I learned something this week.
I learned that things can change, literally in a heartbeat, and that some people excel in a crisis. I had a good day Monday, a bit hurried but my to-do list contained only pleasant things - a morning swim, a quick trip to the grocery store, a relaxing meal with a friend. By 5:15, I was rushing to get perishable grocery items in the house before going to meet my friend for dinner at a nice restaurant but even in the rush of things, I was happy, anticipating a pleasant ending to a nice day.
I met my friend at the restaurant, we were seated and the server brought us glasses of water with two lemon slices wedged on the rim of the glasses. I took one sip and my tongue began to tingle in an irritating way. Within thirty minutes, I was scratching at both hands, running to the bathroom, and wondering what was going on. I found it especially hard to process the fact that my hands were itching more and more with each passing minute. I remember being dumbfounded by that to the point that I was slow to take in what was happening.
Thanks to a FB post just a week or so ago, it slowly began to dawn on me that I might be having an allergic reaction to something and that I might need Benadryl. When I voiced my suspicion, my friend remained calm and asked just a few pointed questions:
Could I drive home? Did I need her to do anything? Was my throat swelling and could I breathe okay?
At that point, my tongue had started to swell but, although she detected a difference in my voice, I wasn't aware of it. My one thought was to get in my car, call my husband, and make the ten minute drive to my home as fast as possible to get something to stop the itching.
Frankly, when she asked me the last question about my throat swelling, I wondered why she was asking. I literally did not know that allergies can cause the throat and tongue to swell. I knew people with peanut allergies could die quickly from exposure to nuts but I had never considered the whys or the hows of it all.
Because of her calm but pointed questions, I realized as soon as my tongue started feeling thicker to me than normal that I didn't need to fool around and that a trip to the ER might be advisable. So, as I was pulling off the parking lot and onto the main road leading home, I was also giving my husband a very succinct message by cell phone:
I need you to come home immediately. I'm having an allergic reaction. I may need to go to the ER.
He was also calm and simply asked me where I was at that moment. I told him and he said he'd be home as soon as possible. I knew ASAP meant at least a 20 minute wait on my part before he could get to me and so I prayed, asking God if I should be making the 10 min. drive to home or if I should be making the 20 min. drive to the nearest hospital. I kept talking out loud as well, trying to gauge how much swelling was going on in my mouth and also trying to verbally calm myself as I drove, sort of talking my way through everything by saying things like, "Alright. My speech sounds funny but I'm getting plenty of air so I'm okay right now. Another 8 minutes and I'll be home."
By the time I got home, my hands and feet were both itching but my hands were the worst - red and a bit swollen, and itching so badly that I sprayed Benadryl on them and then immediately washed it off because it did absolutely no good. Ditto for the Benadryl gel. This in spite of the fact that I took two Benadryl caplets as soon as I got home.
In the meantime, as I had while in the restaurant, I continued to make runs to the bathroom but hadn't considered the possibility of dehydration at that point. When Phil got home, he found me wringing my hands together like a caricature of Lady Macbeth. IN reality, I was actually clawing each hand with the other. He immediately asked me why I was acting like that and I explained to him as if he were a simpleton that I couldn't stand the itching. He did a double- take and told me to get in the car because we were going to the ER. Only I couldn't because I had to make another run to the bathroom.
Once we were on the freeway, I knew I was headed towards another bathroom run so he pulled off the freeway onto a Wendy's parking lot and dropped me at the door. We probably looked like a smash and grab couple as I ran inside. Thankfully I made it in time but again, I wondered how I would ever make it to the ER if I was going to have to stop at every potty between there and the Baptist Medical Center. It was a quandary and just one more thing that wasn't on my original agenda for Monday night.
Thankfully, I had grabbed our bottle of Benadryl as I went out of the house thinking I would need to show the ER doctor what I had taken. When I came out of the loo, Phil was sitting at a table with some fries and a large glass of water for me, thinking that the salt in the fries might help me retain some liquids. He suggested we wait at Wendy's for a bit to see if I was truly over the urge to run to the potty. I asked him if he thought it would be okay to take a third Benadryl and he told me he thought it would be. So I did that and began to eat a few fries, sip a little water, while testing my speech every so often to see if I still sounded like a toddler trying (and failing) to make consonant sounds correctly.
