I have recently learned that yes, despite his eventual total recovery from his allergic reaction after a double dose of Benadryl, my son did in fact show several bright waving red flags indicating anaphylaxis during his allergy attack, and the emergency room doctor who treated him should have given him a child-sized shot of epinephrine immediately instead of a second dose of Benadryl, and in fact took a big fat unnecessary risk by not doing so.
(So, if your small child ever eats something and then immediately complains of an itchy tongue, breaks out in hives, develops facial swelling, flushes red all over, complains of stomach cramps, and then starts coughing without cease, and you take him to the hospital and some stonefaced overtired ER doctor who seems irked at having to even speak to you tells you to just give your kid a little more Children's Benadryl,
I have recently learned that if your primary care doctor's office staff, who are normally quite competent, call the wrong phone number to tell you the results of a key blood test indicating the possible severity of your son's brand new peanut allergy, even though you had called the office just one hour prior to confirm with the staff which number they could reach you at to give you the results, and then they leave a useless message on your answering machine saying that the results have come in without actually telling you what those results are, even though you've officially authorized the doctor's office to leave a message with the actual test results if you don't answer the phone, and then they close their office phones ten minutes early on a Friday, so that even when you miraculously manage to arrive home and hear the useless misdirected message just in time to call the doctor's office staff back according to their publicly stated phone hours, you still can't get a hold of anyone to give you the damn blood test results, and you realize you won't be able reach anyone at the doctor's office at all until Monday, and so you track down the number of the blood lab that did the test to call the lab yourself, by God — when that happens, some really nice guy at the blood lab named Pete, when he hears you trying not to cry with frustration as you relate this story to him on the phone, will totally bend protocol and fax you a fast-tracked application form so you can get the test results faxed straight to your house from the lab. (Thank you, Nice Blood Test Lab Guy Named Pete.)
I have recently learned that all those parents of kids with serious food allergies were totally right when they told me about so many people, smart people, good people, even medically trained people, not taking food allergies at all as seriously as they take other serious, potentially life-threatening health problems.
That it's really difficult even for me to wrap my mind around the idea that my child could theoretically now be as seriously endangered by a large bag of peanuts as a loaded unlocked gun, because that idea just feels so patently absurd.
That many people will ask you what medical steps you are taking to deal with a brand new food allergy, and many people will try to help you find information about food allergies, and many people will tell you all about how happy hearing about your experience makes them that their kids don't have food allergies, and many people will remind you how lucky you are because "it could be worse!"
But only a few very kind and thoughtful people will think to ask you how you feel about having just a few days ago watched your child narrowly escape death by cookie. By a #&@!& @!*&%!!! cookie!
I have recently learned that I feel pretty awful about that whole experience of holding my kid's hand in a speeding car and feeling totally helpless while he flushed redder and redder and his lips swelled and he coughed uncontrollably and I tried to stay totally calm and comfort him by talking to him about innocuous things in a cheerful voice all while wondering whether he might stop breathing at any moment, and what I would do if he did, all because he had taken two bites of a cookie.
That if I think too hard about it now, I can relive it in excruciating detail. That the whole watching your child have a bad allergic reaction thing is wretched, actually. That it sucks. That I really don't recommend panicked trips to the hospital as a regular family excursion.
I have recently learned that those really thoughtful people I mentioned, those people who take the time to ask a parent who has just experienced her child having a serious allergic reaction how she feels about what just happened, can make that parent feel a whole lot better.
I have learned that I am lucky, that it could have been worse.
I have learned that my five-year-old does not cry when I tell him he can't eat the fries at his favorite restaurant, or when I say he can't always have the same treats other children are having school. That when he sees other children eating what he no longer can. right in front of him, he does not scowl at them or mutter about how life isn't fair.
That he did not throw a fit when I took the bag of candy his grandmother sent him, and gave it away to the kids next door.
That instead of getting angry or upset about the long, long list of restrictions he now suddenly faces due to his allergy, he will instead (usually) tell me that chips are just as nice as fries, that he doesn't mind asking his teacher first before trying a cookie, that we can always buy more candy, that EpiPens aren't quite as scary as vaccine shots, that he doesn't want me to worry about him.
I have recently learned that my son is braver than I am.
That stylish, durable, comfortable, affordable, boyish medical alert bracelets for brave little boys that are not made of mystery metal or mystery plastic or some cheap nickel alloy are nearly impossible to find locally in St. Louis, but are available on the internet.
That your friend with a daughter with diabetes will not only answer your middle-of-the-night emails about where to find nice kids' medical bracelets, but ask her Twitter friends to help you out.
That I find having to wait several days for my kid's medical ID bracelet to arrive in the mail really, really, really annoying. Like, annoying enough to consider buying myself an engraving machine and making my own.
That my son's favorite kind of candy, that he wanted to give out on Valentine's Day, plain M&Ms, are now totally forbidden to him, because Mars does not segregate its production lines and Peanut M&Ms sometimes slip into the plain M&M package.
That I can order nut-free candy-coated chocolate pieces that theoretically also melt in your mouth and not in your hand on the internet. At double the price of the regular kind. Plus shipping.
That I am willing to pay double the price of the regular kind plus shipping. Not just for my kid, but, if necessary, for his whole elementary school class. Just so he can feel normal on Valentine's Day.
That Chipotle and Cici's Pizza and Burger King are peanut-free restaurants. That Chick-fil-A and Chili's are not.
That I am channeling so much ridiculous energy into things like getting my kid a decent ID bracelet and finding some nut-safe candy before Valentine's Day and making spreadsheets of restaurant nutrition information because those are problems I can fix. I can fix those things. I need to do things I can fix right now.
Because I can't fix him.
I can't fix the peanut allergy.
Not right now.
Maybe not ever.
Bonus Thing I Have Recently Learned:
That, according to the long-awaited results of his allergy blood test, my son, who has been begging me for a pet cat almost every day since the day he spoke his second word (which was "Kit-tee-cat!" which later changed, adorably, to the inventive Spanglish hybrid,"Gato-ki!" a joyous cry I heard sung out daily, for years, to real cats toy cats and pictures of cats and shadows that sorta looked like cats, with more enthusiasm than "Mama," until he was somehow suddenly old enough to hand me written explanations of Why We Should Have Cats instead) is apparently not only suddenly allergic to peanuts but also suddenly allergic to cats.
Nice one, universe. Nice.