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the world through rainbow eyes


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The Herd of Gazelles at the Bus Stop

Pi and Phi are 5 now. They attend Kindergarten (two different classes so they can both shine their stars individually as bright as possible). They both insisted that they are old enough to ride the bus to school, and because the bus is actually available to them now that they are in Kinder, I agreed. So they ride the bus to school every school day morning. 

I drop them off and watch them interact at the bus stop with the other kids. They’re the only Kinder kids in our little neighborhood, so mostly the big kids are leaving them alone and letting them run around like animals waiting for the bus. 

Run around they do, too. Every single day, they drop their packs in the bus shelter and then have races from one sign to the other. About 200 feet of a race they do over and over until the bus gets there. Squealing, rambunctious, and overall dorky. Phi runs with his hands clutched high to his sides, a bit like a T-Rex. A smile of pure happiness. His feet hit the ground with the strange, awkward, delicate gait so familiar to other parents who have children on the spectrum. Toes pointed down, still somewhat clompy somehow. Like an elephant doing ballet. So happy.

Pi’s arms are thrown back and her clomping hits whole foot down, her face also has the same smile. So happy. She is a gazelle. 

The other kids are mostly silent while Pi and Phi enact these daily races. Pi and Phi encircle them, run between them, around them, near them. You can see the other kids pull back, stare at them. I want to tell Pi and Phi to chill. Be cool. The kids are judging them. I keep my mouth shut. One kid does a mock tiptoe of Phi to his other friends, and they cover their mouths to smile behind their hands. They know better than to laugh where parents can see them. Phi doesn’t notice, just keeps running. Keeps being happy. 

I want to scream at these kids. You think it’s awesome that you can run better than him? Running is hard for him. He’s a different animal. You are gazelles, and he is an elephant. His squealing trumpet of glee comes from a differently shaped throat than your own. Is it such a point of pride that yours was shaped different? Do you work for hours to make your gazelle throat shape the sounds that all the other gazelles make? 

No he does not have grace. What he has, instead, is hard work. He has perseverance. Thank goodness that’s part of the package with Autism. The same thing that makes him line up puzzles for hours is what makes it possible for him to make words that others understand. He works past the point of wanting to stop. I am furiously proud of his words. 

I remember his testing, and them asking us for a list of his words. For a week we tried to put together even ten words that he said at the age of 18 months. Duck. Ball. … Umm.. Daddy? We struggled to find any words that he had actually said. Now, at age 5, his vocabulary is huge. He inherits the wide breadth of spoken word that his father and I use daily, and it shows. 

But the kids at the bus stop don’t see that he is a hard working elephant stuck in the land of the graceful gazelles. They see that he is not part of their herd. They close ranks. 

So he runs with Pi. Pi who doesn’t care, yet, about gazelles and elephants. All animals are different to her. She takes it in stride. 

I want the other kids at the bus stop to see what she sees. I want them to feel the pure joy that he feels. 

I’m proud of my mismatched animals, and so furious at the herd that closes them both out. I know that in their classes there are other mismatched animals, and they find them and befriend them. The herd at the bus stop is not their whole world of experience, but only a small window onto it. 

I also know that the herd at the bus stop is going to grow. That as they get bigger, it will become more and more evident how different they both are to the herds they encounter. Him for his everything, and her for her acceptance of these things and for her own differences. That the ruthlessness of peers will run their world for the next fifteen some odd years. There is not a thing I can do to change it. 

I know that they are going to spend their lives collecting their own herds of mismatched animals. I hope they do not spend too long trying to assimilate into herds that are not their own and do not accept them. I also feel sad for the limited scope of the herd of gazelles at the bus stop. They have not yet learned the value of the different animals. I hope they learn it someday. 

An Anti-Vax Comment Refuted

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I keep my comments moderated. I don’t have interest in “teaching the controversy,” or giving platform to people who want to disseminate information that I disagree with vehemently. It means that people who comment get their IP logged, email logged, and that I have the option of saying oh hail naw I’m not publishing that. So I’m not really going to make a habit of this, but this one time, yeah. I’ll do this.

