Monday, March 01, 2010

Sucker Punch from an Angel

I guess you could say my weekend was rather exciting. Not in a good way.

Do you have one of those friends that won't let you say no to an invitation? Even being unemployed and claiming lack of funds as a legitimate excuse doesn't get you out of her "Oh, come oonnnnn! It'll be fun!" tirade. Actually, she drops the pressure on most invitations these days, but there is always one she has to get spun up over.

This time it was the annual Dim Sum lunch with which we celebrate a fringe friends' birthday. I went last year and it was pretty affordable so I figured this could be the invitation to acquiesce on. However, there are a lot of seafood dishes in Dim Sum so I would have to be high alert. (I am severely allergic to all fish and seafood).

If you've never been to Dim Sum - it's at an Asian restaurant, and when they serve Dim Sum they just bring out little dishes of all sorts and you share everything with your table. There are no menus. (sometimes there is a visual guide - but not the sort of menu where you would be able to determine what is actually IN the food item.)

The waitresses hold up a dish and say, "Yoo wan dumpling?" Yoo wan eggroll?"
They must hate me there, because I have to quiz them. "What is in it?"
and the answer is, "Bee", "Poor" beef, pork or "Shii" which I guess is shrimp.

You can imagine, when you're trying to determine if the food they're putting in front of you might kill you... it's really frustrating to hear broken English!!

So I determine a fairly innocuous dumpling. When I inquired of the waitress, she said it was Bee. It was tasty. So tasty that my radar went up - that was more than beef.

Three minutes later my throat felt tight. Then I heard someone else at the table point to the plate of dumplings and describe it as beef and shrimp.
My throat got tighter.
Ladies and gentlemen... I have to go.

I planned to drive to the closest drug store, but I was in an unfamiliar part of town and didn't see one. I figured it would be just as quick to go straight home where I had plenty of Benadryl. I changed lanes to head home... and at that moment spotted a W@lgreens - so the spirit moved my car back over three lanes to get into their parking lot.

I made a beeline to the pharmacy where I found a package of sweet pink relief (benadryl) and went to the counter to open the box and peel back the safety lining.

My throat was tighter now than in any of my prior worst reactions.
I quickly informed the pharmacy tech that I accidentally ate shrimp.
The pharmacist overheard and commanded, "Take two of those right now. You'll ring it up later."
A glass of water appeared.
The pharmacist asked if I had an Epi-pen or a prescription.
Not on me, and the prescription is with another pharmacy.

I got out my cell phone and found my allergy doctor's number, hoping they had Saturday hours.
The answering machine gave an emergency number which I relayed, through tears and gasping to the pharmacist who was writing everything on a pad.

I don't even know when I started crying. I think your body just takes over when it is in danger. I wouldn't have been able to control it if I wanted to.

So here's the beautiful thing. This pharmacist seemed to understand that. He didn't try to tell me to calm down. Even when the phone number I relayed to him came up a digit short, he seemed to understand that I couldn't think clearly under this physical stress.
I redialed the doc's office and handed him my cell phone to hear the number for himself.

He handed me a box of Kleenex and a small waste can (to spit in - when the benadryl starts to work - one of the results is a lot of saliva - I think it's one more way for the body to get the bad stuff out.) and told me to sit down.

I was sobbing by now, because my breathing was restricted. It took me a few minutes to realize that he was talking to my doctor and arranging for the prescription himself.

I started to develop a Hero Crush!

It seemed like forever, but he finally came out to the chairs and asked if I wanted to shoot myself or if I wanted him to do it.

"You're going to have to do it. I know I can't."

He knelt down in front of me and told me that he needed me to close my eyes and count to ten.
I turned my head, closed my eyes and before I even got to one... "Aaaaaarrrrrrgggggghhhhhhh! agh.. agh!" I heard my own scream and it was awful! I heard the sound travel to the walls at the front of the store. I imagined people's heads turning in shock and fear.

I opened my eyes and the pharmacist was holding the epi-pen into my thigh. It hurt so bad I wanted him to take the needle away, but I saw the look of determination on his face - and he must have seen the agony in mine so he explained that he had to hold it for ten seconds.

The epinephrine (adrenaline) coursed through my body. In a matter of minutes maybe seconds, I could breathe. My body shook.

I called a friend to come get me. The doctor had ordered me to go to the closest emergency room - but I told him that I was unemployed, and couldn't afford an ER bill. Would an urgent care be sufficient? Dr reluctantly agreed. (He had to advise me to the ER for liability reasons. But I knew I couldn't afford the $1500 bill just to sit in a bed and have a nurse check on me every 90 minutes.)

By the time my friend Mime and her boyfriend arrived - I was back to normal. Accept for my leg. Mr. Pharmacist had slammed that pen into my leg so hard, my muscle was bruised. I couldn't bend my leg - so my friend's boyfriend would have to drive my car.

