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Woman Verses Food: Attack Of The Killer Lettuce.

When the police arrived, my throat had already swollen shut.

“She’s going into Anaphylaxis shock,” the Officer radioed the paramedics while strapping a cold, plastic, oxygen mask to my face.

“What did you have to eat?” He asked.

But I couldn’t answer him.

I motioned to my 15-year-old son, Justin, who called 911, to get me a piece of paper to write on.  While sucking down the oxygen as if it were my very last breath, I quickly scribbled: Chicken Cesar Salad, Two Martinis, 5 Benadryl, 1 Allegra, and ½ a Xanax. I had taken those medications the second I felt the onset of an allergic reaction.

My earlobes and eyelids itched like a bad case of athlete’s foot. My sinus passages closed, and my cheeks looked like a chipmunk storing nuts for the winter. My lips puffed up like Mick Jagger, with a collagen injection. And, my hands and feet blew up to the size of baseball gloves. My whole body felt as if I was being stabbed, repeatedly, with burning-hot-itchy-spiky-needles.

One by one the EMS stormed into my bedroom wielding medical supplies. And suddenly there was a sea of people wearing navy blue uniforms surrounding me. Everything seemed to be happening so fast, and yet, in slow motion. My son explained the situation to the paramedics, as I nodded in agreement.

A member of the EMS asked, “What are you allergic to?”

I desperately tried to talk, all to no avail. Snapping my fingers, I pointed to my pocketbook. My son handed me my gigantic, red, leather, purse and I rummaged around inside, until I pulled out the list of food I am not supposed to eat.

Then the paramedics asked my son if I had an Epi-Pen. But, I didn’t. However, there was one in my mother’s bedroom closet. Alas, they were unable to distribute the shot, because my name was not on the prescription.

The next thing I knew, another EMS member had to place an IV in my right hand. I have a history of passing out at the mere sight of a needle. I ripped the oxygen mask off my face, gasped, and squeezed out the words, “I am going to faint.”

That’s when the only female paramedic, Tracy, took my left hand and held it tightly inside her purple glove. There was something very comforting about her face, and I felt safe with her watching over me. Meanwhile another paramedic simultaneously wrapped a tourniquet around my left arm and swabbed the inside of my elbow with alcohol wipes. I thought they were going to draw blood, however, they were only trying to distract me, to prevent me from losing consciousness.

All of a sudden, my right hand felt very wet and very warm. I looked over to see blood tricking down from the IV and onto my green, silk, duvet cover. Spots flashed before my eyes. A whole new level of fear and anxiety washed over me. I whipped my head back around toward Tracy, and locked eye contact with her. She could see the desperation plastered on my face. Huffing and puffing, I took several deep breaths of oxygen.

“You’re doing great.” Tracy stated as a matter of fact, “You’re going to be okay.”

After I calmed down a little bit, the paramedics helped me to my feet, and put me on the gurney. I was being taken to the Emergency Room.

Once we were in the ambulance, the paramedics placed heart monitor leads all over my chest and stomach. Then, they gave me an injection of Epinephrine in my upper thigh.

And then my blood pressure spiked to 187/114.

I started shaking. I thought I was having convulsions.  I heard the words hypertensive and tachycardia, before receiving another shot of something in my arm.

My heart rate skyrocketed and then rapidly plummeted.

And then my blood pressure dropped to 90/51.

Shivering from deep down inside, my teeth chattered uncontrollably.

I knew I was fighting for my life.

I really don’t remember very much after that. It’s all kind of a blur. I can only recall little snippets.

I remember getting to the hospital and feeling a tiny sense of relief, yet still feeling absolutely terrified that I was going to die. And I remember my mother, my father, and my brother showing up. I remember mildly freaking out about my health insurance cards being put back into my wallet in the proper place. Because when I feel that out-of-control, my OCD kicks into over drive. But, I don’t know how long I was in the hospital. And I don’t know what kind of medications they distributed.

I vaguely remember the drive home after being discharged. I sat in the passenger seat of my mother’s car thinking it was all a bad dream. I have no idea how I got upstairs, or into my pajamas, before climbing into bed utterly drained.

I can honestly say – this was the single most frightening experience of my entire life. And I’ve been held-up at gunpoint, ya’ll.

I’ve been wandering around aimlessly for the past few days. While I am EXTREMLY GRATEFUL simply to be alive, I can’t help but feel incredibly sad, very confused, and completely traumatized. And of course, I am petrified to eat food. Because if something as simple as LETTUCE, can potentially KILL ME? I’m not willing to gamble my life and throw caution to the wind, by eating ANYTHING. Apparently, because I am allergic to so many foods, and because my list of ‘Do Not Eat Foods’ is forever changing, even if I eat something that I’ve had 100 times before, I still might run the risk of facing a life-threatening reaction.

As of right now, I am on a steady diet of cheese and chicken broth. And I am on a prednisone + benadryl cocktail, per hospital release instructions. I have to schedule an appointment with my allergy specialist next week. Although, it’s highly doubtful he will ever be able to exactly pinpoint the cause of my violent reaction.