So, in response to I’m A Jerk On Facebook I got a comment from a guy who calls himself Brian. It reads thusly:

It is very important to thoroughly objectively examine both sides of any argument before jumping to any conclusions. As a new father, I have dove into the depths of vaccination theory and science. What I have found is that MOST people, including nurses, doctors and scientists, use statistics to prove what they already believe. You might say, “Well if a scientist makes a statement it must be fact!” Then upon further investigation you discover that this particular study was funded by someone who has a vested interested in the results (pro or anti vaccine) The truth lays somewhere in the middle, but the general public is too blind to look past what they unconsciously want to believe. They are so wrapped up in emotion that the truth really doesn’t matter.

With this said, the author of this blog put a great deal of passion into the non-vaccination argument. She seemed to use very good logic and even had statistics to show the reliability of her information. Let’s take a look at some important points:

1. When examining mortality results of measles over the past 70 years it is remarkable to see the difference that the vaccination has made. When looking back to the past 200 years the story changes. The decline that appeared after the introduction of the vaccine was just the tail end of a massive decline in this condition. Scarlet fever is an an example of a condition that was naturally eradicated without the aid of vaccinations. Through better nutrition and sanitation great changes occurred.

-In the United States and England, between 1915 and 1958, there was a 95% decline in the measles death rate

-Before the vaccine was introduced, it was extremely rare for an infant to contract measles. However, by 1993 more than 25% of all measles cases were occurring in babies under one year old. CDC (Centre for Disease Control) officials attribute it to the growing number of mothers who were vaccinated during the 1960’s, ‘70’s, and ‘80’s. (When natural immunity is denied, measles protection cannot be passed onto their babies.

2. The Pertussis vaccination is one of the least effective vaccinations due the quantity of strains, and the suspected ability of strains to adapt to the immunization. The question you must ask is how can you be safer not immunizing yourself or your child from a potentially life threatening disease, even if it is only partial immunity?

3. The concept of heard immunity has really failed if you look at several highly vaccinated cities. In 1985 Corpus Christi had a measles outbreak that occurred at a school whom 99% of the students had been vaccinated, and 97% tested as having immunity to measles. (this is not an isolated incident do your research)

4. Most vaccines contain aluminum and/or formaldehyde. The increase in from 10 vaccines to 30 over the la t 20 years has increased the amount of these neurotoxins being injected into infants. 7 Court cases paying millions of dollars have been settled this year due vaccine injury.

With the information shared by both the author of this blog and myself you should be compelled to do more research on BOTH sides. Make informed decisions that involve you putting hours of research in. Dont just trust society or the doctors that follow along with it. Make the decision that is right for you and your child after you have added up all the risks on both sides.

I don’t really believe I’m going to sway Brian, but here’s some info addressing these somewhat common arguments from people who choose to not vaccinate.

So let’s go at this in no particular order.

4. Most vaccines contain aluminum and/or formaldehyde. The increase in from 10 vaccines to 30 over the la t 20 years has increased the amount of these neurotoxins being injected into infants. 7 Court cases paying millions of dollars have been settled this year due vaccine injury.

Here’s some articles that specifically address this:

http://www.forbes.com/sites/emilywillingham/2013/08/09/court-rulings-dont-confirm-autism-vaccine-link/  This pretty much hits on all the reasons why a court may decide in favor of assessing damages to one of the incredibly limited amount of people who do have serious adverse reactions to a vaccine. It’s worth noting this: “With regard to autism specifically, the VICP lawsuits related to autism and vaccines were lumped together into what became known as the autism omnibus trial. Three special masters were appointed to evaluate three test cases from this group. The court ultimately denied compensation for these cases and then denied compensation for a further three cases, and the court was not impressed with the science or expert witnesses marshalled for the plaintiffs.”

http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/23063829 is another good link. It’s an abstract, and fairly interesting.

Every single medical intervention has the potential to have adverse affect. Even using something as simple as a personally hated homeopathic “medicine” has a limited amount of adverse reactions reported yearly. Remember the Hyland Teething Tablet recall?  Well, see, that’s the thing, a certain amount of people just are going to have reactions.

