not wait for several different symptoms to occur before taking the plunge. I honestly wasn’t even aware of what symptoms to look for. This was very educational, thank you for sharing it. I’ll be sure to pass it along.

Carly Brooks - August 16, 2014 - 4:57 am

Such a bittersweet read..sad that that little lady has to endure such allergies and potential reactions. But such a positive and happy ending. You guys thought on your feet for what is right for Shayla..and by doing so, you saved her life! A job well done! It will take time to mentally get over this, but know that you will and are even more knowledgable than before, which is only better for the future. God bless!

Paul McNerney - August 16, 2014 - 11:35 am

Omg god guys you are amazing parents! I am so glad to here she is ok. I. nnoy imagine having to deal with this! I will admit that during your story and thru eyes welling up I had to sort of smile at bad ass Jen driving your truck in mama bear mode! And the look in the first cops face when she peeled out.

Sue Tantalo - August 16, 2014 - 11:53 am

Thanks for sharing. We have a 3 yr old great grandchild who is off the charts with the same issues. I have forwarded your story to my granddaughter. I am sure she is aware of the consequences of not acting quickly, they have already made several trips to the ER. As a grandparent I appreciate your telling about the need to react quickley. Next time we visit I will be sure to where the nearest hospital is and how to get there, also how to use the IP.

Kathy Reineke Meyering - August 16, 2014 - 3:25 pm

Jerry, please submit this to a newspaper/magazine/online blog. I felt I was there with you and felt that panicked sense of urgency (and frustration with unhelpful officials) each year I have at least one student with a serious allergy. It is common for people to dismiss the seriousness of these and the importance of knowing what to do at the FIRST sign of a reaction. To have to be the parent administering the injection must have been so painful

Sue Connolly DeGeorge - August 16, 2014 - 3:36 pm

We had an almost identical experience with my then 3 year old who is also ana to egg/dairy. She mistook Hershey’s chocolate for “her” chocolate. She only took a tiny nibble and realized something was wrong. Reading your story was like re-living that night for us. We too hesitated with the Epi (and in fact didn’t adminitster) but never will again. We had a 15 minute drive to the nearest hospital and my husband went 90 mph. I was praying the whole way. Once at the ER she responded to the epi immediately and also received 2 shots of prednisone. They kept us for 6 hours for observation. I will never hesitate again. (and I agree, why do you need milk in hot dogs? in lunch meat? on Tostito’s for lime flavor? ugh!)

Barb Arens - August 16, 2014 - 3:44 pm

Thank you for sharing your story, I cried reading it. I’m so glad your little girl is ok! We also have a 3yr old with many of the same food allergies and 2 weeks ago, while home alone I had to administer his Epi-Pen. The way you describe how you felt, both physically and whether or not you were over-reacting, were so reassuring as I felt exactly the same way. Even though you know it’s the right decision, it is so incredibly frightening to actually do it. I especially love the end of your post, “Be brave, use your head, YOU know best when you should use it!” I hope your story encourages other parents to not be so frightened and wait wondering what their decision should be.
All the best to your family!

Santina Aldieri - August 16, 2014 - 7:44 pm

Thanks for posting Jerome & Jen. I’ll be sure to share it with my son who went into shock last year while on co-op in Australia, a reaction from his allergy injection. Even after that scary day in a foreign place and an ambulance ride to the hospi

Santina Aldieri - August 16, 2014 - 7:47 pm

Continued … hospital, he doesn’t really get why he should always have his EpiPen on him.

Megan Kearney Cassotto - August 16, 2014 - 9:37 pm

How incredibly scary! My son also has food allergies – anaphylaxis to dairy, egg, tree nuts, and peanuts. He had an expusure to cow’s milk at his daycare and I waited on giving him the Epi pen thinking his reaction wouldn’t be that bad. I wish I never waited and just gave it to him right away.

Kim Bova - August 16, 2014 - 11:29 pm

Wow, I am happy all is well! This is vital info that you are sharing, I hope it helps the next set of parents in this terrifying situation. Thanks for your honest and brave story.

