Saturday, August 2, 2014

Patch's Big Scare

I felt like this post needs a warning before the start, in the wake of the loss that many have felt in the Catholic blogging community this past week, since this touches on the same frightening subject of insect stings and allergic reactions and I wanted to give anyone struggling with and mourning the loss of a beloved member of our community the chance to skip it.

Last night held one of the most frightening moments of my entire life.

And I totally didn't see it coming.

We were out at dinner with a good portion of our extended family having driven up and down the west coast to be here for my grandfather's birthday yesterday and my grandparent's anniversary party today.  My parent's had found a cute little restaurant down river (which basically means further into the middle of nowhere from where they currently live) and had gone in and found out that they had gluten free and dairy free options for pizza.  So we all drove in a string of cars down the twisting roads, watching the river at the bottom of the cliffs below, in the sizzling triple digit heat.

We got to the restaurant and sat at a beautiful polished naturally shaped wooden table.  The doors opened and closed frequently, both to let guests onto the patio, to let people in and out from the driveway and to bring food in from the outdoor pizza ovens, and several flies had squeezed through and were buzzing around, but no one minded.  Patch was across from me with his little seat strapped tightly on to on of their tall chairs, happily looking around the room.  Suddenly he started to sob. He bent over the side of the chair and hung stared at his legs, screaming. I tried to get him to take a sip of his water but he refused and so I slipped off my seat and took him outside where we visited with family members who'd drifted out to brave the heat to look down at the river. 

Patch calmed down for a few minutes but was sullen and not himself.  He's usually our little social butterfly, babbling and shouting new words in his little baby voice with a smile on his face.  I thought that maybe he was tired, or hungry and I bounced him and cuddled him.  He started to scream again.  I took him inside to get out of the heat and he calmed down for a few minutes, but when the pizza came, covered in olives just the way he likes (it's one of his favorite foods) he started to sob again. 

I scooped him back up and tried to figure out the best place to take him.  Outside was hot and there were people eating.  Inside was full of people also eating, who I didn't want to disturb.  My mom offered to try calming him and I suggested maybe she try walking while holding his hand, thinking that might make him happy.

When she put him down we all noticed instantly that his legs looked like they were severely sunburnt from the knees down.  The waitress sweetly brought out essential lavender oil to help the "burn" and mom and I wracked out brains.  He had been in the sun maybe five minutes all day and while he looks like he has his Daddy's fair skin he's outside constantly for long stretches of time and hasn't burnt. He'd done a lot of playing in the shade, but had spent the entire afternoon indoors to escape the heat. 

When he tried to walk he limped heavily, favoring one leg and screaming while moving stiffly.  I scooped him back up and we gathered up the girls, said quick good byes, and took him to the truck.  I strapped him quickly into his seat and we headed back towards town.  His legs, as I looked at them more closely, started to look a little less solidly red and more splotched red with little swollen patches. 

And that was when it started to sink in that maybe, just maybe he was having an allergic reaction to something.  He'd started screaming before the food came, so I didn't think it was anything that the restaurant had done.  I watched his face as my mom navigated the twisty road.  He started to cough between every breath.  His top lip started to look bigger.  Then his face started to look puffy, especially on the right side.  I did everything I could think of to calm him but he was inconsolable. 

I just about always bring chewable antihistamines with me because of Sadie's allergies, but a few days ago I had moved my wallet into a small purse with two diapers, my cell phone and Patch's epi-pen for quick trips and the medicine was still sitting in the house.  I sat turned in my seat, listening to his breathing under the coughing, believing I was seconds away from reaching into my bag and grabbing an epi-pen to jam into his upper leg. 

I think I managed to sound calm, both for the kids and because my mom had enough on her mind navigating the 25 mile per hour turns with plunging drops below knowing that something was going on and that it wasn't good, wishing we were in cell phone range to call the hospital, and knowing that I was going to have to tell my mom not to turn and take him another twenty minutes into town to the ER, while worrying about when to use the pen.  He could still breathe, but the swelling and coughing was terrifying.  And so I did the only thing that I could do and prayed and prayed and watched him and waited for a change, either for better or worse.

Finally, about five minutes from our turn to go home, he stopped coughing.  Then he stopped crying.  His breathing sounded normal.  He reached over and grabbed my hand.  His lip started to look normal.  His legs were still splotchy, but didn't seem quite as fiercely red.

Ten minutes later when I asked him if he was okay he said "yeah!" and when I asked him if he had an ouchie he shook his head no.  When we got home and unloaded him I could see a bright red pin prick on the back of his knee, with a half moon shape below it. 
I gave him a dose of Benadryl and a bath and watched as he played and splashed and laughed, as though he'd completely forgotten about how horribly he'd been feeling a few minutes earlier. 

As he fell asleep I sat on the futon in the room outside his room and listened for signs of trouble.  He was fine.  He slept soundly cuddling his stuffed puppy.

This morning I checked his legs.  The splotchy red and white pattern and swelling were gone.  His skin was smooth.  All that remained was the tiny pin prick mark with a bit of a crescent shape below it on the back of his knee.

Monday morning I'll be calling his allergist to make an appointment for when we get back.  About a week before we left Michigan he tried to rescue a bee from the baby pool by picking it up between his fingers and was stung.  At the time I had watched him carefully because of the allergies in our family, particularly in Patch, (and because my paternal grandmother carried an epi-pen for bee stings because she was severely allergic) and had felt a little relieved when he'd seemed completely fine, while at the same time remembering hearing somewhere that usually reactions don't happen the first time a person is stung.  So I'm sure we'll be looking into allergies for stings.

Patch has had allergies since he was two months old, so I've basically carried epi-pens with me his entire life.  So far he has never needed one.  There have been times when I've grabbed my bag to go to Mass or to the store with him and have realized once we were out that the pen was in another bag and hadn't really thought it was that big a deal. After all, he'd never had a reaction that had been close to needing one. 

After last night I'm going to be hyper vigilant about always having both antihistamines and two of his epi-pens in my bag, because while I was frightened, knowing that those pens were in my bag offered a tiny bit of peace and I cannot imagine what it would have been like if last night had been one of those days where I had carelessly forgotten them in my other bag. 

I am so, so grateful that he is okay and now hope that we can find out exactly what it is that we're going to need to be careful about from here on out.


  1. How absolutely terrifying! I'm so relieved for you that all turned out well; guardian angels, my Mom would have said.

    We can't be too careful, it seems, and these things can happen in an instant. Ben was bitten, likely by a hornet, after his Daddy lifted him out of the car 2 weeks ago. Thank God it didn't amount to anything and the swelling went down quickly.

    My heart is heavy for Sarah's sweet family. Though I didn't follow her blog, I have seen several posts and have been so sad. How unexpected and tragic.

    God bless.


  2. Maybe somehow she was watching over him?

  3. How scary! I am glad that he is ok.

  4. Blessings to you and yours.
    Des Moines, IA


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