Citing these as proof that vaccines are dangerous makes very little sense. Especially when one considers the actual millions of vaccines administered yearly. That the number is so very, very, very small tends to put vaccinating in a better light than it even previously occupied.

Next.

3. The concept of heard immunity has really failed if you look at several highly vaccinated cities. In 1985 Corpus Christi had a measles outbreak that occurred at a school whom 99% of the students had been vaccinated, and 97% tested as having immunity to measles. (this is not an isolated incident do your research)

Now, this guy is a hellacious jerk, I admit. It’s hard to listen to his whiny voice drone on. Nevertheless, he shows the problems with Brian’s argument. So try to ignore him being such a dick, and watch and listen:

Next.

2. The Pertussis vaccination is one of the least effective vaccinations due the quantity of strains, and the suspected ability of strains to adapt to the immunization. The question you must ask is how can you be safer not immunizing yourself or your child from a potentially life threatening disease, even if it is only partial immunity?

Increasing herd immunity actually covers a big part of the answer to this supposed question.

Here’s a link talking about Pertussis Vaccine, and Pertussis: http://www.cdc.gov/vaccines/vac-gen/whatifstop.htm#pertussis
For me, most meaningful, was that when I linked my original blog post about vaccines, the outpouring of shares that I saw had stories that contained numerous accounts of people who lost family and loved ones due to Pertussis. It was the most cited disease that people had personal experience with. Every single one of the people mentioned had Pertussis prior to the vaccine being introduced. On a personal level I know one person who had Pertussis after the vaccine was introduced. I know she suffered from it horribly for quite a long time afterward, and said it was one of the defining points of her childhood. Edit: She just got back to me, because I haven’t asked her too in depth about this, previously. She got Pertussis after being immunized as an infant. Both of her parents worked in the medical field and were very conscientious about vaccinations. She caught Pertussis at camp when she was 14. This was right around the time that science was figuring out that the vaccine wears off, and that people need boosters. It was too late for her then, but she is on time always, now.

I say most meaningful because that’s how humans mostly are. Personal stories tend to touch our minds and leave lingering impressions in a way that pure numbers often don’t. It’s how anti- vaccination arguments generally work. The personal anecdotes and news stories that emotionally describe the “horrors” of vaccines are an impassioned argument. That’s just it, though. They are ruled by passion and anecdote. The numbers don’t stack up. You can “do the research yourself,” as Brian recommends, but unless you truly intend to investigate, please listen to those who have investigated.
Investigating means not just reading an article on a natural news website. It means reading abstracts (and understanding them!). It means looking for citations and then looking them up to see if they are actually source material or have source material (and read the source material!). Look for links, then look the links up and read them thoroughly. Look for peer review and reproduction of study results. Look to see if the study has actually been completed and what the results were. Again, look for study results, too.

Good science follows these rules:

1) Formulate a question

2) Make a hypothesis

3) Make a prediction

4) Test

5) Analyse results

If it doesn’t do these things (and part of step 5 is submission for peer review, which then creates a circle in “can these results be reproduced?”) then it’s not science. It’s just opinion. You might as well tell me that the earth is flat. If you can’t follow rigorous scientific method to show it, the only thing proven is that you’re weird.

So that leaves the final (or really, the first) point Brian tries to make.

1. When examining mortality results of measles over the past 70 years it is remarkable to see the difference that the vaccination has made. When looking back to the past 200 years the story changes. The decline that appeared after the introduction of the vaccine was just the tail end of a massive decline in this condition. Scarlet fever is an an example of a condition that was naturally eradicated without the aid of vaccinations. Through better nutrition and sanitation great changes occurred.

-In the United States and England, between 1915 and 1958, there was a 95% decline in the measles death rate

-Before the vaccine was introduced, it was extremely rare for an infant to contract measles. However, by 1993 more than 25% of all measles cases were occurring in babies under one year old. CDC (Centre for Disease Control) officials attribute it to the growing number of mothers who were vaccinated during the 1960’s, ‘70’s, and ‘80’s. (When natural immunity is denied, measles protection cannot be passed onto their babies.

