What I’ve Learned

I’ve heard that there’s no style of learning more effective than experiential learning. This stands to reason. I have some experience in this area. Here are some things I’ve thought and some things I’ve learned.

I’ve thought, ‘What a freaking nuisance. You know this is just an overprotective helicopter mom and because of her, because of these two or three nut jobs I can’t make myself a damn peanut butter sandwich without breaking building ordinances. Anywhere.’

I’ve thought, ‘Don’t worry about it. We’ve got it covered. Sure, little Billy’s mama made a stink about it, but we got one of the pizza’s with soy cheese. We’re not jerks, of course we want the kid to be safe and able to have fun.’

I’ve thought, ‘This is mom’s issue. The poor kid gets stuck at the table with all the other kids he doesn’t know and has to have a special plate of crap brought out to him with his name on it. All because mom loves the attention she gets calling 13 times a day to make sure he’s not eating anything other than what is on the stupid list.’

I’ve thought, ‘Seriously, what’s the worst that could happen?’

I’ve rolled my eyes and used air quotes when explaining that a kid in my care, but not my kid, had ‘food allergies’ and gone on to explain in coded but withering judgment of said child’s mom and her hyper anxiety.

Whether it was coincidence or not it was always the moms.

Thank god, none of these misconceptions had fatal outcomes or even critical ones.

Then experience came knocking and taught me in an afternoon how mistaken I was.

Do you remember your 9/11 story? I do. For years after that terrible day anytime you were with someone you either didn’t know before or hadn’t seen since before that day the conversation always got around to your story. Your experience of that day. Still happens, just not as much as more and more ‘adults’ are not of an age to have remembered it or you’re so familiar with everyone’s tales that you reference rather then recount them.

Well, parents of kids with anaphylactic food allergies engage in the telling and retelling of their tale whenever we find someone that gets it. Unfortunately for us and our kids, parents of kids with anaphylactic food allergies are the only ones that get it. Each of us encounter the ‘me’ from above who doesn’t get it and we know they don’t get it and it can only make us act crazier. See we have to be crazy, insane, so crazy that you’d rather just bitch about me and my hyper anxiety then have to deal with my crazy wrath if any of my seemingly bizarre and self centered requests are found to have been ignored. We’ve been granted the greatest education possible through our experiences. Here’s what I’ve learned.

Many parents have a crazy period early in their first child’s life, first week or two, when they can’t stop thinking that it’s possible that the baby will stop breathing and just die. We had this bit of experiential learning ourselves and for a 10 day period after getting the kid home one of us was awake at all hours of the day and night to make sure this didn’t happen. How we’d stop it if it did is something we never even considered. Just seemed the right thing to do. Then you realize, this is crazy, if he’s gonna give us a few minutes we need to take them. You learn these fears are baseless.

Then, a year later or so, we were having our normal lunch. Then little red pin pricks around his red and watering eyes. That’s weird. Then bright red blotches all over his face and a high whistle of air trying to get in and out. Then running to the car. Then heavy vomiting as its the only way it seems to breath. Then, no breathing and beat red. Then enormous vomiting. Here’s something. Do you know where you park at the ER if your baby of 1 year of age is red and unable to breathe, turning purple and all of you and your wife and your baby are covered in vomit as he writhes to try to loosen the vice grip of the snake he feels choking him, only its not a snake, it’s his own body choking him from the inside? Where ever the f**k you want. In our case it was at the door. The car was vomit filled, and I mean covering the windows, all of them, including the windshield. By at the door, I mean they see you and guide you right to the door. You leave your car there running, doors open.

I don’t know about you, but my experience at the ER has never failed to include a stop for at least a second of triage. Not us. They see a baby, see he’s barely holding on to his precious little life and the breaths are gone, they point and TELL you, ‘RUN!!’ and you do. Your adrenaline is flooding your body and brain and you do it. You run.