Mr. Pharmacist sat next to me and gave my friends the lowdown, while patting my other leg and saying he was sorry he hurt me.
Hero Crush continued!
He took great pleasure in telling my friends about my "blood-curdling scream" and describing that once I finished screaming, a smile spread across my face and I said, "I'm okay. I'm just a screamer."

(I vaguely remember that... I think I smiled because I was embarrassed by my scream - and it's true, I am much louder than I need to be.)

So my friends took me home. A piggyback ride up three flights of stairs because I couldn't bend my knee. Then Mime's boyfriend went to pick up Thai food for me. I took a course of two benadryl every four hours for the rest of the day and obviously missed work because I passed out every 40 minutes from the benadryl.

I am very grateful for my friends - and for this pharmacist who treated me like a real live person with feelings. I'm writing the company to tell them just how great this pharmacist is, and that he treated me with genuine care and concern - even as he was getting a little behind in filling other prescriptions.

An angel in a white coat - and some really ugly tennis shoes.



~ifer said...

I love it. I love that he did so much for you, and took care of you. It is so very common nowadays for pharmacists (especially those in the chain drug stores like CVS or Walgreens) to lose that human touch. What a hero, indeed! I am glad you are contacting the company to tell them about him, and I am glad you are doing okay now.

TRS said...

He told me that he's been a pharmacist for just three months - and this was the second time he's had to tend to a severe food allergy.

His manager has been a pharmacist for 15 years and has never seen one (severe allergy) come in.

I suppose we can credit his extreme care to the fact that he is new. But I hope that it never changes after years of the same ole, same ole. He's a credit to the profession!!!

Rachel said...

So glad you're okay!!! That was so sweet of your friends to come get you.

Anonymous said...

TRS: IM so glad your okay now, thank god for that pharmasist, and hope you get to keep him for along time. I feel like I have found a new friend in you. I heard of those places but never been to one, and if something happens now we know, awesome friends by the way!. Those are friends that you can call a friend.

J said...

Wow that is amazing and encouraging - I can't even get my W4lgreens pharmacist to answer me when I speak directly to them. They just give me dirty looks while they ignore me. It's so fun.

Shan said...

Oh the horror of that situation! I am SO SORRY!!! I would have developed the hero crush as well. It totally happens to me too-baha. :) So glad you got help. Next time take a friend from the dinner for safety and moral support!

Stacey said...

WOW! First of all, so glad that you are okay. Quick thinking on your part, an incredible pharmacist, and God's hand really got you through! Amazing. Sounds like such a scary experience!

Genevra said...

Holy cow! I'm speechless. I am SO happy that everything turned out okay and that you had angels, both seen and unseen, surrounding you. Wow.

Anonymous said...

wow! thats really scary! It's awesome tho that the pharmacist was so helpful! If I were there I would've gotten his number for you (wink wink) Glad you're okay sweetheart!

Ronnica said...

I'm glad that he was willing to help when you clearly needed it! Allergies can be a scary thing.

Kelley said...

Oh,TRS, please, take care of yourself! All three of my children are alleric to nuts, peanuts, and chocolate. The two boys accidently ate shrimp with a Thai peanut sauce two years ago - so scary! We ended up in the ER for the night.

They have learned to ask and ask what's in whatever they are eating - if there's any questions, then they don't eat it.
They would rather be hungery.

Not sure how much you know about the reactions -but they get worse each time. Next time you will have less time to get help!! Please, be careful!! We carry Epi Pens with us EVERYWHERE! In fact one doctor told us we really need two Epis per child b/c the meds can wear off and the allergin can still be in the system and you can go back into anaphylatic shock. One doctor told us about a lady that went into shock six times in one night.

Keep those Benadyrls close by!!

(He had to tell you to go to the ER b/c the Epis can effect your heart.)

Stay safe!!!
Kelley in Guam

jean said...

I have to echo Kelley's comments. Having a brother with a sever food allergy, we never went ANYWHERE w/o Benadryl - and usually several us of had some, just in case. AND there was always an epi-pen, too. Like Kelley said, allergy reactions can get worse each time, so you need to be prepared - don't ever leave home w/o your meds.

TRS said...

Kelley and Jean,

Thanks!! I am VERY careful about my allergies... I have a LOT of different allergies.

I made little business cards listing my food allergies that I often give to waiters. (sometimes the chef offers to make me something special!!)

Trust me I am on high alert in certain restaurants and I was really ticked that the waitress said, "beef" as if she assumed the shrimp was a given! Um... beef never killed anyone! Shrimp kills people!!

And yes, I know that each incident almost guarantees the next one will be worse. I am so vigilant that packs of Benadryl and epi-pens expire in my purse... and that's when I end up without.
Epi-pens are the bane of my existence. Too big for some purses... temperature sensitive... they can't go below or above a certain temperature... so I figure it's better off in my bathroom closet than in my purse on a summer day!! they're just a waste of $60!!