Wednesday, July 3, 2013

Dealing With PTSD From Food Allergies

I haven't been writing much lately, obviously. As I'm sure all of you know, there are ups and downs in this world of food allergies and, despite all the news being good for us, the stress of introducing all these new foods has made spring a stressful time in our house.

But I thought of you all two mornings ago. That is, I thought of you all after my heart stopped racing and the nausea and shakes went away.

Monday morning, my daughter (the one we called "Teflon girl" because illness seems to just slide off her) came into the office where I was working. She had just gotten out of bed. She said "Mom, I feel so sick I don't know what to do" and slumped against my shoulder.

I thought she was kidding until I reached out and touched her. Ice cold. Covered in sweat. And losing consciousness.

She got up off the chair and lurched toward her bedroom. I followed her, heart in my mouth, just in time to see her fall full out across her bed, lengthwise. As I ran to her and shook her (no response, eyes wide open), I thought to myself "This cannot be happening. This CANNOT be happening! This is the one who doesn't HAVE medical issues!"

Fifteen seconds of shaking and calling her name - no response. I ran for the office phone and dialed 911. "I need an ambulance!" tumbled out, followed by our address, her symptoms. Yes, she was breathing. No, she wasn't responsive. No, she did not have a history of seizure disorders. More questions I don't remember. Why are they talking to me while my daughter is laying here? Why aren't they on their way?

Just then, she regained consciousness. "I'm o.k., Mom," she said. "You don't need to have them come." But they were already on their way, and I sure as heck wasn't going to tell them not to come after what I had just been through.

What I had just been through. My daughter, as it turned out, was probably going to be o.k. The EMTs did come (seemed like forever, probably only took them 5 minutes though) and checked her out. All vitals were fine. She felt fine.

When we went to the doctor later on in the day, he said she probably had a stomach virus and simply fainted. Apparently it happens a lot to teenage girls.

But there were also a series of questions from him. Any history of sudden death in the family? (Turns out cardiac disorders can manifest with fainting episodes.) Any history of familial fainting? I reminded him of her bone marrow disorder when she was a toddler...could this be related? "No," he replied, "although I'll be happy to run a hemoglobin test if it would reassure you. But I can tell from looking at her that her iron and red blood cell count are fine."

He went on to say that, 99% of the time, fainting is just a simple nervous system reaction. There's no real way to know which kids are going to have a more serious underlying cause, however, without a bunch of testing. They prefer not to do all that testing unless there are multiple episodes.

I found myself looking at my daughter in a whole new way on the way home. My Teflon girl was all of a sudden...fragile. I couldn't sleep all Monday night. I kept going into her room to make sure she was o.k., as if my presence could magically hold back another episode.

Does all this sound familiar?

Honestly, I don't know how we do it all day, every day. The idea that a seemingly healthy child could just keel over is horrific. Living in the what if it happens again world every day is even worse.

Why is it so hard to live in the moment? To simply enjoy our children without treating them like ticking time bombs? Why is it so hard to talk about the stress of medical issues with others without sounding crazy or feeling judged?

How do you shake the fear, once it's in your house? In your heart?

I don't know. I wish I did. All I can do is write about it.

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  1. Glad your daughter is okay! Yikes!

    It is jarring to have a fresh trauma make us newly aware of how much fear we keep barely tucked away, just under the surface. Our family has had some close calls, but no full-blown anaphylaxis, at least not with serious respiratory distress or cardio-vascular symptoms. Still, I myself have had excruciating systemic allergic episodes. Add to that twelve years of managing two food-allergic kids, all manner of social drama related to FAs, too much reading of anaphylaxis fatality stories, and it seriously messes with your head.

    Of course, no one can understand my anxiety, because no one in our house has put in a proper performance of near fatality. *sigh*

    I try to skip the FA boards these days and stick to the latest research. It's way less anxiety-producing.

  2. It is easy, after years of smooth sailing, to push back the anxiety that could easily consume us if we did not force ourselves to operate on probabilities rather than possibilities. It is not so simple when there is an anaphylactic reaction or another acute illness or injury that has the appearance of being life-threatening.

    I am truly glad that your daughter was "just" sick and recovered quickly. Your own recovery will take longer because your experience was anything but simple. I hope that you will find some peace of mind again soon.

  3. I am so glad your daughter is okay. I so understand how you feel, but I think as time moves on and see she is okay that the fear will lessen a bit and not be so upfront in your mind and heart, but will be there just a bit less consuming and least that is what I hope for you.

  4. Glad to hear your daughter is OK. Hopefully the tests will help ease your mind. My daughter is also supposed to be the healthy one so when she got pneumonia, especially the 2nd time, it really freaked me out. For me, spending time hanging out with them and talking about regular day to day stuff helps ease the anxiety that is always right below the surface.

  5. So glad your daughter is ok!! I actually fainted once when I was a teenager.

    My mom was braiding my hair and I just passed out. I think I said something about seeing stars. I could hear my mom screaming for my dad but I was out. I came to relatively quickly and never had another episode. No explanation for it except the same that you were told. (I'm 40 now and haven't passed out again.) :)

    Now that I'm a mom myself, I hope that you're encouraged to know someone who's been through the same thing. Also had a niece who did the same thing last year.

  6. I came here coz I am stressed, anxious - second day of school - and they have decided that all of 5th grade will have their snacks in the classroom when ever they are hungry. That just kicked my anxiety to a new level. My dotr have several food allergies - contact to peanut, milk and eggs - although never Ana. Now she would have to around someone eating something for the whole day. Am I crazy for over reacting? Spoke to school, provided wipes so they can have the children clean up and wipe the tables down. Not sure what else to do.

  7. Mermaid, I have found this journey to be a lot easier when I just admit I'm crazy and stop apologizing for it. :)

    Of course you're worried. But my guess is that your daughter will be fine. Fifth grade is old enough for the kids to understand she is allergic and to take care of their own areas.

    That said, it's 504 season. If you don't have one, I would recommend strongly you pursue one. One part of the 504 process would be to have your doctor consider whether he or she feels having food in the classroom is a safe situation for her. It's a lot more helpful when you have a professional on your side.

    The other people it's helpful to have on your side are the kids themselves. See if the teacher will allow you (or your daughter, if she's able) to do a presentation about food allergies. Kids always surprise me in that they are often more compassionate than the adults around them.

    My son started sitting at the regular table around 4th or 5th grade and I remember being very stressed by it all, but it does work out for most kids. It's very rare to get a true anaphylactic reaction from just touching a food. Life is not risk-free - try to keep the risk in perspective. Hang in there!


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