2012-11-13 09.41.29When you get there you don’t care who it is. You just need someone to save your baby’s life. They do. You calm down on the outside and panic on the inside as you help your baby calm down. Eventually he’s laughing and playing and you and your wife are trying to reflect his carefree demeanor, sneaking in conversation about what the hell could it be. You won’t get answers until you see the allergist in a few days. So you empty your kitchen. Almost all of it. Because something in there can cause that silly fear you had as new parents to be a reality. Your little love can just die. It’s knowledge you carry until there is either a cure or you die. That’s it. That’s the list of all the ways you’ll come to stop worrying. You get better at living with the knowledge, but you reorder everything. Used to have a career working in the city, but since I know from all my conversations how many people think this whole ‘food allergy thing’ is being way overblown by nervous parents, I pretty much ignore that job and rest on the laurels I’d earned and after that on the sheer audacity to just show up late, leave early or not show up at all, while trying to find something that works closer to home, since you’re told that if he goes into shock the staff at the daycare’s can’t go with him, he’ll just be taken by the ambulance, terrified, waiting hours, hopefully, until we arrive. So, I take a 20,000 pay cut and take a gig, a good gig, one I love, but a step down to be sure, to be with him for the day, feet away, always ready to run. Which you’ve done once and hope to never do again.

These experiences stick with you. Forever.

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13 thoughts on “What I’ve Learned

    1. joejmedler Post author

      Sorry ti hear about Killians allergy. You aint kiddin. Totally blows. Its amazing how fast i switched from suspicious of peoples allergies to totally obsessed with ingredients.

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    1. joejmedler Post author

      Thank you so much, Christina! There really is no feeling like that. It really puts it all in perspective! Thank you so much for reading it and for your kind words and concern, kindness and friendship.

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  1. That Shameless Hussy

    So important. It is so hard to get thru to parents – like me, for instance – who have kids with no known food allergies. Just don’t let ’em eat peanuts, right? It’s simple. Such a good piece. 🙂

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  2. Datamancer

    I know what this feels like from the other side, I have food allergies but I also have medication allergies, one of them did this to me.I can tell you from the other side, it is just as scary.That is why, when it is over you are so blissfully happy, because when it is over when you can breathe again, the world is brighter, everything is funnier, the hugs mean more, because you almost lost all of those. I have celiac disease, it is nothing compared to this but I read every single ingredient on every thing that goes into my mouth, I even look at shampoos, soaps, toothpaste, everything because wheat gluten makes me so sick. At least with a drug allergy I can tell the doctors and pharmacist and they will read them for me.

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  3. Rachel E. Bledsoe

    Heart dropped at your ER & “run.” Every parents’ worst nightmare. This one stuck with me, and will for days, possibly weeks. I hope you never have to make that run ever again. God, this one is in my gut. Well written suspense & heartfelt. Hugs to you & yours.

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    1. joejmedler Post author

      Thank you so much, Rachel. I thought it was just me due to my memories of that day, but EVERY TIME I’ve read this, and even when I was writing it, I get stuck on that part. I well up and get a bit shaky. It was genuinely terrifying and even moreso in hindsight. In the moment there’s so much to do, but on reflection, whew! Thank you again!

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  4. Gretchen Kelly

    Oh, Joe. This is so so scary. One of my close friends has a son with peanut allergies (among many others). He and my daughter love to play together. But we eat a LOT of peanut butter in this house. So before I have him come over I wipe down the counters and the door handles and vacuum or sweep. And his mom always sends a back pack with an epipen and snacks. She is so calm about it all and I would be FREAKING out every day if it was my kid. The good thing now is he’s five years old and understands what will happen. He will not touch food from anyone unless his mom says it’s ok. I know there have been a lot of new treatments that are being tested and studied, I really hope there’s an effective treatment available soon.

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    1. joejmedler Post author

      Gretchen, thank you so much for understanding. I’m finding there’s more compassion and understanding then I presumed. I guess you have to assume people don’t care just as a matter of course when your kids is too young to advocate for himself, and knowing there are moms out there like yourself is a relief. Still, you’re right that it’s so scary. It’s an even burned into my brain at this point!

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  5. Laura

    I held my breath as I read your story, especially when you arrived at the ER, holy moly. I’m so sorry you and K had to go through that. My nephew has severe tree nut allergies and I know the full panic mode it can cause. Allergies are terrifying. Anytime your child ends up needing ER care, it’s like your life is on hold until you get answers and it doesn’t even end there, I don’t think it ever ends. My oldest was rushed to the ER in December due to a reaction to medication and I’m still barely breathing and now will be forever watching.

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