Last year my 5 year old son fell asleep on the couch. I was lying next to him and fell asleep too. I woke up around 3AM to the sound of him having a croup-like cough, and he was struggling to breathe. I was terrified as I listened to him gasp for air. I didn’t know for sure if he was having a food allergy reaction or some other type of reaction, though I suspected it was illness related since he felt warm and hadn’t eaten in hours. There was no time to figure that out though, only time to act.
I immediately shouted for my husband, who is a registered nurse, to come downstairs. He ran down in a panic because he knew from the tone in my voice that this was serious. He turned on the light and didn’t like how my son’s coloring was very pale. He could see that my son could barely swallow, and that his breathing was very labored. He told me to call 911 right away as he cared for him and monitored his vital signs.
I felt like I was in a horror movie of sorts. I was somehow outside myself as I called 911. I felt like someone else telling them that my son could barely take a breath and to get here fast. I remembered to tell them to make sure there was epinephrine on the ambulance since there was a slight possibility this was food allergy related. I held on to the phone as I watched the life slowly drain out of my son. I had never been so afraid.
I will never forget the look on my son’s face as he stared at us to help him. So desperate, so innocent, so heartbreaking. But all I could do was hold him tightly and tell him that I loved him, and that help was on he way.
I told him that he would be okay soon, but deep down I was not sure.
The ambulance arrived very quickly, and my husband ran out to them with my son in his arms.
I knew that my husband was medically trained and handled these situations better than I did, so I was glad he was the one who was in the ambulance. I also knew that the EMT’s would be doing all they could to help him.
But, as I hurried to get my 10 year old daughter into the car so that we could meet them at the hospital, I was fearing the worst.
What if they couldn’t get him to breathe? What if they couldn’t save him?
I had no idea what was going on in the ambulance. The 10 minute drive to the hospital felt like an eternity.
As we arrived, I asked them if my boy was okay, and if we could see him right away.
I felt like I was going to faint as I awaited their response.
They said he was doing okay, and walked me back to his room.
I felt like I could breathe again.
I had never seen a more amazing sight than that of my son lying on that ER bed, able to breathe and moving around. His color looked better. He looked better.
He was alive and my heart sang.
Tears ran down my face as I ran to hug him. He had oxygen tubes coming out of his nose, and he was clutching a little blue teddy bear that the staff had given him.
I gave him a big hug and kiss and told him how much I loved him. I brought my traumatized daughter over to him to see that he would be okay. I could see the fear leave her face, and relief replace it.
Though my son had a bad case of croup, and was later found out to have asthma, the scene I described above was similar to what food allergy families often go through.
Many terrifying trips to the ER, many doctors visits, many false alarms, many severe and mild reactions.
It is a daily minefield we walk through, and unless you have witnessed your child come close to dying, you cannot possibly understand how it feels.
There is nothing worse than a parent losing their child.
Like most parents, I wake up every day trying to make sure that doesn’t happen.
I have the extra burden of keeping my son away from food that can kill him. Food that surrounds him, like ticking time bombs.
I am there to try to find and detonate each one. I am there to slowly teach him how to do this himself.
But he is only 6 now. This will take some time.
He must live with life threatening food allergies to all nuts. His allergist said that it is doubtful he will outgrow it, and that he is too allergic to qualify for the new treatments out there.
I often read tragic stories of children dying from food allergies. I pray that my son won’t be one of them. I often read stories of children being bullied for having food allergies. I hope that my son won’t be one of them. I hear cruel jokes in the media about kids/people with food allergies. I hope my son will be strong enough to deal with such heartless people.
I hope he will grow up to be a kind, thoughtful man. The way so many people with disabilities, or so many who care for those with disabilities often do. They know what it is like to face tough times. They know what it is like to climb mountains that often feel insurmountable.
They are the best, most considerate people I know.
We are still hopeful for a cure. But for now we must walk this minefield of a life, and hope he gets to live his wonderful life for as long as possible.
He has the disabilities of food allergies and asthma. And like many others with disabilities, hidden or not, he requires some help, understanding and lots of love.
All children deserve this. Let’s make sure they get it. Let’s make sure we teach our children how to survive, thrive and show compassion.
My mind often goes back to that night I almost lost him. I know that what happened to him could happen again if he eats something containing his allergen, and/or if he has a bad asthma attack.
I will never forget that look on his face.
I just want my baby boy to come home safe.