I was at my best friend’s birthday party. After singing “Happy Birthday,” we were served dessert. I bit into the gooey cookie cake. As I dug into a bowl of ice cream, suddenly everything changed. My tongue started swelling. My body broke out in hives from head to toe. I could barely breathe. This is how I discovered I have a nut allergy.
The day didn’t start off badly. When I arrived, Kaitlin (the birthday girl) hugged me, and thanked me for coming. As we were playing dress-up, Kaitlin’s mom announced it was time to sing “Happy Birthday” and cut the cake. Little did I know my life was about to change.
After my first bite of peanut butter cup ice cream, I immediately felt itchy. I went to the bathroom where I saw big, red, blotchy hives all over my face. I felt so sick, but I had no idea just how much danger I was in.
When I returned from the bathroom I tried to act like nothing was wrong, but I was having trouble breathing.
“You don’t look so good,” Kaitlin said. “Do you want some water?”
“No, I’m okay,” I insisted.
“I think something is wrong. I’m getting my mom,” she said.
I felt terrible stealing the attention from Kaitlin on her birthday, but I asked to go home. Kaitlin’s mom explained to my parents what had happened and suggested that maybe I was having an allergic reaction to her dogs. My parents knew it couldn’t have been that and drove me straight to the hospital.
In the car, my mom kept me awake by squeezing my hand and telling me stories. Every few minutes she’d remind me to stay awake. I did as I was told and waited for the agony to end.
At the hospital I was rushed to the emergency room. Doctors swarmed around me, looking horrified. I was so scared I was shaking, but I must have fallen asleep because the next thing I knew I was in a hospital bed getting an IV.
“Hi, sweetie,” the nurse said. “Your mom told me you were a righty, so I’m going to put it in your left arm.” Something about her voice was soothing.
The IV went in no problem, but after the nurse left my arm started turning black and blue. I pressed the help button and three doctors ran in. It turns out the IV had become twisted. They redid it and luckily I was all right. I felt like I was in a movie from all the horrified looks I was getting.
I vividly remember what the doctors told my parents. “It’s called anaphylactic shock,” one said. “She’s lucky you got her here quickly. Things could’ve been a lot worse.”
“What do you mean worse?”
“Well, if she wasn’t treated quickly her throat would’ve closed, and then she’d stop breathing. From now on she’ll have to carry an Epipen,” the doctor said.
As a nine-year-old, I suddenly had to be very cautious about everything I ate. Eventually I learned how to deal with my nut allergy. I learned to read ingredients. I remember having to ask the lunch ladies if my sandwich had any peanut butter in it and what desserts I could eat.
Now, as a 16-year-old, I can easily identify the foods I can and can’t eat. I realized that having an allergy isn’t so bad. I get special desserts and extra caution when a chef makes my food. Even though this experience was traumatizing, having a nut allergy is something that makes me, me.
This piece has been published in Teen Ink’s monthly print magazine.