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Just when you think you know yourself….

January 7, 2011

I didn’t mean to scare the kids.

I tried to hide my own fear, even as I felt my chest tighten and my whole body begin to burn with a hot rash that wouldn’t stop itching. The soles of my feet itched. And the palms of my hands. I could feel my eyes begin to swell. Breathing became more and more difficult…..

The evening had been delightful. Good music, a couple of drinks, great food….Chris and I cooked while the kids joked around with each other and us. They set the table beautifully, and we sat down to eat all together–boys on one side of the table, girls on the other. Everything came out hot and sumptuous. Broiled tuna, noodles, bok choy, mushroom medley cooked in butter. Generous helpings of Ponzu sauce. Gentle undertones of garlic and ginger. We talked and laughed and teased each other.

Then the kids helped clear the table, and we cranked the music. Elvis. Jack Johnson. The Allman Brothers. I teamed up with the kids for a couple of rounds of Wii bowling, and soothed Gray when he got upset about his score. We danced. There was general hilarity and chaos and laughter, and the music got louder and louder.

Then…it started. My legs started to itch. Then, my neck. My hands. My feet. I felt like someone was lighting a fire inside my body, and yet, I was cold. I asked Soren if he had any Chlor Trimeton…but he was out. He handed me two Singulaires instead and I took them, knowing somehow that they wouldn’t help.

I decided to take a shower…scrub my body, try to soothe the itching. But it didn’t help, and when I got out I was nearly in tears. By then, I was wheezing. I reached for my inhaler but that didn’t help either. I closed myself in the bedroom and sat on the bed in my towel and tried to understand what was happening to me.

But when your body is on fire and your chest is closing up, you can’t think.

I wandered out, towel wrapped tight around me, and found Chris. He was telling the younger kids a bedtime story but as soon as he saw me, he leapt into action. He recently completed his EMT-I training, and quickly recognized that I could be heading into dangerous territory. I was still stuck, somehow, in thinking I just needed a Benadryl…a nebulizer treatment, perhaps. But we didn’t have any Benadryl and couldn’t find the Albuterol for my nebulizer.

“Let’s go,” Chris said. No nonsense, but gentle. “Let’s get you in.” Somehow I got dressed. I was shaking….couldn’t fill my lungs. It took so much effort to get my shoes on. Finally I sat down. And I…

I am mostly a rock. Stable, even keel. Holding constant while people around me, namely the kids, melt. But not that night. I was scared. I’ve had asthma and allergies almost my whole life, but I’d never had such a violent allergic reaction before. I just sat there and cried, trying so hard to breathe.

Then, I looked up. Mira was standing in the doorway, a panicked look on her face. Tears welled in her eyes and spilled over. She was immobilized with fear. I tried to smile, brushed my own tears away. Then very uncharacteristically told her not to cry. Gently, lovingly, but….told her just the same. I can almost swear that I have never said that to my kids. How dare someone tell another person not to cry. But there I was….desperate to protect the kids from my own fear.

Unable, in the end, to do so. I held her.

Told her I would be fine. Not to worry. Chiara and Graysen came out of their darkened bedroom, their own faces twisted in sadness, and hugged me tight. I reassured them, softly. Trying all the while to breathe. I told Soren to call my mom. Just tell her to come over, I said. He did. And she did.

We drove away just before she got there, leaving Soren to comfort the kids in his gentle, amazing way. In that moment, he was the rock. The one holding the line. Stable….even keel. My boy, who is basically not a boy any longer.

Chris raced me to the hospital, and I focused on breathing….just breathing. Everything in my universe narrowed to that next breath. The city lights blurred through the frosty windows of the Landcruiser as we raced through the frozen night.

At the ER, they took me in right away. Within minutes I was in bed with a needle in my arm, and a warm, nauseating rush of drugs–Benadryl, Pepcid, and Prednisone–racing through my system. I felt it curl through my body, and suddenly couldn’t keep my eyes open. Moments later, I started shaking, and couldn’t stop. I was asleep, but not. The world was miles away. And right in my face.

