The best sleepover guest ever saved the day in an allergy reaction crisis.
When my 13-year-old daughter Elise asked if she could have a friend sleep over one evening last year, I almost said no.
It was a busy day, but ultimately I agreed – Laura could spend the night. Little did I know that decision may have saved my daughter’s life.
To back up, Elise was undergoing oral immuno-therapy (OIT) with her allergist in our hometown in Iowa. This was an effort to desensitize her to peanuts – legumes she’s been allergic to since she was nine months old. Following three trips to the emergency room for anaphylaxis over a six-week span, we made the decision to start OIT.
The morning following the sleepover, I called Elise from work to make sure she remembered to take her dose of peanut flour, which she’s supposed to have daily. She hadn’t yet, so I told her to take it and that I’d call back in about half an hour to check on her.
Dizzy and Starting to Wheeze
I felt some trepidation, since the previous day, Elise simply had forgotten to take her dose. This had happened one other time and, as instructed by her allergist, we cut the dose in half for two days, and then resumed the regular dose.
Elise had no reaction that day, so we felt this time would be OK, too. But when I called back, my daughter sounded panicked. She was having a reaction to her dose, and she was scared. Her throat was tight, her lips were swelling, and she was feeling dizzy and starting to wheeze.
I knew she needed to use her epinephrine auto-injector immediately. I asked to speak to Laura, and instructed her to get Elise’s auto-injector.
Without hesitation, Laura agreed to administer the needle. I walked her through removing the safety cap and how to administer the medication. She gave the shot and held it in place. I then told Laura that I was going to hang up and call 911, and would call her right back.
When I did, Laura answered immediately. She reported that Elise’s symptoms were not getting worse. Every parent feels pretty helpless in the situation where your child is in danger and you are too far away to help. But as Laura spoke, I heard the sirens in the background and felt relief knowing that help was there.
Daughter Kept Company
While the paramedics took care of Elise, I spoke on the phone with the police officer who told me that my daughter was doing OK, and they were taking her to the hospital.
Elise hadn’t wanted to be alone in the ambulance – so Laura said she would ride along with her. In that moment, my heart melted.
I left work immediately to go to the emergency room, arriving a few minutes before the ambulance. As the paramedics brought Elise in, Laura was walking by her side. I let out a big sigh of relief, thankful to see these two courageous girls.
I greeted Laura with a giant hug and told her how grateful I was that she had been there for Elise. I told them both how they were incredibly brave and did a great job in challenging circumstances.
‘Just Knew I Had to Do It’
While we hung out for a few hours as the doctors monitored Elise, I asked Laura how she remained so composed. “I don’t know. I just knew I had to do it,” she said. “My heart was racing!” It turns out that Laura has an older sister, who also has a severe peanut allergy.
When I asked Elise how she was feeling about everything, she said: “I am so glad you let Laura sleep over. I would have been alone when that happened – and I might have died.”
Following this reaction scare, the importance of educating our children’s friends has really sunk in. They spend so much time with their friends at the pre-teen stage. The friends need to know how to recognize anaphylaxis, and how to treat it promptly with epinephrine and to not be afraid to act.
During our drive home from the hospital, the giggles and chatter in the back seat was sweet music to my ears. The quote of that stressful day belonged to Laura. She said to Elise: “We are definitely best friends now!”
Melinda Hubbard is food allergy mother living in Iowa.
Editor’s Note: Since the incident described, Elise and Laura have remained good friends. Elise chose to stop oral immunotherapy, however, as she was experiencing too many reactions.
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