On Friday, after a rough work week and a not so pleasant doctor’s appointment, I made the case to cancel our dinner plans to have a night in. After a short nap to sleep off the stress of the week/day, I scrounged around through our kitchen to put together a reasonably healthy dinner. I opted to make some version of those healthy, protein-type bowls I’ve seen all over Instagram and Buzzfeed. Ground beef, sweet bell peppers, yellow onion, avocado, feta cheese, and a handful of spices seemed to cover the bases. I pulled out a box of seasoned quinoa that I bought some time ago to add some grains to the mix. I threw dinner together as fast as I could because I was so hungry and ready to settle in for the night.
I curled up on the couch with my bowl, a water bottle, and a new Netflix horror show I was prepared to binge. Halfway through my dinner, I sat the bowl on the kitchen counter when I noticed my stomach turning over. My mouth started to itch and I asked my boyfriend to get me some Benadryl – 75mg just to be safe. I’ve been here before: the itchy mouth, upset stomach, and hives on the neck and forearms – the beginning of a minor allergic reaction to yet another food. As I sat on the couch drinking water, my stomach became increasingly upset. My boyfriend was in the kitchen cleaning up dishes and I asked him to come into the living room. When he entered the room, he gasped and asked if I was making a face at him. I quickly learned that my lips had swollen up “larger than Angelina Jolie”. I was sweaty, flushed, itchy, and swollen. In a moment of panic, we discussed using my epi pen (which expired in 2012). After rolling up my pants leg to expose my thigh, my blood pressure bottomed out and I started losing consciousness.
I spent all of Friday night in the emergency room where the ER doctor told me I had experienced anaphylactic shock – that the Benadryl I took was possibly the only thing that slowed my throat swelling, and possibly saved my life. For someone who has struggled with severe food allergies her entire life, that sentence is still very difficult to write. I’ve been poked with needles in numerous tests which left me with laundry lists of foods to avoid. My worst “reaction” to date was tingly lips, nausea, and hives on my forearms – uncomfortable, yet manageable. I’m the person who eats before big banquets or makes late night Taco Bell runs after buffet events to avoid the cross contamination and the dreaded dessert table. I’m careful, and cautious, always. I didn’t ever imagine I would cook something in my own kitchen that would threaten my life.
Ironically enough, I took photos all throughout my dinner prep Friday night, convinced that I would have a delicious new recipe post to share here. Food has become an integral part of my blogging activities and it’s terrifying to think that one of my greatest passions can become one of my greatest enemies. I can’t stress enough the importance of not only heeding food allergies and doctors’ instructions, but likewise honoring and respecting the validity of food allergies in others. Not everywhere you eat will be courteous and it often feels like an inconvenience or disrespectful to inquire about ingredients. Before Friday, I honestly can’t say I paid much attention to the origin of dishes at restaurants or the concept of cross-contamination in grocery store food or even in my own house. Food allergies are real and life threatening – and I’m grateful for chance to be more cautious in the future.