The very first thing that I want to say is about Scarlet Fever. Scarlet Fever was not naturally eradicated. Scarlet Fever is effectively treated with antibiotics, and before that treatment was available it was a major cause of death. There is no current vaccine, and it is unlikely for us to create an effective vaccine as there are so many strains. It’s a kind of interesting disease, actually. Scarlet Fever, along with Influenza B, and a few other childhood diseases, are the reason that you don’t give babies and kids aspirin (but instead give them acetaminophen, otherwise known as paracetamol,  or ibuprofen). See, a complication of these diseases, when combined with aspirin use, has been shown to cause Reye’s Syndrome.
I was born in 1972. In my childhood, we thought of Reye’s Syndrome specifically as a complication of Scarlet Fever, and specifically as the reason you don’t give aspirin.

So, let’s get back to Measles.

Measles is not like Scarlet Fever in that there is no effective treatment for it. With the vast majority of cases of Scarlet Fever, you can take an antibiotic, and it will effectively treat it. With Measles, you simply suffer.

From the Wiki for Measles:

There is no specific treatment for measles. Most patients with uncomplicated measles will recover with rest and supportive treatment. It is, however, important to seek medical advice if the patient becomes more unwell, as they may be developing complications. Complications may include bronchitis, acute encephalitis and – very rarely – panencephalitis, which is usually or always fatal [5]

I can work at countering the rest of Brian’s argument about the history of Measles (speaking of which, here’s a nice History of Measles), but I think this is more effectively talked about by herd immunity. See, one of the big problems with Measles is that it’s highly contagious. Like, seriously highly. It’s herd immunity threshold is 92-94%. Think back to that video up there talking about herd immunity. You need 92-94% of the population to be immunized to Measles for it to not become a serious outbreak. Measles tries to catch you, fails, then tries again. And again. And again. It just keeps plugging away until it finds a hole, then it rushes in. 

It’s why people who travel to areas of the world where Measles are endemic have to be vaccinated, and even that doesn’t fully protect, because again, freaking Measles is a horrible little Engine-That-Could.

Now, you could say that Measles are unusual in the UK or the US at specific times, but that’s ignoring the now. The now of international travel.
I live in Atlanta. Not inside it, mind you, but in the far northern metro edges. We have an airport here that has about a thousand flights a day, both national and international. It’s the busiest airport in the world, or at least was in 2012. Those travellers are people stopping over to go onto other cities, on their way to and from all the corners of the globe. All of the corners.
Not really shocking that we have the CDC here, is it?

All of those travellers bring all their diseases. They mix them, and they bring these mixes to where they’re going. Your coworkers, the workers at the grocery store you go to, the guy who lives with your kid’s teacher, the nice lady at the library who also does church missions, friends at church who went on vacation to Disney World, the kids at the park, all of these people. It’s Six Degrees of Separation time, people. That’s how pandemics work. Six Degrees of Separation, and that’s why vaccines are so important, even if you’re a homebody, and think you don’t go much of anywhere.

That wasn’t true for a good long while. We didn’t have this kind of international, daily, travel. It’s true now, though, and it’s why the CDC is working their butts off keeping ahead of the pandemics (thanks epidemiologists!). It’s also why Measles has made inroads in places where we have good sanitation and healthcare.

As for that one little bit about mothers passing on antibodies to measles? Nope. Not so much (why Nigeria? Because.)

Finally, this.  I’ll leave it as an exercise to the reader to do the research for the ideas within on their own.

Vaccinations work.


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The World Is Full Of Poison

Parentwin had a contributor post today that smacked me right in the head. It’s about food allergies, and what it means to be the parent of a child with food allergies.

See, my lovely and bright 4, nearly 5 year old daughter Pie has a food allergy. She’s allergic to cashews, pistachios, and to a lesser extent, English walnuts. The allergies combined mean that all tree nuts are dangerous for her, as they are not in the same family.  I’m going to tell you about the day I found that out. I wrote this originally for my own private journalling the day after the event happened, and it’s a bit emotional. I warn you about that, because it has upset people to read it more than once in the past.

