On July 6, 2015, while in Lake Tahoe, Nico went into anaphylactic shock. We never could figure out what happened. He is allergic to nuts, especially pine nuts, so all we can surmise is there was cross contamination. In the years since, I refused to go back to Lake Tahoe, though I have vacationed their almost yearly since I was a child.
My entire family ganged up on me this year and convinced me to try Lake Tahoe again. I agreed, grudgingly, and made plans for July 20, the day Mikey finished summer school. On Tuesday, July 17, The Mister and I were on our way to pick up the boys from karate when Mikey called us from his cell phone. Only when The Mister answered the phone, it was not Mikey. It was a parent calling to tell us there was a problem. Mikey stepped in a fire ant hill and he was getting a lot of hives, everywhere. After some deliberation, we asked her to meet us at the urgent care with Mikey to save time. I knew something was wrong. I just knew.
We arrived at the urgent care first. I ran in and told them my son was arriving soon and was having some sort of allergic reaction. I didn’t know how serious it was, but we had a family history of severe allergies. They were polite and had me fill out forms. They didn’t seem alarmed, they didn’t clear a room, and the doctors sitting at the nurses station looked up but didn’t move. I expected this. I’m sure many people run into urgent cares frantic over nothing. I filled out the paperwork and waited for Mikey outside.
My heart dropped when I pulled Mikey out of that minivan. His skin burned red everywhere, including the whites of his eyes. He was also swollen and his skin so hot, so hot. He was lightheaded, scared, and leaning on me for support as we stumbled into the waiting room.
“He’s here!” I yelled from the middle of the waiting room as Mikey just sort of leaned his body over mine. As it was with Nico 3 years and 11 days ago, that is when everything escalated. Every single person behind that counter jumped out of their seats. One nurse came at Mikey with a wheelchair so fast it was like the cartoons where the character gets knocked behind the knees by a car, does a flip in the air, and lands in the driver’s seat. They ran us to one room and then a doctor yelled, “No, The Bay.”
The Bay is a room with a wall of large sliding glass doors that can accommodate an ambulance stretcher. It’s enormous so several medical personnel can fit in there at once. There is no privacy because your condition is serious enough that someone needs to be watching you at all times.
Epinephrine. Benadryl. Decadron. I.V., just in case. Wires, machines, 2 doctors, 4 nurses and me, watching my world splinter for the second time.
“Are you scared, Mikey? It’s going to be okay,” I said when I noticed he was shaking uncontrollably.
The doctor put her hand on my shoulder. “It’s just a side effect from the epinephrine, mom. He’s okay.”
Mikey was so tough. So tough. He was terrified, but still calm. He cracked jokes. He complained that what hurt most was all the shots. “I’ve had at least 6! When will they end?”
“You’ve had 2 and the I.V.,” I said. I’m glad to know that even when terrified I retain the ability to accurately report the facts.
“Well, it might as well be 6 it hurts so bad!” I placed ice packs on both of his shoulders. I asked the nurses if The Mister and Nico could come back to see Mikey. They agreed, despite the policy and crowded room.
Nico came in and stared at Mikey as if the force of his will could return everything to its natural order. He was unaccustomed to being the observer and not the patient in a medical emergency.
“Hey Nico,” Mikey said. “It’s like that scene in episode IV when Darth Vadar tells Obi-Wan, “We meet again, at last. The circle is now complete. When I left you, I was but the learner; now I am the master.”
One of the nurses looked up from her notes. “Star Wars reference,” I murmured.
I tried to take pictures throughout, just like our allergists have told us to do, but a few times I was too nervous and caught up in the moment. I should have taken pictures of Mikey when he first came in to document his appearance, for example, but it was the last thing on my mind.
When the ambulance arrived to take us to the hospital, the mood in the Bay was decidedly more calm. Mikey’s face was starting to regain its natural color and the hives on his extremities were going down. His feet and torso were still a mess but everything was progressing nicely.
“Are you scared, buddy,” the paramedic asked. “We’re here to help. You’re going to be just fine.”
“I’m okay,” said Mikey. “My shaking is a side effect of the epinephrine.”
The paramedic smiled. “So it is, bud. You’re a smart kid.”
The ambulance ride to the hospital was quiet, almost peaceful. Mikey was getting sleepy from the stress and medication, so the paramedic kept up a steady stream of chatter to keep him awake. When he finished explaining every single machine in the ambulance he asked Mikey if he had anything to say.
“Just this. Did you ever notice that your lips don’t touch when you say the word touch, but do when you say the word apart?”
“And there are more planes in the sea than there are ships in the sky.”
“The brain named itself.”
“Think about it.”
“Holy crap, kid; you’re something else. I like you.”
I like Mikey, too. He’s doing better now, though the stress of dealing with the bites has me gnawing at my cuticles until they bleed. I guess they can take weeks to get better and the pustules that form is dead tissue, not infection. We were told to keep everything clean and dry and to not let anything pop. I need to schedule an appointment with Nico’s allergist. I read venom allergies respond well to shots.
We did end up going to Lake Tahoe on the 20th, and basically all I do is stare at Mikey’s feet. It’s been hailing. We leave tomorrow.