It’s about 2:30AM on June 21, 2014. The Summer Solstice. Longest day of the year and frankly, I feel like spending most of this god awful day in bed.
It started off on the wrong foot already as I’m having an allergy attack. Which is kind of appropriate to end the week with one as one almost ended me on Thursday.
It’s been almost a decade since I’ve had insurance and almost a decade since I’ve had allergy shots. With the new insurance (thank you Obamacare), I ended up having my hearing looked at (and fixed for once — well as fixed as it’s going to get), and it turned out that the Ear Nose and Throat I went to also had an allergy clinic in the same office. I decided to get tested again since insurance would cover it. Back in the mid 90’s to early 2000’s I had gone for allergy shots every couple of weeks and I couldn’t afford it without insurance so I stopped. I thought I was doing okay but I really wanted to get it checked out now that I had insurance because I was curious.
Boy, was I in for a treat.
The last time I was tested for allergies, I had a really worrisome reaction to grass. For those who don’t know about it, when they test you, they expose you to a series of things that you may be allergic to by pricking you with needles in injections running down your arm. The injection sites swell up if you’re allergic to the allergen that you were injected with at that particular spot. My old allergist used a single line approach so the nurse had stuck me with things running directly down my arm. That’s when things went badly. The one for grass swelled up with a hive and started wrapping around my arm, completing one big red circle and starting a second level like a snake coiled around my arm. Now that was scary to me and the nurse, but the Doctor gave me some Benadryl and sent me home.
Almost ten years later… well yeah. It wouldn’t be a story if it didn’t get worse.
The new allergist tests in rows of injections that are clumped close together. 44 injections in all on one side. Before that though, the stick you with a histamine in your left arm to get your system agitated before starting the 44 injections of what you may be allergic to. I don’t know if this is how the old one did it because I never really paid any attention back then but the nurse was nice and explained the process here. She stuck me once on the left side and started to stick me with the allergens on the right side.
It was all nice and calm and I really thought I’d be out of there and on the way to Wegman’s with no problems. I was getting hungry and even though the nurse was nice to talk to, I really didn’t want to spend my Thursday afternoon stuck in an office. We started chit chatting while waiting for me to show a reaction and that’s when I noticed burning up near my temples, which was weird, then the palms of my hands felt like they were on fire. Okay, nothing too bad but strange. She said it was normal and applied some topical Benadryl to the injection sites because my voice was changing a bit as I felt congested.
This is where things get a bit strange. In times of discomfort, I can put my mind in another place and remain calm and away from the discomfort. I learned it from years of dental work. You put your mind somewhere else and focus on anything but what horrible thing they’re doing to your mouth. I’ve been able to get through at least one root canal without Novocaine (or any pain killers at all because I had built up an immunity to Novocaine), that way and frankly, I didn’t expect to need to use it at the allergist but it happened pretty quickly.
The nurse had a look of horror on her face and was trying to get the doctor to come in (he was with a patient). Okay something was going on here. My arms were hurting badly and I was having trouble breathing. What I didn’t know was that my uvula (that funny thing that hangs down in the back of your throat), had swollen up to about 5 or 6 times its normal size and was starting to block my breathing off. All I know is that I was having serious trouble breathing and while I was remaining calm, the nurse scrambled for the doctor after having me take an oral Benadryl.
Shots followed. They stuck me with an epipen at on point. Another shot to my butt of something else. More Benadryl. I started to feel really drunk at one point since I have no tolerance for anything (no drinker/non-drug user/no life), and the world was not quite the happy place I envisioned. They hooked me up to an oxygen monitor, stuck a breathing treatment tube in my mouth (which I barely used because I didn’t understand it for some reason), and slapped a blood pressure cuff on me. I tried to tell the nurse that my normal blood pressure is around 120/90 but I sounded like Chewbacca from ‘Star Wars.’ Not good. It was 168/140 at that point, but the doctor said it was okay as that was the stuff in the Epipen kicking in to try to burn it out of my system.
I was able to hold it together and not let myself think about how bad things were going. Again, the trick with keeping calm from the dentist’s chair helped, but at a certain point, I got scared because everyone else seemed really scared. When I talked to the nurse yesterday (she called to see if I was alive), she admitted things were more serious than they seemed. They had said I was close to going to the Emergency Room as it happened, but I didn’t know how close. She said she was about to hook me up to an IV and start calling for help because they’ve never had a reaction so bad.
She said when she asked the doctor what I was allergic to, he flatly said “Life.” I had set the record in the office for testing positive for all 44 of the things they test for. That beat the old record of 37.
Eventually, all the drugs kicked in and I was able to stop barfing (leaving that part out as I don’t want to remember it), and the worst of it was over. I was completely in a daze and talking like a very very drunk three year old. I convinced them I was well enough to drive home and they wanted me to go straight to bed since I had all that Benadryl in my system. I must have looked terrible because as I was leaving the office a nurse came out of another office and was heading to the elevator, she looked at me like “OMG that poor man.” I headed to the bathroom instead of the elevator because I could barely talk and didn’t want the elevator chit chat of drunken Jim and pretty nurse but she was there after I took the elevator down and she was heading back up. She said something like “Oh, you. What’s the chances of us meeting again?” And it took 30 seconds for my mouth to get out a response. Oh yeah, nerdy Jim as drunken nerdy Jim is a smooth operator with strangers I’ll tell you. The elevator door closed before I could get my 10 word response completely out.
After that, the ride home was fun. I called my mom. My voice had improved as I sounded like a deep voiced third grader. I was talking in sing song. She was concerned. I went the wrong way home and instead of taking the fairly safe back road, I went straight to the highway and I think I was doing 40mph in a 55 zone the whole way home. People weren’t happy but I was trying to hold it together the whole way home. Got home, fed the animals, looked in the mirror and realized I had driven the entire way home with my mouth propped open like a blow fish, then fought for the next 5 hours to stay awake until work published schedules and I was able to pick up the extra hours I needed before passing out completely. Go me.
Allergy shots start on Wednesday. The nurse assured me that it won’t happen again. No, I’m not skyping or face timing the visit. Unless you pay me.