 

June 29th, 2011
I’m going to try to write this out to let go of it. This is what it is to find out your child has a serious food allergy.

Around 4 yesterday the kids starting asking for a snack. This is fairly reasonable, so I starting making a simple sandwich for them to cut in half and share. While I was getting ready to make it, they danced around my feet like eager puppies and investigated the different food bits on the counter.

One of the food bits was a bag of cashews. I hadn’t yet fed the kids any nuts because up until now their chewing skills were not that remarkable. They were far more apt to just try to swallow it whole.

So, I gave them each a cashew while I was making their sandwich and told them to chew it up really well before swallowing. They both eagerly put their cashews in their mouth and started chewing like crazy.

I went back to making the sandwich, and looked down a few times to make sure they were swallowing okay. P chewed his up, and then promptly spit it out. Not that unusual a response for a 2 year old, especially him. Pie seemed excited by hers, so I gave her two more and told her that I was making a sandwich and she could eat those while she waited. She said okay, and then stood there watching me for a minute. Instead of eating the two more in her hand, she put them on the counter, said “no thanks,” and tried to spit out the one she had already swallowed.

“Oh, you didn’t like it? Okay. Here’s your milk. Just wash the taste out of your mouth and I’ll give you your sandwich in a second.”

She tried to drink some milk and stood in the gate to the kitchen. P decided he had some very important business in the living room and pushed through her to get there. “No! No pushing, P. I’m sorry, Pie, are you okay?”

She looked up at me from the ground where she was crying. “P pushed me!” “I know, baby, I’m sorry. No pushing! Ow! Pushing hurts!” I picked her up and put her on the couch so I could get the sandwich to them. When their blood sugar gets too low, like a lot of other 2 year olds, they are much more likely to cry, much more likely to push, and just generally aren’t happy.

I was hurrying trying to make the sandwich, while Pie was on the couch crying a little. It wasn’t a big cry, just a kind of complaint cry. The kind I usually try to hug her through. I finish making the sandwich, cut it into fourths, get out their little plates and put half on each plate. Then I bring it out to them and give a plate to each and go back to the kitchen to clean up the sandwich mess.

In the meantime, Pie has gone from complaint crying to just crying. This isn’t great. I go and check on her. She’s laying on the couch. “I got your sandwich, baby, you hungry?” “Noooo!” she says and itches at chest. “You okay?” “Nooooo!” with more itching.

Crap. Crappity crap. I pull up her dress and look at her stomach and chest where she’s itching. Raised swatches of white welts. Her skin is angry and red. Oh. Oh no. The cashew. Oh. OH FUCK. I pull her dress off and look at her whole body. All of her trunk is covered in the welts. I look at her eyes and lips. No swelling. Her eyes look a little puffy, but I think it’s the crying.

I run to the kitchen and pull out the liquid children’s benadryl, and make a dose for her with an oral syringe. “Hold on, baby! Mommy is making some medicine for you.” She’s just whimpering and scratching horribly. I grab the oral syringe and my hand hits the calamine lotion, so I grab that, too, and some cotton.

“Okay baby, take this medicine.” “nooooo!” “Come on, you need to take this medicine.” I put it in her mouth and she manages to take the whole dose. I fumble with my phone and call our pediatrician’s office emergency line.

“Is she coughing or are her lips swelling?”

“No.”

“Drive her to urgent care. Now. If she starts coughing or facial swelling, call an ambulance.”

“Okay.” I am dabbing the calamine lotion on her while talking. Just keeping my hands busy. I hang up. “Okay guys, we’re going to go see the doctor. Mommy is going to get some extra clothes quickly for Pie.”

I run through the house now. I grabbed the first shirt and pants I can find. Grab the second. Pie often throws up in the car, and I want to make sure she has a change of clothes. I shove everything in the backpack and get Pie quickly dressed in a shirt and pants. The dress I took off of her was hard to pull over her head and I don’t want to pull it back on her again. I throw on the kids’ shoes.