They released me after about three hours. The fire had flamed out, the itching stopped. I could breathe. I could barely keep my eyes open, but somehow managed to walk to the car. Endure the cold. Wend my way into the house.

Mom was sitting on the couch with her laptop, gentle concern clouding her face. Mira appeared instantly and curled up next to me, wrapping her arms around me…. “I’m okay,” I told her, stroking her hair. And I was.

I slept, dreamlessly, well into the following morning. Then wandered through the rest of the day in a haze. When I picked the younger kids up from school, Graysen happily bounced up to me, told me something about his day, then seemed to remember the night before. As we walked through the hall to get his sister, he leaned into me, hugged my leg, and asked sweetly, “are you okay, mommy?” I hugged him back, and lightly said yes…I’m okay.


Since then, I’ve been thinking about my urge to protect the kids from my own vulnerability. I knew I didn’t want them to see me like that. But. We don’t always get to choose the experiences our kids will have. For me, it was a lesson in letting go, just a little bit.

It was also a reminder about how strong and capable my kids are….not that I *really* needed one. But seeing Soren stepping quietly into my place as we rushed out the door was inspiring. Beautiful. A calm moment in an unexpected storm.

As for what happened…I am still baffled. I didn’t eat anything that night that I haven’t had before. My suspicion is that it was the mushrooms. I can’t think what else it could be.

And I’m officially afraid to test the theory.

11 Comments leave one →
  1. January 7, 2011 5:12 pm

    Whoa, what a scary night. Thank you for sharing that…you’re such a great writer.

    • ana june permalink
      January 7, 2011 6:21 pm

      Thank you, Candace. ❤

  2. hallie permalink
    January 7, 2011 6:09 pm

    Oh wow, that is really terrifying. For all your sakes, I’m glad you’re okay – but you know what they teach EMTs about choking victims (at least, the one I spoke with)? That you don’t have to worry about the one hacking noisily at the table – you worry about the one who quietly slips away to suffocate in the ladies’ room because they don’t want to be the center of a scene. Going into the shower on your own was dangerous. Please don’t let that fear of vulnerability be the thing that separates you from people who can and will take care of you when you need it. You can be the rock for someone else, next time.


    • ana june permalink
      January 7, 2011 6:25 pm

      Yeah, I’d the one who slinks off, trying to avoid drama. 🙂 ‘Tis true.
      But I had no idea at the time–thought it might be environmental, that the shower would help (we’ve been burning lots of wood, and I’m pretty allergic to some tree pollens). Didn’t occur to me until after I was in the shower that it wasn’t a good idea. Turns out, taking a hot shower is actually one of the worst things you can do in the case of an allergic reaction like this, but with no point of reference, well….I didn’t know. Chris put the kebosh on trying anything further at home when he realized how bad it was. I’m just really glad he was home.

  3. Meribeth permalink
    January 9, 2011 5:48 pm

    OMG. I am so glad you’re all right. How scary for everyone. 😦

    • ana june permalink
      January 11, 2011 4:10 pm

      Thanks, Meribeth. xo

  4. January 10, 2011 4:00 pm

    I am so glad you are ok. Ana, love your strong writing as always. Send me something to post on my blog in the new year? Miriam’s Well—

    • ana june permalink
      January 11, 2011 4:10 pm

      Thank you, Miriam. I’ll poke around and see what I can send you.
      Hope all is well with you! xo

  5. January 14, 2011 12:35 pm

    Have had episodes like this myself… and understandably they are very scary. Esp for the kids. It is natural, I think as moms, to try to protect them… reassure them… even when we need the reassurance ourselves.

  6. January 30, 2011 5:16 pm

    wow Ana, I just read this and it left my eyes full of tears. I also had an experience like this where I couldn’t breathe, and it had to have been affecting my brain, because I waited til the last minute to use my inhaler. I felt very close to the edge and it was so scary. It is indescribable to not be able to get air. So glad you are okay 🙂


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