I sat at our kitchen table this morning having a quiet breakfast with Bear, and I noticed leaves falling from the trees outside. On the way to the store, I saw that some of the trees had begun their annual change from green to orange and yellow. Fall is officially here!
My intended one-month blog vacation somehow grew into two. In early August, my husband was given a two-week vacation from work, and I worked extra hours at my job to make up for taking so much time off. We spent a few days in West Virginia visiting family and then traveled to Bermuda for our first real family vacation (and probably the last for a long while)!
Bear was exceptionally cranky for the first few days in Bermuda. When we were at the pool, she would cry that she wanted to go to the beach. When we were at the beach, she would cry that she wanted to go to the pool. Several times, she asked to go home. After a few days, she began complaining about her feet and a sore mouth. I eventually realized that she probably had another version of hand-foot-and-mouth disease, despite the fact that she it last year as well.
Once she recovered, she was much more interested in swimming. We developed a routine of spending our days in the sun at the pool and at the beach. She learned to build sand castles (or Rapunzel towers, as she preferred), and she took over the resort game room so she could use the pool balls and Chinese checker marbles to pretend that she was making muffins.
We chose the small resort where we stayed based on their assurances that they could accommodate Bear’s food allergies. The resort is owned and run by a family and their communication seemed much more genuine than the form responses I received from other hotels and resorts on the island. When we arrived, we met with the chef and discussed various foods that Bear could have. At first, he seemed very confident that there was no soy in anything that he prepared. I explained that everything – from pastry to hamburger buns to broths to dressings – had soy in it, unless it was made from scratch and without soy-containing ingredients. After a quick trip to the kitchen, he returned to agree that most of his supplies did have soy, but he said that they would make homemade meals for Bear.
We had great luck with food the entire week we were there. We ate at the resort for every meal, and Bear did well. She enjoyed having sorbet after dinner every evening. On the last day that we were there, we decided to have lunch at the resort before leaving for the airport. We had the server re-heat Bear’s leftovers from dinner, and we handed off her sippy cup to be filled with milk. Once Bear got her food, she took a few bites and a sip or two of milk, and then she pushed back her food and refused to eat anything else. She kept dipping her finger in ketchup on her plate and coughing every time she put it into her mouth. Then, her face turned bright red, and she started crying.
We quickly gave her some Benadryl and tried to figure out what was causing her problems. She had eaten all of the food the night before without issue. She began crying hysterically for more medicine and while I was trying to console her, she began vomiting. At this point, we knew that this was serious. I unscrewed her sippy cup and smelled a sweet smell inside. I handed it to my husband, and he confirmed that it contained soy milk.
We quickly left the restaurant and went into the lobby to change Bear’s clothes and so I could call Bear’s allergist. At this point, I started crying because I realized that what we had tried so hard to prevent had actually happened. The nurse at the allergist’s office told us to give her more Benadryl, and we did, but within a few minutes, Bear was throwing it up too (on the nice rug in the lobby). Once we got her clothes off, we discovered a rash quickly moving down her body. Her face was dark red, and when she wasn’t vomiting, she was leaning her head on one of our shoulders. She looked awful.
I called back the allergist’s office, and they convinced me that since the Benadryl hadn’t stopped the reaction and since it was continuing to progress and in light of the anaphylaxis that she suffered a year ago from soy milk, that we needed to give her the Epi Pen.
I could hardly speak at this point, because I was so upset. The nurse thought that my reluctance meant that I didn’t know how to use it. I knew how to use, but I just didn’t want to! The idea of jabbing a large needle into my daughter’s leg was a horrible one to me!
My husband held our poor little girl in his arms, and pulled off the top of the pen and put it up against her leg. It snapped, and we counted to ten. Bear screamed. I pulled it back out of her leg, and held her tight while she cried while my husband told the hotel staff that we needed to go to the hospital (a requirement after an Epi injection).
They brought around this old hotel van (I’m sure because Bear had been throwing up on their nice rugs) and we climbed inside. In hindsight, we should have called an ambulance, but we had been there long enough to know that it takes forever to get anywhere on that island, and the hotel staff thought that they could get us to the hospital more quickly. We rolled around in the back of this van while an assistant manager did his best to quickly navigate the congested Bermudian roads.
Bear became very quiet and limp and would not keep her eyes open. For a terrifying 25 minutes, we screamed at her to stay awake. She seemed to rally by the time we reached the hospital, and after going through the slow registration process and having a nurse check Bear’s vitals, a very nice nurse informed a doctor that we were supposed to be on a plane in about two hours. She listened to Bear’s lungs and thought that they sounded clear, and she ordered some steroids and more Benadryl for Bear. Contrary to the normal procedure in the U.S., where Bear would have been admitted and watched for several hours, she told us that if anything seemed amiss with Bear that we should not get on the plane and she let us leave with more Benadryl to take with us.
Amazingly, we arrived at the airport a little more than an hour before our flight. They allowed us to go through customs, and Bear seemed tired but OK by the time we boarded. Once we exited the plane in Atlanta, I noticed that her rash seemed to be returning, so we gave her more Benadryl. It quickly went away, and by the time we boarded our flight home, Bear was exhausted from the day’s events and the massive amount of Benadryl she had consumed. When we got her home, she literally ran to her bed and threw the top half of her body onto it as though she were trying to hug her mattress. I felt the same way! I wanted to kiss our front door, but I was too tired.
The next day, Bear seemed mostly recovered. She had a continuing cough and really disgusting, loose stools, but otherwise, she seemed well. She now refuses to drink milk of any kind, however. She requested it out of habit for several days after the event, and after a sip or two, she would push the cup away and tell me that it was “spicy.”
The experience really reaffirmed to us that all of the efforts that we have made over the past year to control her food were worthwhile. I had almost convinced myself that her allergy must have disappeared. Clearly it has not. I also have no desire to travel anywhere again in the near future. Home is a wonderful, safe place, and we’ll happily stay right here!