“We go in car? I need my purple glasses,” Pie tells me through wisps of hair and a tear stained face. I grab her sunglasses, throw the iTouches in my purse, backpack on my back, and grab P’s hand. Throw Pie on my hip and rush out the door.

P promptly walks over to his side and waits there patiently while I buckle Pie in. This is pretty much against general protocol, but he’s being fairly cooperative. I buckle him in, “thank you for being so awesome, baby,” and give him a kiss on his nose. “You’re being very helpful.”

I jump in the car, and dial my husband on speed dial and put it on speaker phone. It takes all of one ring to get through to him. “Hey, I’m on my way to urgent care. Pie ate a cashew, and it looks like she’s allergic.”

“Uh. Where’s urgent care?”

“Remember where we took the kids last time? Over by the Burlington?”

“Oh, yeah. I think so. I’ll meet you there.”

“K. I love you.”

“Love you, too.”

I hang up and try desperately not to speed. Every half a minute or less I look in the rearview mirror and see her head nodding downwards. She’s not crying anymore. She’s just laying there in her seat with her hair covering her face and her body limp. At every red light I put a hand back and shake her a little. “Talk to mommy, baby. You okay?”

Her voice is tiny. Tinier than I’ve ever heard it be. So tiny and so tired. “Ya. I’m fine.” Sometimes she says, “I don’t feel well.” So tiny. So tired.

Halfway there and she stops responding. I hear her retching in her seat, and see it happening in the rearview. “Oh no! I sick,” she says and drops her head again.

“I’ll clean you up soon baby. We just gotta keep driving this time. Okay? You hear me?”

She says nothing. Her hair is over her face. She’s covered in vomit. I have a hand on her foot and pull on it a bit every now and then. She stretches her leg back sometimes, and that keeps me going.

Sometimes she doesn’t, though. I think about her eyes being a little bit swollen from crying. Maybe it wasn’t crying. Maybe it was the allergy, and I should have called an ambulance. I keep squeezing her foot and pulling a little. P reaches over and pulls on her a bit. We’re very close. I can’t quite remember where it is, but I have a good general idea, and expect that I’ll recognize it when I see it.

I keep looking while I’m driving and squeezing her foot. I’m scared that she might have thrown up the benedryl. I keep driving, though.

There it is! I was as close as I thought. Oh thank you.

I park and jump out with the backpack already on my back somehow. I get P out of the car, and run around to her side. I wrap her up in a towel and carry her in. “I sick. You gotta clean me up. Oh no.” Her voice sounds less tiny and tired. I kiss her cheek.

“We’ll get you cleaned up soon, we got to see the doctor first, though, baby.”

I run in carrying her wrapped in a towel and with P holding my hand. “You carry me? P hold your hand cross street.”

“That’s right baby. You have to hold hands to cross the street.”

I run up to the the nurse and she says to sign in. “I can’t write right now, I’ll give you the information, just ask me the bits.”

So, she does this, quickly. As soon as she gets to “reason for visit” she puts the pen down and she says to follow her. I put Pie down on the table and pull off her vomit covered shirt. The nurse puts a child’s dressing gown on her. It is purple with koala bears riding rockets on it. Then she puts a meter on Pie’s finger.

“Her oxygen saturation is 100%”

“Oh thank god.”

She looks at her face. She is white and bruised looking. Red and purple splotches cover her. Her eyelids and the creases under her eyes look like dark purple holes. Bruised. Her body is still limp, but she’s sitting okay. The nurse raises her gown and looks at her body. It is also white as can be and bruised looking. Red splotches. The welts are gone. “How long ago did you give her the benedryl?”

“I dunno, 20 minutes ago? 30 minutes ago? She threw up in the car, so I was scared she threw it up.”

“No. If she held it down for 10 to 15 minutes, it’s in her.”

“Okay.” P is running in and out of this little corridor between the waiting room and the offices. I let him run.

“Okay, the doctor will see you soon. You can wait out here.”

