“I’m sitting here beside my two-year old’s hospital gurney. He looks so tiny curled up sleeping in a bed that was meant to hold an adult.
I can feel the sheets without even touching them, every sound and texture of this room is burned forever into my memory, because we’ve been here before. We nearly lost him today.
He is one of those peanut allergy kids.
Which means I am one of those moms.
I gave him a popsicle. I had done all the homework, I called the company, verified they don’t use shared lines, rechecked ingredients and felt confident that he could have it. I stuck them in the freezer for one of those relentless southern days.
Today we all piled in from working outside in the garden, kicking off shoes, tired, giggling, loving. I offered one to everyone to help cool down. I pulled off wrappers and started dishing them out.
‘They are all the same size, don’t argue,’ I said to my kids. ‘I didn’t forget, I’ve got yours right here!’ I gave it to my son.
We all plopped down on every available horizontal surface, exhausted from working hard. I had just kicked off my boots and laid back when I heard a tiny, faint cough. Just one. I was instantly on my feet assessing him.
He’s not old enough to tell me, I have to know, and I have to know early. Trying not to startle him I sat down and watched him. Breathing, eyes, nose, skin, stomach, ears. Like an anaphylactic check list. Watching. Waiting.
There it was, the tiniest hive right in the corner of his precious cheek. I sent my oldest out to get their dad, took the treat away, washed him off, and gave the first Epi and made the call.
Over the next hour he vomited, broke out in hives from head to toe, lost his airway, turned blue, had 3 more Epi, Benadryl, Pepcid, steroids and an entire team in his room working, hurrying, asking questions about how he usually responds. Finally, the Dr looked at me with relief and said, ‘We’ve got him.’
Things are much calmer now. He is sleeping, he finally crashed from the Benadryl zombies, wrapped up in his special blanket, hating everyone for all the needles. They keep telling me to go get something to eat but I can’t. I can’t leave this spot. I am his voice, his advocate.
I’m thinking about how the action plan saved him. I’m thinking about how desperately grateful I am that he made it. I am thinking about all the things the allergy parent crowd wishes you knew.
We wish you knew it’s not as simple as avoiding peanut butter and candy bars. There are peanuts in the dumbest places like sunscreen, mulch, and potting soil but because they aren’t foods, they aren’t required to carry a label.
We know you hate us when your kid can’t bring peanut butter to school. We see your hateful memes and your snide remarks. We’re just trying to keep our kid alive.
We see you roll your eyes when we ask you not to give them a cookie. We’re just trying to keep our kid alive.
We are not anti-social, and we are sad when we have to turn down invitations to ball games, Texas Roadhouse, and Bible School. We’re just trying to keep our kid alive.
We wish you could see how heavy it is. We wish you knew how many hours we spend calling companies, tracking down Epi pens (there’s sometimes a nationwide shortage by the way), and filling 504s.
We wish you knew the extents we go to keep them safe and how scary it is when we or someone else makes a mistake. We’re just trying to keep our kid alive.
We are also filled to the very top with gratitude (even though we don’t expect it) when you ask if something is safe or when you tell us you had your child wash their hands before you came to play.
Because you’re trying to help us keep our kid alive.
So, the next time a note comes home from school asking you not to send peanut butter or you see a hateful meme circulate social media comparing these kids to antivax families, remember Sterling’s story.
Remember we could’ve had an entirely different outcome of I had been in the bathroom and missed that tiny cough. Remember that parent you see is just trying to keep their kid alive.
Because we are their voice until they are old enough to advocate for themselves.”
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