Within thirty minutes, my itching had stopped and my tongue was shrinking back towards normal.
At that point, I noticed my husband's face for the first time. Up until that time, I'm sorry to say that I had thoughts only for myself. I was vaguely aware that at least twice while we sat at the table and I sipped water, that he had taken hold of my hands and moved his lips silently and each time I knew he was praying for me, for which I was very grateful. I also knew that my friend whom I had left in such a hurry back at the restaurant was sending up prayers for me as well. These two things meant a lot but mostly in retrospect, when I could really begin to process what had happened.
Since that time I've got a whole new list of things to be thankful for.
1. I'm grateful for people who remain calm in a crisis. My friend and my husband are both a case in point.
2. I'm grateful for people who know when to ask questions and how to pray.
3. I'm grateful that I just had a mild allergic reaction. I can't imagine how people cope with a severe reaction. Talk about scary.
4. I'm grateful that someone else had shared their allergic experience on FB a week or so earlier; otherwise I wouldn't have had a clue what was happening to me or what to do about it. As it was, it took me about 20 minutes before I realized it was possible that I was having an allergic reaction. I'd just never had one before and had no personal frame of reference for dealing with such a thing.
5. I'm grateful for the worker at Wendy's who asked Phil if I was alright and who made it a point to tell me that she hoped I felt better as we were leaving. She sounded like she meant it and from the sweet look on her face, I suspect she may have said a prayer for me as well. In a bit of a crisis, every prayer counts. And God has His servants strategically placed, for real.
6. I'm grateful for another friend who told me that it's a good idea to carry Benadryl capsules with you so
that if you have an attack, you can break open the capsule and empty the powder into water and it will get into your system 15 minutes faster than normal. From now on, I will always have some Benadryl capsules in my purse. Always.
7. I'm grateful :) that I eventually had enough Benadryl in me to cause me to sleep soundly for the next 14 hours or so while my husband and my son dealt with a water heater leak in the laundry room. They actually had it almost completely taken care of when I came to the next day about mid-morning. There are some things that are worth sleeping through - water spraying all over the laundry room floor is one of them. Trust me on this!
8. I'm grateful for the look of concern and compassion on my husband's face while we were at Wendy's. It wasn't until the episode was waning that I really took in how worried he was. In retrospect, I realize he had a really tough evening. First me, then the breached water heater, then switching out tanks the next morning and then trying to cram a whole day of work into one afternoon after installing the new heater. I got all the attention while he definitely got the short end of the straw.
9. I'm grateful that I remembered that look of compassion when he told me the next evening how much the new water heater cost - I can get really testy over large, unexpected expenditures of money and I realized last night how unfair I can be when stressed over money; I'm afraid I usually vent my anxiety on Phil. Not this time. Maybe our wild almost trip to the ER, helped me get my act together and gave me a better sense of what I owed to Phil. Maybe for the first time I saw how unfair I can be to let him take care of something that literally took him hours to remedy, saving us tons of money for labor, only to lose it over a 400.00 bill for the tank, as if he were somehow at fault. I can really be a not nice spouse. Trust me on this as well.
10. I'm grateful that I know not to order lemon in my water... ever again. (I have no allergies to lemons. I had lemonade today and was fine. I have no allergies to water and I have no allergies to ice:) I've had people tell me that now I know not to eat lemons or drink lemonade, that now I know not to drink from a glass without using a straw, etc. But the truth is I know little more than I did Monday night when I got sick. All I can guess is that the lemon slices stuck on the edge of my glass were somehow contaminated.)
The bottom line is: I'm grateful. More so now after the attack than I was before. I mean going to the restaurant, eating out, visiting with a friend - these are all everyday things, aren't they?
Not any more.
Simple pleasures - at least for now while I am still acutely aware of what happened Monday and maybe even more to the point, very much aware of what could have happened Monday - simple pleasures are no longer so simple. Right now, to me, they are special.
And so is my husband, my friend, and everyone else who helped me as my day suddenly warped into the Twilight Zone and I learned just how quickly things can change.