I take the kids to the waiting room and pull the iTouches out and set them up with games to play. I convince Pie to let me change her vomit covered pants. She’s mad, though, because her pants are purple and the pants I want to change them to are red. The dressing gown is purple, and she wants them to match. I show her the red rockets on the gown, and she agrees to the pants. I smile at this simple Pie-ism. It is so her.

P insists on sitting next to Pie, and pulls her blanket out of the open backpack at our feet and gives it to her. “You’re so sweet, P. Thank you for being so nice,” and I give him a kiss and hug. He smiles and then starts concentrating on his game. Pie isn’t really concentrating much and it’s constantly switching off and she’s asking me to fix it.

The nurses call us over to get insurance info and such. The kids share a chair and play with their games while I do it. Again, I don’t seem to have it in me to write, so I give information and try to hold it together. I am scared that if I hold a pen it will just shake jitteringly all over the paper. My mind keeps thinking of her not responding in the car. Of the nurse saying that her oxygen is 100%. These two bits flashing back and forth between each other over and over in my head. I think I look calm, but I am not.

We finish and then we wait a tiny bit more. Then we go back to an exam room and wait there. P cries briefly when we go in the room but I tell him that we are there for Pie, and no one is going to mess with him. That seems to calm him down.

“The doctor is going to come in a minute and look at you, Pie. She’ll ask you some questions, and listen to your heart and lungs, and look in your ears and mouth.”

“She’ll use a stethoscope?”

“Yup. She’ll use the otoscope to look in your ears and mouth.”

“Oh. She’ll look in my ears and look in my mouth?”

“Probably, babe. It’s what doctors do. She might give you a shot, too.”

“A shot to make me better?”

“Yup.”

The doctor came in fairly quickly and asked us about what happened. She said that we’d give a shot, except she didn’t say shot out loud. I told Pie that we’d have to give her a shot, and it would hurt, but then she would start to feel better. She told me she’d give me some medicine to give her for the next three days, and to repeat the benedryl in 4-6 hours because tree nut allergies are notorious for reactivating (the reaction going away and then coming back).

My husband called right then and I told him what exam room we were in. He came back right before the doctor left. Everyone was happy to see daddy. Me, especially, I think.

The doctor left. My husband looked at me. “So, a cashew, huh?”

“Yeah. The worst I was afraid of was them not chewing it enough and choking on it. It never occurred to me to worry they might be allergic.”

“He ate one, too?” he said, indicating P.

“Yeah, it looks like he’s not allergic.”

“So, epi-pens for both of them, huh?” Yeah. At least with him, we can generally be able to keep him away from dogs. It’s not an allergy like nuts.

“Yup.”

The nurse came in then. She had some prednisolone for Pie to take by mouth, and then a shot of epinephrine. The nurse tried to tell Pie that the shot wouldn’t really hurt much.

“This’ll hurt some, Pie. It’s probably going to hurt a lot. But it’ll be over really quick, and I’ll hold you the whole time.” She just looked up at me, bravely. I held her and she giggled nervously when the shot went in, but she didn’t move, and she didn’t cry. It was over very quick.

And that was that. We’re supposed to keep up on the prednisone liquid for three days, and keep an epi-pen with her. No tree nuts at all until we get a testing done. I’ve talked to her doctor today and we’re on the quick road to getting that done.

So, if you want to know what it’s like to find out that your kid is allergic to cashews, well, this is it. There were many outcomes that could have been so much worse. I feared all of them while I drove.

Today she’s running around and talking about how she was sick and went to the doctor and the doctor gave her a shot that made her better. Her face looks pink. Her eyes bright and dancing. There are still shadows under her eyes, but they are light. The shadows in my head are harder to banish.

 

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This happened on June 28th, 2011, and I sat down to exorcise the demons of it on June 29th. Since then we had Pie tested and found her allergies confirmed. We carry epi-pens with us, always. Right now I feel in a bit of a free-fall about her allergies, specifically.

