Crisis: Recovery

Ok, so being one big ball of ALLERGIC is really fraying to one’s nerves.

Obviously.

ANAPHYLAXIS DAY 2017

I am not a fan of hospital selfies.

Really, I kind of just shared that one to make you laugh. (Go ahead, it’s ok!)

I look SUPREMELY pathetic.

What’s funny is, I asked my mom to take my picture  in order to send it to my sister so that she would know that I was ok post-Epi-pen. I was insistent that sending my sister a picture of my smiling face would be reassuring.

AHAHAHAHAHA.

Are you reassured by that picture?

Yeah, neither was she.

But don’t worry, I laughed when I first saw it too. So much so, I had a huge coughing fit and attracted nurse attention.

Lesson learned: There is nothing reassuring about a post-Epi hospital selfie.

Moving on.

Or at least trying to…

I have been trying so, so hard to move on from being a reactive mess. It has been nearly 2 whole weeks. I feel like everything should be totes norms again or whatevs the kids are saying these days.

Except, I keep reacting to stuff.

Nothing like Monday, I’ll be clear about that. No Epi has been involved; however large quantities of antihistamines and steroids have been.

Quick backstory: I have Mast Cell Activation Disorder (MCAD), which I just realized is not in my explanatory “What’s POTS” page, so as soon as I’m done here, I will go update that. Whoopsie. There’s a lot to explain and keep up with. Sorry. Anyway.

Everyone has mast cells. There are a part of your immune system. When you have an allergic reaction, your mast cells multiply very quickly, like a huge army assembling to attack the invader. If you have MCAD, your mast cells get “activated” for a whole lot more than they should. Personally, if I am in a reactive/symptomatic phase, even if you hug me too tight or too long, my skin will get hot, red and itchy because the pressure is enough to trigger my overzealous immuno-army. The doctor who diagnosed me loved that I was such a perfect “teaching case” because he could run his pencil eraser down my arm, have a red line of tiny hives immediately pop up and remain, and then show off how mast cells work to his colleagues, medical assistants, nurses, receptionist, and whoever else was in a 10-foot radius.

Um, you’re welcome?

In addition to ducking out from weird huggers (they are out there, and I’m sorry, I like you as a person, promise- you just hug weird!), I also avoid trying on clothes (shopping is literally painful), wearing clothes that are too tight (compression stockings nonwithstanding), and brushing up against anything lightly (which is a strange sensation that produces AGONY).

The point of sharing all of this is to say that I am incredibly used to being allergic and allergic-type sensitive and reactive in its many, many forms.

I’ve just never had quite such a time with food before.

Usually all my food related problems are questions of digestion. I haven’t really been able to get that far lately though.

Clearly, when I had my severe reaction to whatever (still haven’t eaten strawberries, eggs, or oats since that morning. Also no fertilizer…I think…?), it woke up the Mast Cell Army that lives in my mouth.

In the past 2 weeks, I have had weird mouth reactions to:

Food that is cold.

Food that is hot.

Food that was fine to eat this morning, but not this afternoon.

Anything eaten when I’m tired.

So, you know, like a bunch of reactions that make total logical sense that I can then show as evidence to a medical professional who will look at it, see a pattern, and say, “Oh, no worries, you have a really straightforward case of _____.”

As per usual.

These “weird reactions” have included, but not been limited to: coughing, red burning dots on the sides of my tongue, redness around my mouth, and a feeling of fullness. Thankfully, I’ve always been able to swallow, and have had no choking.

It’s gotten so much better now that my prednisone taper is done and I’ve had a steady stream of antihistamines pumped into me.

But still.

Recovery is a journey, not a destination.

Apparently, I’m on the scenic route.

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Crisis: Acute

I fell out of my chair on Monday.

I also stopped breathing.

I know, way to bury the lead, Nic.

I still don’t *really* know what happened.

Everything started out fine. I was late getting up, having been an Outlet Mall Shopping Machine on Sunday for Mother’s Day. I figured I was just feeling sluggish from over exertion and needed to just get going.

I got up. I did Zumba (my favorite exercise thing right now because running is just…sigh…not happening). I took a shower. I did dishes.

I sat down and ate breakfast.

I eat the same thing every day, with little to no variation. I’m boring like that.

I ate my eggs, I ate my boring plain Cheerios, I ate my strawberries.

