Tuesday, January 24, 2012

It's Just Nuts

One pistachio.

That's all it took to wreak complete and total havoc on Oliver's body last Thursday.

I was eating pistachios for an afternoon snack, and he asked if he could have them.  I thought about it for a second, and told him we could try it.

It's at this point in telling the story that I've seen, several times, the slight raise of an eyebrow.  So far everyone has thought better than to question my judgement out loud, but the sentiment is there.  If anyone chose to actually say something to me I'd just say, "Go ahead, judge away.  Until you've lived a day with my child, the credibility of your opinion on this subject is nil.  You try telling the boy with five healthy, typical brothers, that this thing he's interested in trying is just one more thing on the mile-long list of stuff he can't touch with a ten foot pole.  You look at those brown eyes and tell him that it's not worth trying, just in case.  You aren't there at birthday parties when he's eating a sandwich and lollipop instead of pizza, cake, and ice cream, and you weren't the one who had to finally explain to him that he's not going to be able to eat like his brothers just because he reaches a certain age, which is what he had thought all along, that he just wasn't old enough yet.  You have no idea."

So yes, he's severely allergic to peanuts, and that may seem to rule out pistachios as well.  Except that pistachios are actually a tree nut, more closely related to pecans and almonds, which we've found (by trial and error) that Oliver can tolerate.  So in my mind, it was worth a try.

He took one pistachio, ate it, looked at me and said, "I don't think I should have eaten that."  He knew that quickly.  His lips began to swell right before my eyes and he told me his throat felt hot and it was hard to swallow.  I raced for the benedryl and watched him drink two teaspoons of the liquid down as though he were trying to swallow a horse pill.  By the time we got to the emergency room he was wheezing, and his body was unrecognizable from his neck down to his knees, where the hives raged so out of control that they were blending together into one enormous, hideous patch of disfigured skin.  His cheeks were bright red, his eyes full of fear, and the first nurse to see him yelled frantically for a pulse ox machine.  An epi-shot to his stomach and an IV pump of more meds than I care to recall later, and the symptoms began to subside.  He lay on the gurney, in a tiny hospital gown that I hope to never again see one of my children wearing, and drifted off to sleep.  I was left to my thoughts as he recovered.

I recalled the exchange I had had with one of the doctors.  She was trying to establish a timeline of events and said, "Okay, so he was eating the pistachios --"  I cut her off, telling her, "He ate one pistachio."  "One pistachio?" as she looked down at my ailing son.  The absurdity of it seemed to ring with both of us, and at the same time, as his mother, the fragility of life hit me.  One silly pistachio. Without prompt and skillful medical care, it had the potential to take the life of my son.

Most mornings I can't predict where the course of the day will take me.  Some days I'm more surprised than others.


  1. {{hugs}}

    Maybe next time just suggest he LICK the thing he wants to try? My compete sympathies with you mommas who have to deal with food allergies. The few times I have babysat friends' children with allergies, I have been on edge the entire time, and I have almost made mistakes (oh, yes, the BREAD coating on fish sticks WOULD have gluten in it, wouldn't it? Thank goodness for older siblings who reminded me).

    My youngest is allergic to amoxicillan, and I have to remind my husband every single time he's taken her to the doctor for an ear infection. But that's not a frequent thing, and her reaction was just itchy skin, not something life-threatening.

  2. A lick is a great idea. That little exposure would probably be benadryl-treatable instead of ER. Of course, I think it will be a LONG TIME before we test the limits again.