One of the children I care for is allergic to tree nuts, peanuts, eggs and fish.  It is a fact of life that is never far from my mind.  We found out she was allergic after a terrifying incident where after eating pistachios for the first (and last) time she had a reaction that required two ambulance rides, two hospitals and two different admissions to the second hospital.  It is something we hope never, ever to repeat.

An EPI pen is our best friend.  It goes where we go, resplendent in its bright red carry case.  It has a “trainer” which lets you read directions and try it out on yourself without actually injection any medication.  It doesn not stop your allergic reaction.  It buys you time to get to the nearest medical facility to get continuous support and help.  We have never had to use the EPI pen (and please don’t let me have jinxed myself with that statement).  As pens have expired we have taken them to her allergist and practiced in front of him using a grapefruit.  You really have to swing and push to get it injected into a grapefruit which is very similar to a thigh.  (Or so I’m told)

I have always worried that in an extreme emergency I would freeze and she would freak.  Not the best combination to use an EPI pen with the best results.  I have worried every December when we vacation on St. Maarten.  They have a medical school and medical facility BUT the traffic is bumper-to-bumper all the time.  An EPI pen buys you about 20 minutes before you would need to reach help or administer another injection.  Remember, it only buys you time.  I have worried when she is there and with her extended family, when neither her parents or I are with her.

And I have tried to put those very worries in the back of my mind because if I thought about it very often I would not be able to take care of her day-to-day.  It is stressful but we have gotten pretty good at it.  She is learning to take care of herself too…some.  She is good at announcing what her allergies are and asking them to check packages and ingredients.  As a brand-new first grader she has been stressed about the whole lunch-at-school idea, even thought we pack her lunch every day.  She is not old enough to use the EPI pen on herself.  That will come but not for four or more years.  I wonder sometimes how much she remembers of that horrible night.  I wonder how fast she would know that something was very wrong if we didn’t catch it ourselves.

I took her to her allergist this week.  We go at least once a year because she has to have her flu shot done in his office.  I love her doctor.  He is personable, reassuring and has us travel to St. Maarten as if we are our own medical clinic.  We also travel with his cell phone number and he urges us to use it, whenever we need advice, even on St. Maarten.

He had told me earlier this spring about a new EPI pen and this was our chance to see it in action…and get a prescription for it.  It was developed by two brothers, one who is highly allergic and one who is an MIT scientist.  They wanted it to be user-friendly, to help people feel more secure about using it.  It is fabulous.  It is the size of a deck of cards AND it talks to you!  When you pull of the end which is like a cap, it calmly gives you step by step instructions.  You don’t need to jam it (something that would certainly terrify a small child).  It tells you where to place it and counts down how long you need to hold it there after you’ve pushed it.  It then reminds you to call 9-1-1.  This is an EPI pen for anyone, whether you’ve had experience or not.  We’ve been playing with the trainer a lot at the house.  Her older sisters get a kick out of it, and we are fine with that.  We want them to know how to use it should, God forbid, the necessity ever arise.  Suddenly life has gotten just a bit easier.  For grandparents, and siblings, Mother’s of playdate friends and yes, nannies too.

And again, I think to myself…what a wonderful world!

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