On the very last bite, I couldn’t swallow. My face felt itchy and hot. I coughed a lot. I went to the bathroom a few steps away and my face was blotchy. As someone with Mast Cell issues, I am used to this sort of sudden yuck. I went to the kitchen to grab my Claritin. I usually take it, call my mom to say, “Hi, breathing hurts, thought someone should know,” and then in a half hour, I’m all better.

Except, I could barely get to the kitchen. It hurt so much to breathe and I could not swallow. I grabbed the Claritin and pressed my mom’s speed-dial. I went back to the dining room to sit down. By the time she answered all of 10 seconds later, I was shaking severely and had fallen out of my chair.

Very luckily, she was down the street, and came right over. I couldn’t stop shaking and my breathing wasn’t getting any better despite having choked down the Claritin in desperation. Mom called 911 and I faded in and out of coherence on the couch.

When the rescue squad people showed up, they shot me up with some Epi, which initially made me feel like I was going to die. I don’t know if anyone has had Epi before and if you thought it was a pleasant experience, but really. I was at the point where everything had gone kind of numb and then I felt like my whole body was on fire and my heart might explode.

But then I could breathe again.

Kind of.

For some reason, the universe sent me the most spatially challenged rescue squad on the face of the earth. Despite no obstructions or any sort of obvious reason, they decided that they couldn’t get the stretcher in my house. They said I’d have to get to it.

Ok, I thought in my barely coherent brain, which one of these 5, yes, 5 able bodied men is going to pick my skinny, shaky butt up and carry me outside to that stretcher?

That would be none of them.

Still shaking violently, they dragged me by my armpits out my front door.

Super suave, I know.

I think we need a picture of a tiny adorable animal to bring our boiling blood pressures back to normal. Or at least I do.

They strapped me to the stretcher, loaded me in the ambulance and my mom assured me she would meet me at the hospital, all while shoving my allergy/medication list into the hand of the not super-helpful rescue responder.

My ambulance ride went like this:

“Sweetheart, you have got to calm down. You are shaking so bad right now, it’s probably an anxiety attack. You need to take deep breaths. It will relax you. Hey man, [talking to the driver] what did you do this weekend?”

Mmmhhmmm.

Super suave.

He put in an IV, but it was a crap line, and they had to redo it the second I got to the emergency room, where, thankfully, people were a little more concerned about my not actually being ABLE to take a deep breath and no one said the word “anxiety attack” again.

Turns out that the shaking was because my potassium level had suddenly and severely depleted to a <whatever level is just above “dangerous”> level, and I needed immediate replenishment.

Because I had been eating when I keeled over, and had been eating strawberries specifically, a known high-allergen food, and because the Epi had helped me breathe again, it was accepted that I had an allergic reaction.

However, I’m not super convinced I’m allergic to strawberries because 1) they are my favorite food and flavor and I eat them 99 times a day every day, 2) I had some the night before and was fine, and 3) had eaten a whole plate of them without issue before I just couldn’t swallow the last one.

It has been suggested to me by many that there could have been something on the strawberry, such as errant fertilizer, which could have caused a reaction. This seems very plausible.

In the meantime, I spent the day at the hospital, being pumped full of potassium, steroids and anti-histamines. I was better enough to go home and not be admitted, which was good, but I was not “better” by any means, which sucked.

As the week went on, I continued to be highly reactive to things, with mild difficulty breathing, like aftershocks of an earthquake.

At the end of the week, my face filled with fluid (a result of all that inflammation) and I am now on a strict schedule of steam and medications to drain my sinuses and ears so that they don’t get infected.

I feel incredibly beaten up.

If I’m honest, I’ve been building up to a bodily meltdown over the past few months. I had an ominous feeling that something was coming, as I had been more prone to extreme fatigue and random hives lately. But I could not foresee how quickly I would enter Crisis Mode.

I have to shift to healing mode now, because it’s too easy to freak out that everything is an invader intent to harm me. I’ve added a bunch of stuff to my “sensitive-to” list and I am being a stickler for avoiding high allergen things (like all berries and eggs, for instance) for a little while until my insides have some time to recalibrate.

I’m again reminded how crazy ingredient lists are. Like, there is berry oil in my chapstick and egg whites in my chocolate bar. But I’ll make it work.

I always do.