Lab Monkey

This post is a continuation of Levi’s allergy story.

We waited three months for our appointment with the allergy specialist. We waited, watching as strawberries made his eczema itch like the hibijibis (even though he’d been eating them for months with no symptoms).  We watched as a few minutes with a new dogs brought on significant swelling in his eyes and face and profuse drainage from his eyes and nose.  And finally as Levi picked up an upper respiratory infection that brought on wheezing.  Asthma had arrived.

But if I expected our specialist to relieve my confusion and helplessness, I was out of luck.  He examined Levi from head to toe, hemming and hawing while making notes on his paper.   He leaned in to listen to Levi’s chest for maybe 10 seconds, then declared, “Asthma is an inevitability.”  This specialist was looking less salvation and more mad scientist with every second passing.   He laid down the law, ordering us to exclude all egg products from Levi’s diet, and to avoid all nuts and shellfish (dangerous major allergens).  He said we could bet on asthma becoming a problem, and scolded us about the condition of the Mr. Sickley’s eczema- Couldn’t we see that his skin was “the result of feeding him products containing egg?”  His questions and comments started firing with heavy disapproval:   Can’t you see by his skin that his body cannot tolerate baked goods containing eggs?  You’re feeding him peanut butter?  I want you to stop- and no tree nuts or shellfish either.  A food challenge?  Why would you do that?  You’d be taking the risk of feeding him something that could potentially kill him! 

There must a class wherein doctors are taught how to prescribe intricate and complicated regiments that can only be followed by the savvy and high functioning while simultaneously making you feel entirely unqualified to even breed.

Mr Sickley became our lab monkey as we carried out Mad Scientist’s new regimen:  we were to administer Zyrtec, an antihistamine, once daily for the foreseeable future. Because it was Mad scientist’s opinion that Levi’s body was already inundated with allergic material, we were also expected to give him Benadryl every 6 hours for one week; of course his diet would now exclude all egg products, nuts, and shellfish; we were told 3 breathing treatments a day would clear up his wheezing; and at last (lest our readers be disappointed), the Mad Scientist delivered potions- steroid creams and lotions 10 times a day for Mr. Sickley’s skin.

I bet you’re thinking this regimen must be an exaggeration, but none is needed I assure you. Each was a line item on the “Allergy action plan” Mad Scientist scrawled out. (He actually had an assistant do the scrawling, but you get the gist).

The last stop before leaving the office with the Allergy Action Plan in hand was the lab. Levi, Mad Scientist claimed, was too young to have scratch testing done on his skin, so we would have to order a blood test. After holding down my 1 yr old to have his blood drawn, I walked out of that office trying not to hyperventilate.

I was soon scrambling to carry out orders, growing increasingly certain Mad Scientist was mad.  I let some things go. (Honestly, there are only 24 hours in a day, people.  If I included every lather, dose, and treatment, I would be waking the boy in the middle of the night.)  The first to go were several latherings, followed by those doses of the Benadryl that should have come at 3 a.m. Those I won’t apologize for neglecting, but I was pretty naïve when I disregarded the man’s counsel about one other vital component.

Because Levi had been eating peanut butter for a while, and because he’d had several tree nuts as well, I thought we were all clear in the nut category.  In my defense, I will say that the lab results from the blood test reported no allergy to tree nuts or peanuts. It was wrong, and so was I. Seriously, whoever created Benadryl deserves the Nobel Peace Prize.

When Eliza was just two weeks old (May 2009), Levi had a dangerous reaction to cashews.  We dosed him quickly, but the symptoms persisted, slowly getting worse, and he had to be rushed to the ER.  There, he vomited the oral steroid meant to stem the tide of the reaction, and was quickly injected with a different steroid.  It worked (more awards and blessings deserved for the staff at Dell Childrens’ Hospital).

Later that fall, Levi sat down to lentils, and took several bites before his throat began to close. Come on! Who is allergic to LENTILS?  I nursed as he ate for the full year after Eliza was born.  When your kid is preverbal and trying to die all the time, the stakes are high, and so is the blood pressure.  As I type this, I’m just as surprised I made it out alive as I am that he did.  But alas, he did.  Many stories and bumps in the road later (with probably several to go), he is doing very, very well at 10 years old.

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