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Last night, A woke up fussing. I got annoyed as I was in the middle of baking cookies for the teachers and pies for Christmas. She wouldn’t settle down, and I finally noticed that she was scratching incessantly at her legs. I put some lotion on, and then suggested we put new pajamas on her. When I took off her clothes, I saw she was covered, I mean covered, in giant hives. Her legs, arms, and hands were swollen. Her sides and her face were covered. She was coughing.

M took her downstairs and put on the TV while I phoned the pediatrician’s office. After getting on the list for a call back, I remembered to give her Benadryl. And then we sat and watched the hives grow and change and spread. The nurse-on-call got back to us, and very nicely suggested that I take her to the ER since the Benadryl didn’t seem to be taking the hives down. “The cough is a little concerning,” she said. And my hand hit my forehead. Duh, coughing=closing of airways. Hives + coughing, not so good.

M put on her green princess pajamas, and off we went. On the way, the Benadryl seemed to kick in, and she started chatting with me. “It is dark! Which doctor are we going to? Oh! Is the hospital decorated for Christmas? Why don’t I have a coat on? Is it raining? I was very itchy Mommy. I love you Mommy.” When we finally got the hospital, the hives on her face had gone down, but her legs were still covered. We signed in, and we waited. And waited. And waited some more. I called M (from a pay phone! They still exist! And they cost 50 cents now!), A fell asleep. We were finally seen by the triage nurse and fast tracked in the pediatric ER.

But by this point, the Benedryl had been in her for almost three hours, and the hives were gone. The ER doc gave her some steroids, made sure I had an Epi-Pen and knew how to use it. “Did you consider using it?” he asked me. “No, quite honestly I didn’t,” I replied. “You might have wanted to consider it,” he said calmly. “It sounds like the coughing wasn’t that bad, but if it had progressed, or the hives had spread to her eyes and lips, in the leg, ten seconds, call 911.” I just blinked. “But we don’t even know what she is allergic too!” I screamed internally. “She hasn’t had a reaction to anything in 15 months! I’ve stopped worrying about this!” But instead of freaking out at the poor ER doc I thanked him, scooped up the still sleeping A and headed home.

She woke up on the way to the parking lot, and chattered all the way home while I held the tears back. “The hospital was decorated Mommy! With a tree and lights! I was a good girl! Is it still night time? I didn’t even see a doctor, am I still sick? My face is sticky. I got medicine? What flavor? Oh, I like grape! No, I think I want to sleep in my own bed. But don’t forget to put your jammies on! Did daddy have his dinner yet? Did he like it? I love you Mommy.”

I put her into her bed, and M and I just looked at each other in the darkened house. “I don’t get it,” said M. “How did this happen? How can someone react like this to something and we can’t even figure out what it is?” and later “This isn’t how it is supposed to happen. This isn’t what I envisioned when we had kids. Why?”

As I type, A is still sleeping, hive-free I think. I even managed to sleep, somehow, last night. And Monday, I guess we head back to the allergists to begin what I had really thought we were going to avoid, the long, painstaking process of trying to figure out what she is allergic to. And I have to steel myself for the fact that my daughter is going to be carrying an Epi-Pen for a very long time.

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