It was a warm summer night. Dr. Wonderful was away in Wisconsin working on parasite identification with a friend, and the darling daughter (DD – who was 10 at the time), was already in bed. Although I was very tired from doing all of the chores on my own, I realized I hadn’t had anything to eat that evening. That was when I realized I hadn’t yet gobbled up the pint of fresh blueberries I’d purchase at the market a few days earlier – just the ticket!
Although I could sometimes be lazy about this step, I washed the berries thoroughly before putting them into a big bowl and covering them up with fresh, cold milk. Cream or half & half would have been better, but this combination was yummy enough to hit the spot.
I chowed down, brushed my teeth, and finally turned in at around 11:30pm.
But I couldn’t sleep. I had a niggling little cough that wouldn’t seem to go away. I tossed and turned a while longer before I realized I recognized this feeling…this is the feeling I got when a fruit allergy was kicking in…this was NOT GOOD.
Blueberries had never been a problem before, but once I’d hit my mid-twenties, I’d begun to develop food allergies. First it was kiwi-fruit, then bananas, followed by cherries. I never knew which fruit was to become the next ticking time-bomb of anaphylactic death. Obviously, blueberries had joined the list.
I stumbled into the bathroom, popped some Benadryl, and trotted back to bed to see what would happen. It didn’t help that my Epi-pen was out-dated. It didn’t help that I was home alone with a 10-year old, it didn’t help that my husband was far away. Did I really want the EMTs to see my filthy house? NO! Did I want my child to wake up and find her mother purple in the face and dead in the next room? NO! Guess that meant I had to drive to the hospital while I could still kind of breathe.
This is when it all got entertaining. My throat was starting to swell – usually it was my lungs that got screwed up first – and I couldn’t speak very well or loudly.
“DD! Wake up – we have to go to the hospital!”
“Get up – we have to go to the hospital!!!!” Hack, cough, wheeze.
So the 3/4 –asleep kid crawls into the car, and we race the 6 miles in to the hospital.
At the ER: “Can I help you?”
“Allergic reaction!!!” Gasp, cough, wheeze.
“Well ok then, come right back!”
They took my vitals, and immediately stuck a mask on my face to get me some oxygen and a big dose of inhalable epinephrine. Then they tried to ask me some questions. DD at this point finally started to realize that her mom wasn’t just crazy, but was maybe having another type of episode…it was well after midnight.
The nurse started filling out the paperwork while I was inhaling the drugs. When she realized I was married, she started with the real grilling: “Where’s your husband?!”
I got the impression that she thought I was either an abandoned woman, that my husband must have been off drinking at a bar, or perhaps was just home not caring. I’d had the fore-thought to bring a sheet of paper with the phone number where Wonderful could be reached, and that made her feel better about things. I learned later that this information did not help Wonderful’s health at all.
After it appeared that my face did no longer resemble a beach-ball, and could start to carry on a conversation, they asked DD if I was looking better. She kept shrugging her shoulders. Once again, the nurse got the impression that I had a very non-caring family.
More time passes. Since I didn’t have a way home other than to drive myself, they decided I could probably make the 6 miles home and to bed. Once again they asked DD how I looked. Once again, the shrug. The nurse is got very testy at this time.
“DD – look at the clock and tell me what time it is.” I requested.
DD states – “Mom, I don’t have my glasses – I can’t see the clock!” Which explained why she couldn’t say how I looked – she couldn’t even see me!!! The nurse forgave her.
We piled into the car with a pack of drugs, made the drive home, and I collapsed into bed around 3am.
5am the phone rang – it was Wonderful.
“WHAT’S GOING ON?! “I heard a message on K’s machine asking for Dr. W, then saying in was about my wife! “They didn’t leave a number, they didn’t say who they were, then I called home AND NO ONE ANSWERED!!!!”
I explained the situation and calmed him down. When I’d gotten home from the hospital, I hadn’t checked the answering machine – why would I at 3am?! Thus the disapproving nurse nearly gave Wonderful heart failure with her cryptic messages.
Being wonderful, he offered to drive home immediately, but I told him to stay. I was doing fine, and planned to avoid any future blueberry temptation.
The moral of this story is 1) always keep your Epi-pen prescription up-to-date, and 2) keep your house clean so you won’t die of embarrassment if the ambulance has to visit!
Ahh blueberries…I miss them still.