Tuesday, July 8, 2008

Close call, chance encounter

We made another trip to the emergency room last night.

At dinner, our older spawn inadvertently consumed a bit of skim milk, hidden in the ingredients of a bratwurst, triggering a severe allergic reaction. As soon as he felt the anaphylaxis coming on -- he's been dealing with this allergy every day of his life -- he took a few shots from his inhaler, downed some liquid antihistamine and chewed a couple of antacid tablets.

My wife set up his nebulizer with the prescribed bronchodilator. He breathed the drug into his lungs while we watched and waited.

It didn't help. His airway was closing. I called 911.

The squad arrived a few minutes later. They stabilized their young patient, loaded him into the ambulance and, with my wife riding shotgun, sped toward the hospital 18 miles away. I tailed them in my car.

By the time we arrived at the emergency room, our spawn was doing much better, thanks to the EMT's decision to administer a quick jab of epinephrine. The ER staff judged that the first danger had passed, but they insisted that we remain a while longer due to the possibility of a relapse.

Six hours later, the doctors were satisfied and we headed home. We finally hit our pillows at around 3am.

Naturally, this experience will further sharpen our scrutiny of those fine-print ingredient lists on the food we buy. And medically speaking, both the ambulance crew and the ER doctors advised us that we need to change our first-aid protocol.

We had our own emergency doses of epinephrine at-the-ready last night, but we’d hesitated to use it before seeing how well the bronchodilator worked -- which, in the words of one EMT, forces medical professionals to “play from behind.” So next time we’ll reach for an EpiPen sooner rather than later.

Scary moments, good outcome, lessons learned -- with an unexpected footnote.

When the two-man ambulance crew walked into our kitchen last night, one immediately went to work on our spawn. The other took notes as my wife described the treatment we'd administered prior to their arrival.

At one point, the second EMT paused, looked around the room and said, "I used to live in this house."

More than twenty years ago, he was the very first occupant of the house that's now our
home. He built the barn. He planted the trees. He waged an ultimately unsuccessful battle against the massive residential development that abuts our back yard.

That bit of serendipity, a connection with the past, reinforced our strong sense of home. And knowing that our older spawn emerged from his predicament alive and well, that chance encounter helped make yesterday a very good day.