Yeah, this is getting ridiculous. Absolutely, totally, fucking ridiculous.
Thursday afternoon, I’m getting ready to leave for the gym, just puttering around the apartment. Grab a cup of mocha yogurt from the fridge (it’s been there a couple of weeks), have a few spoonfuls. Don’t feel like finishing the cup, put it aside. Sweep up a bit, toss out the trash. Clean under the sink.
Suddenly, start feeling really itchy. Really itchy. Scratching like crazy. Figure some of the dirt may have caused some irritation, so I draw the bath, still scratching myself all over. Call the milliner; tell her that I may have to cancel the climbing if I’m still itchy. Jump in the bath, realise that my body is flaming red. The left part of my lower lip is starting to tingle.
Holy fuck, something is wrong. Jump out of the bath, drying myself off. Gives me a bit of a relief, but not enough. Call the milliner again, tell her that something is horribly wrong, and that I’m heading to the hospital. She calls back about 2 minutes later, asks which hospital and whether I can get there myself. I figure by then that time is important, and that I have to act fast, so I have no time to wait for an ambulance. By now my lower lip has completely swollen, my face is tingling, the sweat is pouring, my scalp is itching, I have welts forming over my body. Grab my keys, grab the container of yogurt and head out to the car. Trying desperately to keep my shit together, wondering whether to head to the CLSC down the block, but figure that the hospital is a safer bet. Fortunately, the General is on the same route I take to get to the milliner’s, so I know the route by heart. Squeeze the car out of the parking, all my concentration on staying calm. Keep an eye out for cops, thinking I might be able to get an escort, but quickly realize that the effort would be too great to flag one down and try to explain the situation. Driving along St-Joseph, I realize my tongue is beginning to swell, and by the time I get to the corner of St-Joseph and Parc it’s become impossible to swallow. C’mon dude, keep it together, breathe through your nose, you’ll make it.
Just. Keep. It. Together.
A bit of a jam on Parc, like there always is, but by the time I make it to Mont-Royal & Parc the right lane is clear. Scoot over and race (within the limits) to Pine, where there’s another jam. Keeping it together, scratching the fuck out of myself, drawing a bit of blood.
My lips, by this point, have done the progression from normally luscious (hee), to Mick Jagger, to Steven Tyler, to Angelina Jolie and by now are silicone-gone-wrong Meg Ryan size. No air is passing through my mouth, my car seat is wet from my sweat and my barely contained panic.
By the time I hit Pine and Côte-des-Neiges, my stored-up car-ma kicks into gear, and all the cars ahead of me miraculously all head to the left, giving me straight access to the entrance of the general. Head up the parking, and again miraculously, there’s a spot in front of the doors. Park the car, grab the yogurt and head to triage. Luckily, I had been there two months ago, so I don’t need to search. There are a few people at triage, fuck politeness, I jump ahead, look at the nurse, point to my mouth, point to my chest, point to the yogurt in my hands. The nurse jumps up, “allergic reaction?” I nod. She throws me on a wheelchair, I pull out my Medic-Alert, she wheels me to trauma. On the way, I recognize the nurse who saw me back in March, and I give her a slight wave.
They throw me on a bed, get my top off (a quick thought going through my mind that I wouldn’t be so embarrassed if I still had my six-pack. Vanity, what can I say?), asking me questions that I can’t answer because it’s now impossible to enunciate. I’m begging for oxygen, trying to explain about my previous condition. They throw on an oxygen mask, put a couple of needles and IV’s into me.
The woman in the next bed, who I learned shortly thereafter was in restraints, wakes up, sees what’s happening and starts complaining loudly that it is completely unfair to her that she should have to witness someone die next to her. And that, well, could someone pay some attention to her? The nurses thankfully pulled the curtain on her. Literally, not figuratively.
The doctor wonders whether it’s safe to give me epinephrine, but by this point figures there’s no choice left in the matter, so they shoot it in. My stomach is cramping, I’m worried that I’m about to shit my pants. They tried to take an EKG, but the probes couldn’t stick because of all the sweat. They then shoot me up with Benadryl, telling me to relax. Fuck, it had taken all the reserves I had to not panic just to get there, my body by then had given up the fight. Whether it was the medication I had been given, the oxygen, the fight my body had gone through, I don’t know, but I just laid back and figured, “well, fuck it, I guess this is how I go.” From anaphylactic shock. From a sudden allergy.
Don’t recall much of what happened afterward, but woke up to see the milliner next to me. Almost started crying, from relief, from the shame, from hating to have her witness shit like this that always seems to happen to me. Still breathing through the oxygen mask, but then nearly vomit into the mask.
As time went on, slowly got better, but they decided to keep me overnight. Which meant? Well, when you’re hooked up to all these machines, surrounded by a bunch of people in pain, you’re not going to sleep. In fact, because of the post-traumatic stress, I haven’t really slept since Wednesday night.
I swear, someone is having a huge laugh at my expense. Let’s take a moment and look at the shit I’ve gone through:
- Spend time in an oxygen tent when I was a toddler. Some breathing problem, don’t know.
- Broken leg. Twice. From skiing. Once when I was five, again when I was fourteen. A slightly altered, almost imperceptible gait as a result.
- More bike accidents than I can recall, either with cars or simply having my back wheel spin out.
- A completely diseased heart that isn’t diagnosed until two months before they have to crack open my chest, pull it out and replace it with someone else’s. Wires are used to put my sternum back together, and about 15 pills a day to keep me alive.
- A spirally shattered humerus that requires a steel plate and eight pins to repair. Slight, lingering nerve damage.
- I’ve rappelled off the end of my rope and off the side of a cliff, only to land in a tree and walk away with only a scratch on my hand, inflicted as I climbed out of the tree.
- A long fall high up a cliff, falling on a piece of protection that is only meant to support body weight. Walked with a limp for a couple of days.
- Two months ago, I have what may have been a minor stroke, although the specialists can’t find anything wrong.
And now? They think I may have an allergy to nuts, a fucking disease that’s supposed to manifest itself in childhood, not in my 30s. I have to walk around constantly with an Epi-pen, ready to jam it into my thigh without a moment’s hesitation. Of course, we really don’t know what’s wrong, because I don’t have an appointment with the allergy clinic for the next two weeks. When I asked what I was supposed to do in the meantime, I was told to simply not eat.
Yeah, I’m laughing.