It started in October. My eleven-year-old son had a swollen testicle. I know, it’s hard to read, but harder on him to have many health visits and people examining his privates. The swelling eventually went away to all our relief only to be replaced by the cough that could not be stopped. He coughed so long and so hard despite being medicated that they checked him for whooping cough. He missed almost two weeks of school, perplexing us and his teachers with the force and persistence of his coughing. They declared him to have asthma, gave him some prednisone and albuterol, and silenced the cough. That was December and January.
Finally, in March, he came down after bedtime and told me that his tongue felt funny. I, trying to avoid a $100 co-pay, begin pouring Benadryl into him every four hours (what sleep?), and waking him in between to check his breathing. I called the minute the health center opened and they had me bring him right in. They said that the tongue swelling was an allergic reaction and I had done the right thing by giving him Benadryl, however, the dosage for his age was half what a person of his weight should have. They prescribed Zyrtec and we gave him some right away. The next morning his tongue had swollen more and was causing trouble swallowing. The doctor’s office said to bring him to the emergency room, which made me wish that I had done that Sunday night when this all began. His dad brought him in and spent six hours in the emergency room with the doctor’s trying different things to bring the swelling down before they decided to admit him.
I packed a bag with his video game, pajamas, a few snacks (he’s a picky eater), and a requested book. I arrived to find him in very good spirits, ordering room service, drinking oft forbidden soda, and being very spoiled by sympathetic staff. He wasn’t happy about the IV and he did his best to convince us that it should be removed. They were giving him intravenous Benadryl and Prednisone to try and unswell his tongue. I decided to stay until he fell asleep. He was all excited by the in-your-face TV and the novelty of it all. The nurse promised him a milkshake and then promptly got very busy. Hospital time doesn’t work like real life where bedtime is 8:30. I reminded the nurse about the milkshake at 8:30 and asked for him to have ibuprofen to help him deal with pain from the IV. Two hours later … she appeared with his milkshake and told us that she was waiting for an okay from a doctor on the pain medication. He, on the other hand would not settle down, I shut the TV off every half hour only to give in five minutes later when he begged to have it back on. The nurse came in at 11:30 to finally give him ibuprofen, making me wish that I had smuggled some in. Now, my boy was almost euphoric with drugs and exhaustion. He said, “What I really want, Mama, is to look out this window.” I said, “What I really want is for you to settle down and get some rest!” He fussed, I took his socks off, I put his poor sore arm onto a pillow, I helped him maneuver his IV so that he could turn over etc. Finally, around 12:30 I fell asleep in the bed next to him. I was woken ay 2:30 by the nurse checking his vitals and she said that he was out and I should come home and get rest myself.
My beloved parents took the morning shift because we are one of those families that must work to live with little money to spare. My boy was sleepy but in a good mood and enjoying being fed with remarkable regularity. His Dad visited in the afternoon and brought his sister in after work. By now the word had spread that he was in the hospital and I was astounded to find ten people in the room when I arrived! A friend had brought him whoopee pies and another Skittles and he was talking very rapidly. The swelling had ebbed some and he was putting on a show … that lasted until the visitors left and he collapsed in tears and unhappiness. He wanted the IV out, he wanted to come home, he missed his pet, and his bed and the fun was gone. I was able to settle him down a little earlier but he was complaining of being itchy enough to make him nuts. The doctors came in and reassured him that he could go home tomorrow and that itchy boys did not need to be in the hospital. I left at 12:30 that night.
Grandma and Grandpa again took the morning shift, although he bravely spent a few hours if front of the TV until they arrived. A little after noon, they let him come home with a prescription for more prednisone and continuing the Zyrtec. His tongue was still swollen but they knew it was not going to suffocate him by now. Friday morning I gave him the seven prednisone tablets that had been prescribed and watched him melt into an unknown creature that was NOT my son.
One out of ten people has a bad reaction from the prednisone and my son was the one. He was thinking dark thoughts and scaring himself. Luckily we had already scheduled a post-hospital doctor visit where we were told to immediately stop the steroids. Saturday he was droopy, Sunday it was worse. Sunday night before bed, he told me that his tongue was swelling again. We went to the emergency room that afternoon where we paid $100 for the doctor to get us a next day appointment that I had been refused earlier that day.
I was scouring the Internet reading about allergies it was pointing to it being something he ingested. He had not had anything different than normal but, on second thought, he had a multigrain bar before bed the night before. The same box of bars that I had grabbed to bring to the hospital for him to snack on. Sure enough, highlighted at the bottom of the ingredients was cashew, almonds, and coconut. Bingo, the kid has a nut allergy.
Thankfully we figured it out before a snack bar killed him, but this is a reminder that allergies happen.