* On a lighter note, maybe I should get my own version of “Man vs. Food.” Except in my version, I can actually die. It’ll make that Adam Richman look like a totally pussy compared to me. And just think of the ratings!

PS: During this whole debacle, my best friend ‘Amy The Bartender’ knew something wasn’t right when she saw my son’s Facebook status update: “Paramedics at the house.” Then she knew something was really very wrong when she didn’t receive any text messages back from me. And my own Facebook status hadn’t been updated. But what made her the most nervous was the fact that no one had taken any photos.

In any event, I would like to thank my son, Justin, and, the Manalapan Paramedics, from the bottom of my heart, for saving my life. Without them, I would not be here today.

And a tip of the hat to EVERY SINGLE volunteer that helps save lives – every single day.

*REVISED/UPDATE*

My brother, Adam, was the only one who had the wherewithal to take a photo. I have no idea why it’s all crooked. But here I am.

PPS: I wrote this post using some of the tricks/skillz/techniques I learned from reading this book, written by my friend Margaret Andrews. [But more on THAT, another day.]

So, have any of you ever had a near-death experience?

And if so…do tell!

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  • Ker526

    Holy scariness!! Happy to hear that you are on the mends…it will take awhile to get over something as terrifying as that! How is your son doing? Must’ve scared the beejeebus out of him too!  XOXOXO and I hope you get better quick and I don’t think it was the lettuce, had to be SOMETHING in the dressing maybe? SO SORRY you have to live with the fear of eating, that SUCKS!!!

  • Thanks, girl.
    Surprisingly, my son is doing quite well. He’s just happy I’m alive. As am I.
    I saw my allergist and had some more tests done.
    I will post a follow-up next week.

    xoxo

  • Jay

    “But what made her the most nervous was the fact that no one had taken any photos.”

    Ahaha!  You have the heart of a true blogger!  LOL!

    You poor thing. It’s one of my greatest fears, too.  I’ve been carted out of restaurants on a gurney, too. Last one was a ‘false alarm’, by which I mean, while I had an allergic reaction it didn’t actually lead to anaphylaxis (for which I was both extremely grateful and terminally embarrassed).  I’ve had similar experiences to yours, but luckily I was so young that I don’t remember them.

    I suppose the nearest I’ve come in living memory is the time when an A&E (ER to you) doctor was determined to give me a penicillin shot despite me desperately trying to convince him that it would kill me; it wasn’t straight peniciliin, but it was penicillin family, and I knew it Would Be Bad.  Fortunately for me, both the nurse sent to fetch it and the pharmacist were on the ball and the pharmacist refused to dispense it. 

    I am SO glad you are OK!! Mucho kudos to your dear son, and also to the paramedics!!

  • (I read this the other day at work, but for some reason, couldn’t leave a comment!) This sounds like an absolutely terrifying experience and I’m so glad you came out of it okay! Hope you’re feeling better now. HUGS!

  • Holy cow.  When I said that you need to motivate me to stick with my diet, this is not what I had in mind!  I’m glad you’re ok!  What a terrifying experience.

    Have I ever had a near-death experience?  Honestly, not that I can recall.  I’m sure I probably have, and just don’t realize it.  My brothers and I did all sorts of dumb things when we were kids.  Nothing like this, though!

  • Oh my fucken…Meleah, this is horrible! Are you at least carrying an epipen now? And to change the tone and the subject for a second, yes, you did a fabulous job of writing this post, I couldn’t tear myself away from your words AND I read the entire post from beginning to end!…not that I don’t always do that here, but I’ll admit, there are some blogs that I skim through. Not you and certainly not this!
    Gotta say, little funny that your son was on Facebook and your brother took a pic!

  • Thank you, Jay.

    I hope I never have to go through something like this again.

  • Thanks, Terri.

    I’m coming along!

    xoxoox

  • Yeah, well, I suppose I am going to lose weight now that I am too scared to eat anything!

  • I can’t believe my brother took that photo.
    But, I’m actually glad that he did.
    It’s a constant reminder to be thankful for every single breath!

    I will be picking up my scripts for the EpiPen next week.

  • yep.

  • Totally terrifying. 

  • There are too many variables to pinpoint the exact cause. However, I did go for some extensive bloodwork and now I have to wait for the results. I will keep you updated. Promise.

  • I still feel like this was all just a really bad dream.

  • Late to the party and. Com. Plete. Ly. Freaked out Meleah. Dam. Na. Tion. You’ve really rendered me speechless and yet I cannot stop myself from complimenting your writing technique. You’ve done an excellent job using Margaret’s suggestions. Well done and please stay alive.

  • Anonymous

    poor baby, i’m off to go cry now.

  • Margaret has taught me well, huh?

    Thanks, CG/Kelly.

    I am STILL a little more than freaked out.

  • No crying allowed, Miss V!

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