This is the story of how my pollen allergy almost killed me. My allergies were so bad during training that my body went into anaphylaxis and landed me in the emergency room.
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We moved to Texas in February 2018 and I didn’t really have any allergy symptoms (yay winter!) The grass was green and we had a bit of snow; but as winter ended, spring fast approached and I was beginning to feel some awful symptoms.
My nose was running, my eyes were itchy, and I was sneezing non-stop.
All the while I was on a regimen of medications including nasal sprays, eye drops, and antihistamines.
The Real Allergy Story Begins
I worked in disease prevention at a medical clinic, and the clinic decided that we need to practice litter (stretcher, gurney) carries on a sunny spring Saturday morning.
I showed up to work (about 20 minutes from home) and we began the training.
The scene: There was a field outside of the clinic with luscious grass, birds chirping, and the sun shining bright, as well as 60 people present for training.
Patient Transports in the Grass
My co-workers and I broke up into a team of 5, one on the gurney while the 4 others transported the “injured” individual. At this point my allergies weren’t that bad, I assisted in moving 4 patients without any issues.
It was now my turn to be a patient, and this is when the allergies began to take over…
To be a patient, essentially you have to fake an injury that requires you to need transportation on a litter, AKA lay down in the grass, as I am allergic to grass, this made me uneasy.
I laid on my back in the shortest grass I could find to try and limit my grass pollen exposure. This didn’t help me avoid the grass, but it made me feel better on the inside.
My team transported me to “safety”, and my allergies weren’t horrible, yet. I was experiencing my usual sneezing, runny nose, and watery eyes.
I thought to myself “alright, that wasn’t too bad.” We all had turns of transporting and being a patient, it looked like we were in an episode of M.A.S.H. Mission success! (not quite)
Allergic to Outside + Low Crawling in Nature = Disaster
We were now moving our training onto low crawling (in the grass) while moving patients….not good. Let me start you off with what low crawling is in case you are unaware.
Low crawling is where you are laying down on your stomach with your face in the dirt and you are pushing yourself forward with one leg and pulling your body with your arms. This is to provide you with concealment from the enemy when needed.
Turns out that pollen and grass are the biggest enemies to my body
Fighting the Pollen Enemy
So there I am laying in the pollen-filled luscious grass low crawling while dragging myself and a patient to “safety”. All the while the grass is microscopically cutting into my skin.
At this point, my body is ramping up my reactions and my allergy symptoms are getting worse. My eyes are extremely itchy and watery, my nose is now a faucet, and I’m sneezing at such a rate that if there was a real “enemy” we would be located instantly.
I told myself that the training is almost done, let me just knock out another practice and we will be done for the day.
So I get in the grass and do it all again. This time I have all the symptoms as well as a new one, my arms were covered in hives (while still sneezing, leaking from my face and this is when I noticed all of the slices from the grass on my arms as they became bright red).
This patient transport training was the last one for the day and I got to go home!
Homeward Bound with a Scary Allergy Twist
I walked to my car, turned on the radio, and begin my drive home but something is wrong.
My throat starts to feel a bit itchy, and not 2 minutes later while I’m cruising down the road I feel like something is lodged in my throat. At this point, I realize it’s an allergic reaction and that my throat is swelling.
Instead of pulling over to call for help, I decided to just drive faster and get home, I didn’t feel THAT bad.
I called my wife (hands-free device) and told her that I think I’m having an allergic reaction and to find me two Benadryl and run the shower for me so I can wash off the pollen.
Home Sweet Home? Not Quite
I get into the house and my wonderful wife has water and two antihistamines ready to rock, I take the pills and strip down on the way to the shower. At this point I feel safer knowing that I’m home, someone else is around, and that I am actively washing the allergens down the drain.
The feeling of safety is short-lived….
Emergency Room Time
While in the shower I noticed that the hives on my arms are also on my legs and my abdomen, I start to feel dizzy and faint and so yell out for my wife.
I tell her what’s going on and say “I think I need to go to the hospital.” She asked no further questions and knew I was serious because I HATE going to the doctor let alone a hospital.
I threw on some clothes and she began to drive me downtown to the Emergency Room. During the drive, I could feel my throat not getting any better and now my breathing was becoming troublesome.
She kicked it into high gear and we arrived at the hospital about 15 minutes after leaving the house.
Treatment, at Last… But Wait There’s More
Yay! We made it to the Emergency Room. Now my wait was not long at all which was a perk, the staff got me changed into a gown and into a treatment room in record time.
I explained the whole story to the doctor of how I got to this point, he listened to my heart and lungs, did an assessment of the hives, and reviewed my vitals. The recommendation was an IV with a steroid which would provide longer-lasting antihistamine effects as well as a shot of Benadryl (not in the arm…)
Luckily I got to the ER in time that they did not need to use epinephrine also known as the Epi-Pen.
I received my IV and Benadryl shot and was sitting up in the bed feeling good.
Reaction to the Allergy Treatment
Just when I think I’m on the home stretch I feel my face go pale, I start sweating profusely, and I am feeling sick to my stomach. I ask myself what can it be now?! I’m supposed to be getting better, not worse!
I push the help button on the bed thinking that a whole medical crew will be rushing into the room and begin triage like a scene from Grey’s Anatomy.
2 minutes have gone by and no one has shown up. The wife takes matters into her own hands by proceeding to the nurse’s station and grabbing help.
The nurse and the doctor check me over with my new symptoms and come to the conclusion that I have had a reaction to the Benadryl shot and called my reaction “getting the Bene’s” I guess it’s something they have run into before.
It was explained to me that since I took Benadryl earlier and they gave me more, my body essentially just had too much.
An hour or two at the hospital went by, my symptoms were improving. I began to feel somewhat back to normal but was extremely tired. I was discharged and sent home for recovery, which I took full advantage of by sleeping for 12+ hours.
I followed up with my Primary Care Physician who referred me to an Allergist for testing and treatment.
My allergy testing revealed that I was allergic to grass, and just about everything else in nature. I began allergy shots (immunotherapy) and have been receiving them for over a year now, never forgetting how scary life was that day.
Learning From My Mistakes
After going through this whole process, and of course the anaphylaxis I have some lessons learned I would like to share with you. The intent is to hopefully prevent you and your loved ones from making the same mistakes that I did on that spring day.
I didn’t listen to my body. I noticed my symptoms getting worse and new symptoms appearing and thought I could push through it.
Don’t push through it.
I should have called for help, not driven a car while exhibiting such symptoms.
I put myself and potentially others at risk when driving. Luckily nothing bad happened and my symptoms appeared at such a rate that I was able to maintain road safety, but still, it was not a smart move.
Use your brain and call someone or 911.
I delayed getting immediate medical attention.
Over time my symptoms were progressively worsening, the hospital should have been the first stop! Anaphylaxis is not something to mess around with, fatal allergic reactions occur every year.
What I Did Right
I believe that taking a shower as soon as I got home was the right thing to do. It washed away all of the pollen from my body to help with making my symptoms any worse.
The best thing I did right was to take the two Benadryl. If I did not have those antihistamines working for me on the way to the hospital, I do not think I would have shown up to the E.R. breathing!
If you do not have Benadryl, or any antihistamines on hand, get some. It could save your life.
I wanted to share my story with you as it is quite an interesting one, but more importantly to provide you with a real-life experience relating to allergies and anaphylaxis and how in the blink of an eye your situation can change.
I hope you have enjoyed my story and take my lessons learned to heart if you are ever in a similar situation.
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