See, my kids started pre-k on Monday, and for her to have access to her epi-pens she has to have a current medical note and an unopened box with two epi-pens. These pens cost near a hundred dollars even with our medical insurance, and have to remain at the school. Which means we need another set for her personal carry around set. Which means another hundred dollars. I might fight that one, one day. The safest place for her to have her epi-pens is directly on her, not in a cabinet in a school nurse’s office. Her allergy appointment this year to get that note and the new pens is 8 days away. It’s a gap in coverage while she’s at school.
A gap wherein any schoolmate could offer her a snack that she should not eat. She’s pretty good about such things, and asks regularly if something is safe for her to eat, but that doesn’t actually keep her safe. Heck, the epinephrine pens don’t actually keep her safe. They merely provide a 10-15 minute window (first application) and then about a 5-8 minute window (second consecutive application) wherein she has a chance for emergency personnel to save her.

There’s even a chance that she’ll outgrow the allergy. Around 10% or so of children with the allergy do. That’s not a large chance, but if your chances were that good to win the lottery, why you’d play every day, wouldn’t you?

We’ve learned a lot in that time. Learned about how very many foods are made with tree nuts, or made in places where things are made with tree nuts. Pie talks about the day sometimes, too. It’s a part of her personal mythology. She tells of “the day I ate the tree nut” and about getting sick in front of the fridge. She’s mixed it up with a different period of sick wherein she threw up on the kitchen floor, but that’s okay. Personal memory and mythology are a private and individual thing, and attempting to alter someone else’s are usually futile. She does remember the doctor giving her a shot, and the scary car ride (a ride that should have never happened- always call an ambulance, always).

The most surprising thing to me, consistently, has been the almost personal outrage of others about people with food allergies. The insistence that it’s an inconvenience to not be able to eat the peanut butter sandwich at school, for instance. That if a child’s life was in such danger, why that child should simply not go to school so the hundreds of other children shouldn’t have to suffer the fate of a lunch without peanut butter (I mention peanut butter, even though Pie is not allergic to peanuts at all, because it is the most usual and often most sensitive and dangerous allergen – one where sometimes even a grain of the allergen protein can provoke anaphylaxis and therefore cause death – and yet it is often at the center of the self indulgent anger of the non-allergic).

There’s also a lot of debate about antihistamine use for anaphylaxis, just to be clear. Our allergist wants us to keep it on hand (and to keep the liquid kind specifically as chewing and swallowing may not be possible in the case of anaphylaxis) and apply it in emergency. Some say that it does not slow down anaphylactic shock, and that it wastes precious seconds when trying to save a life.

In that time we’ve also finally identified what Pie’s “first exposure” was. See, the first time someone is exposed to something they will be allergic to, they will not have an allergic reaction. As a matter of fact, allergies can simply develop from things that you’ve had plenty of. With Pie it was her second exposure to tree nuts that got her sick. Her first exposure to it was a happy time, and so blase that we had totally forgotten it happened at all. When she was around 11-16 months old or so, my husband and I were grocery shopping with her and the store we were in were giving out samples of pesto. Pesto has nuts in it, you see. Often pine nuts, but sometimes walnuts. She loved the pesto, and we were so pleased with her burgeoning palette that we just filed that memory away in things that had happened.

Is there anything you should be aware of when it comes to food allergies and children? Lots. 

Oh, and also? She wears a medic-alert bracelet that identifies her allergy, and gives emergency info on what to do along with contact info for myself and her doctor.  More than once I’ve seen an eagle-eyed person spy her bracelet and ask her about it. It’s probably the one thing a person can do that makes me breathe a little easier. First, they realized what the bracelet was, second, they knew enough to ask her about it, and finally, they are aware of a very serious but not obvious danger.

I know this entry is sort of all over the place, but that’s part of how I feel about Pie’s allergy: all over the place. It is an invasive species that has planted itself in the garden of my family, and we deal with it’s shoots and tendrils in lots of places, and in lots of ways. It doesn’t diminish the love, joy, or fun we have, but it is a scary fact that we live with, and Debby’s guest post at Parentwin smacked me right upside the head with a lot of those feelings.