Hey guys, so it happened again. Nothing like a good old trip to the ER to remind you about your nuts blog. It wasn’t nearly as severe as the reaction I had in france but I got hives around my mouth and on my tongue and my mouth started feeling numb and I almost passed out twice. So I drove myself to the ER (not smart but I like only about 4 blocks away) and walked myself in to be evaluated. I was terrified, this probably compounded my reaction. But if you ever have hives around your mouth and tongue you probably are having some sort of allergic reaction. Now the really odd this is I didn’t eat anything with “nuts” in it. So I have no idea why this was caused. But I’m hoping to see an allergist and sort that stuff out as soon as possible. Anyways. Trying to keep my head up. I still have a long way to go to feeling normal again after that thing in France. It’s really affected my whole life, and I need to get past it, ASAP.
Coming from a family of lawyers, I can appreciate the need to throw this label on anything from a sandwich on the airplane to a snack that boasts it is “peanut free!” but cannot promise it isn’t contaminated with other ‘tree nuts’. For me this allergen tag was almost a joke growing up, trust me, in my head it’s always been just a term of liability, something for litigation, but now it screams red flag. Ever since my time in France, I’ve held myself back from eating certain things (things I’ve always ate) simply because they indicate they ‘may contain nuts’,– “oh, so you’re telling me this box of cereal I’ve always eaten now contains nuts? Tricked me!” I honestly can’t stand myself right now, it’s really mind over matter, and my mind can’t seem to calm down. I want to go back to the relaxed, logical me, the one who didn’t pick up a chewy nutty protein bar by a company whose other bars had walnuts, but didn’t blink at a box of cheez-it’s that indicated it was made in a factory that might have tree nuts. It’s a matter of being practical. My dad said to me the other day, “It’s good to be careful, it’s bad to let it consume you.” He’s right.
Hi everyone! Let’s start at the beginning: who am I? I’m a college senior, food junkie, and photog trying to “LIVE” (as in enjoy life) with a ‘nut allergy’. I know what you’re thinking, they really aren’t that hard to avoid. And trust me, they weren’t! That is, until last summer. I suppose the incident I had last summer is really what led me to beginning this blog after all, so we’ll go from there.
‘The Incident’, as I so nicely dubbed it earlier, happened in France last summer after I spent two months studying abroad in Spain. One thing you should know about me is I love food, this is not a side-track, it’s the point, I LOVE FOOD. I wake up and while eating breakfast I decide what I’ll eat for lunch, and while eating lunch, I’m already thinking about dinner: it’s really a blessing and a curse.
So, since I love food, in France I just had to have it all: the frogs, the snails, the andouille (pig intestines … that was interesting). The best part was since I didn’t know French my host family was always selecting and ordering my meals for me. I got through 20 years of my life, two months in Spain, and a week in France without ever having to use my emergency EpiPens, and then WHAM, I used two in 20 seconds.
Of course I met my demise at the hands of a lightly sauced piece of fish. Little did I know the sauce contained my free ticket to the ER. I took a bite and immediately I realized something was wrong. My stomach got warm, my heart began to pound irregularly fast and then came my throat – it felt like ten minutes had passed but it had only been a second or two. I looked up and wondered if my host mom and dad could tell something was wrong. I set my fork down quietly and weighed my options, ‘CRAP, I HAVE no time to weigh options’, I thought.
“Olivia is there something wrong with the food?”, my host mom asked.
“I think there are nuts”, was all I could muster: save air Livvy, save air.
She ran to the kitchen door of the small restaurant we were at and pounded: “Excusez-moi, monsieur” she yelled. At first, the chef insisted there were no nuts in the dish, and my host mom came to reassure me, now two minutes past my bite of the fish.
I shook my head wanting to scream but simply said, “There is something in this, there has to be nuts”.
As if on cue, the chef marched out holding the sauce jar and pointing at a word:“Noix”.
“Oh, this could be a problem Olivia, look it up in the dictionary”, I could just hear my host mom over the sound of my heart. I reached for the French-English dictionary and found ‘noix’… the still words on the page mocked my panic: “See walnut or cashew”.
“We have to go to the house now, I need my EpiPen” I said, “Now”. My host mom sent me and my host dad to the house while she stayed behind to make peace with the restaurant owners. When we made it to the house about seven minutes had passed. I ran to my room and ripped my EpiPen from the very bottom of my backpack, where it had stayed hidden for the past two months. I looked at my host dad and said slowly, (did I mention only my host mom could speak english comfortably?) “You have to put this in my leg”. He was visibly shaking so I held his hand as he brought it down… the needle punctured my skin and the EpiPen jerked causing it to bend in half. I held the bent needle in for the full ten seconds, and as I pulled it out epinephrin dripped from it. I had no way of knowing if I had gotten the correct dose to stop my throat from closing, so I ripped open my suitcase and dug out my second EpiPen, pulled up my shorts and stuck it firmly in my other leg. I knew in this moment it was mind over matter (or throat, really) and I looked at my host dad and said “you have to take me to the hospital now”. Something made me grab my passport and the water bottle on my desk as I ran to the car, and I’m glad I did.
I swear I’ve never been so sure of my fate. I saw the face of everyone I loved as the car sped 200km an hour down the crowded streets of France. The water took what felt like hours to trickle, weaving its way down my closing throat, which felt suspended in a balancing act. “My throat might close, if it does, tell them I have a nut allergy and tell them I took two of these”, I held up the spent EpiPen I realized that I had never let go of. In that moment I wasn’t sure what was more distracting: my heart, my throat or the near car accidents we almost got into. ‘Focus’, I begged myself, focus on them. Them: being my family, them: being my boyfriend, them: being my friends. We made it to the hospital and he held me as we walked in, something in me just let go, and I began to sob (well, whatever type of sob you can do while you can’t really breath).
And so, as most stories go, everything turned out okay – I mean obviously right? I am writing this now, aren’t I? But the problem is, ever since, I haven’t been able to shake my fear of nuts.
Texts I’ve sent:
“I’ll have a roast beef sub from Milio’s, No nuts please.”
Things one might have over heard me say:
“Are there nuts in this Quesadilla?”
“Does the Jumbo shrimp cocktail have nuts?”
Needless to say, it’s well past time I started to RE-learn how to live a carefree (almost), fun, and healthy life in this ‘nutty’ world. So this blog is as much for me as it is for you. I’ll share my triumphs and my set backs, my strategies and my tips, as I figure them out.