The Epicenter of the Epipen
“The Epicenter of the Epipen” by Sharon Burns The Epipen. The mere sound of this word makes one’s thoughts immediately turn to danger, distress, EMERGENCY, or severe-allergic reaction. And so, what should have been a peaceful, relaxing Saturday morning with my family turned into anything but. It actually all started the day before when my daughter came out for a weekend visit to East Hampton. During the week, she wasn’t feeling very well and decided to self medicate with a couple of doses of NyQuil. She even called in sick to work so you knew she wasn’t kidding. When I picked her up from the bus, she turned to me and said, “Mom, my lip is swelling up. “ I checked her out and it did seem as if her lips were indeed getting larger by the minute. “You look like Daffy Duck!” her loving sister remarked from the back seat of the car. As I tried to remain calm and not get my daughter upset I frantically dug around in my pocket book for some Benadryl capsules. I pulled out the sheet of capsules, ripped open the hard plastic packaging and said in a strong authoritative voice, “Take these, now.” Without even thinking she swallowed the pills. I tried to assure her that this would take care of the swelling. I’ve had these symptoms before and I knew it would get better. For the moment it did. Later in the evening, while watching reruns of my favorite travel show, “House Hunters International,” my daughter turned to me and said, “It’s happening again.” This time the reaction was a bit worse and the hives were spreading to her back and her lips were puffing up. Once again, I pried open the rock hard plastic to unearth another dose of Benadryl. “Take these, NOW.” Once again, my daughter complied. At this point we were both beginning to become concerned and wondered if we should be going to the hospital. Luckily, within a few minutes the Benadryl did take effect and my daughter went off to bed. I was still a little worried, as any mother would be, but quite convinced that this was just a slight allergic reaction to something and soon my daughter would be as good as new. The next day I woke up to a lovely, sunny Saturday morning. Settling down with my first cup of coffee, my savoring and sipping was suddenly interrupted by the appearance of my distraught daughter entering the room. “Mom it’s happening again.” As I turned to look at her, I can only say that I was shocked, surprised and very concerned that her face was getting larger by the minute. Unfortunately, I said something like, “I think we should go to the hospital.” This immediately sent my daughter into a panic as she ran upstairs to look at her expanding face. As she exited the bathroom she cried, “Mom, I can’t breathe, we have to go to the hospital, NOW!” Not really known for my calm reactions to emergency situations, I started screaming at the top of my lungs, “I have an EPIPEN, I have an EPIPEN!” My daughter rushed down the stairs, sat in the kitchen, held her face in her hands and said, “ Mom, I’m fine, I’m fine. I think I’m just having a panic attack. I can breathe.” As she calmly sat, I ran around the house trying to find the epipen. I raced from bathroom to bathroom tearing through overstuffed drawers. Once found, I quickly ripped open the package. My daughter looked on truly horrified as her mother, shaking and fumbling attempted to understand the directions. She was cringing and pulling away from me as I wielded the epipen in her direction. All I could think about was saving my daughter’s life. All I could think about was plunging this little plastic device into my daughter’s thigh. “Mom, mom,” she begged, “please get dad, get dad.” With arms crossed over her body she tried to protect herself from the crazed paramedic that happened to be her mother. Just as I was ready to stab the pen into her quivering body, my husband entered the room. He had been nonchalantly picking up leaves in the backyard and didn’t hear the screams emanating from the kitchen. He is currently in denial about his need for a hearing aid. “What’s the problem,” he asked as my daughter cried out, “Mom’s trying to kill me!” At this point I softened my grip and lowered the epipen. I could see that my daughter indeed was okay. We all took a deep breath, called the doctor, and found out that Nyquil can cause an allergic reaction. My husband went back outside to pick up a few more leaves, my daughter sat comfortably in my new recliner sipping a freshly brewed cup of herbal tea (made by her mother) and I went food shopping to stock my kitchen with food to feed my family. A mother’s work is never done. Our children and their well-being will always and forever be at the epicenter of the “epipen’s” in our lives. Sharon Burns is the author of “Tough Tommy” a bereavement book for children.