Benjamin Quinto - August 17, 2014 - 2:01 am

What a frightful experience..! Thank you so much for sharing it and alerting people to the seriousness of allergies. I honestly believe they are mostly diet induced now. I developed a sudden and deathly allergy to lobster, crab and shrimp, as well as cockroaches and dust mites; I didn’t know and it developed around age 27-28. I finally saw an allergist after 3 reactions, who prescribed me an epipen, and put a fear in me about the seriousness of the potential anaphylactic response. However, my intuition disagreed with almost everything, but I told myself I’d give it time and so laid off all the above for almost 5 years, sure that I would be able to indulge again some day. Finally, I asked an osteopathic doctor, for whom I had the greatest respect, if he thought I could get over the allergy and he said of course, and described how easy it would be. I had recently discovered Digest Gold, a digestive enzyme that would help me if I ever felt queasy, but I decided to not freak out either about contact with food at restaurants too much, or It would have been impossible. I had also started taking Niacin (not the no-flush kind); it was a natural anti-histamine, and pushed everything out, and was recommended by another health practitioner friend. The Dr proposed I build my Niacin intake gradually up to 1000mg/day, over a period of however long it took to reach the dosage, starting at 100mg/day, and then to sustain the 1000mg/day dosing schedule for 1 week. After that, I would be ‘cured’ of my allergy. I kid you not, a week after keeping that dosage up of a $10 supplement, I got over my allergy, and very carefully tested it with a lot of Digest Gold at hand. I never used the epipen, never took any other pharma drugs for it (and wouldn’t), and am allergy free, not even relying on Digest Gold since. I have also improved my diet substantially, avoiding processed foods, and trying to eat organic.
I have felt like calling up my allergist many times and asking what it is they practice. Legal drug dealing it seems to me, oftentimes..not saying my experience will work for any others, but thought you should at least be aware of it.

Amy Fisher Platt - August 17, 2014 - 2:32 am

So sorry to hear about this. We have had to do this twice with our son. The first time we had a similar experience (it was due to dairy) and we waited..drove in the car. My son looked the same as you described.
Had an epipen and steroids as well. Second time I knew right away and never hesitated to give him the shot.

Melissa F. Dorfman Smith - August 17, 2014 - 8:29 pm

Thank you so much for sharing your story! I am so happy your little firl is ok :) Our son Parker has an allergy to tree nuts and we also have to carry an episode pen with you. Luckily we have not had to use it and hopefully we will never have too. If parker did have a reaction, I have also wondered how long I should wait before administering the episode pen and if I would be able to do. I really appreciate you sharing your story. I now have a bettering understanding of the use of an episode pen.
Melissa and Jason Smith

Paddy Cosgrove - August 18, 2014 - 1:39 am

So very glad you and she survived; you, the terrible fear and she the nasty attack. A very powerful share too. Best, PPC

Donna Lee Takacs - August 18, 2014 - 12:02 pm

I can’t even imagine what you go through daily with such allergies.I ‘m sorry you had to go through that and pray you never have to go through that again!!! God bless you and your beautiful family

Jennifer Schulten - August 31, 2014 - 3:40 pm

Wishing your family well as you navigate this long road. It’s frightening to think of how fragile a situation can be. Thinking of you all.

Emily and Dan | Engagement Session

Come take a peek into Emily and Dan’s engagement session. In front of every great wedding photographer is a unique, romantic story. Looking at these two through the lens of Studio 1923 makes my heart beat a little faster. These two are the epitome of true love.

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Jackie StJohn - August 26, 2014 - 3:18 am

Gorgeous! Stunning couple… Beautiful love story!

Bethany Ing - August 26, 2014 - 3:22 am

Just beautiful!!!

Jean E. Beatson - August 27, 2014 - 12:11 am

This makes me hsppy

Louella St John - August 27, 2014 - 2:01 am

Just breathtaking, love it.

Need your classic car fix? | Engagement Session | Ferrari | Maserati

Here are a couple of teasers from one of this week’s engagement sessions

If you have to break down; make sure it’s in a Classic 1963 Ferrari 250GT Lusso and bring plenty of lipstick.

Ferrari Engagement

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Then all you have to do is get it back home and swap it out with your 1963 Maserati 3500 GT Vignale Spyder

Couple driving a 1963 Maserati 3500 Vignale Spyder

Don’t worry, the Ferrari didn’t really break down.  :-)

Sam Chinigo - July 3, 2014 - 3:10 pm

Sick man…sick. Awesome images…

Erin Brady - July 3, 2014 - 9:26 pm

These are so amazing. Thank you so much. We had a blast!