Sunday, March 06, 2011

Lessons from an Epi-Pen

Those of you who know me well, or have been reading my blog for awhile, know that I have multiple life-threatening allergies, as well as multiple non-life-threatening allergies, to both food and medications.  I carry two doses of epinephrine on my person at almost all times (exceptions: sleeping, showering, swimming).  In fact, I carry epinephrine on my person so religiously that we used it as a memory device for the Greek preposition επι meaning "on" because the epi-pen is always on Joy.  If you do not know how to administer an Epi-pen, please stop reading this right now and go read these two blog posts (Post 1, Post 2). Please read them.  They contain life saving information.  For real. If you know how to administer an Epi-Pen keep reading...
Anyone who has ever used an epi-pen knows that it hurts.  Yes, it saves your life, but it also hurts. There is, after all, a rather large needle being forcibly pushed into your thigh muscle.  Anyone who has been with me when I have had an allergic reaction knows that I hate having to use my Epi-pen.  I will usually do everything possible to convince both me and everyone else that I really don't need it.  This usually includes taking lots of Benadryl and waiting until I have absolutely no choice but to use the Epi-pen.  By this point I am typically only semi-conscious (not breathing will do that to you) and unable to give the epinephrine to myself.  So someone else gets to do the honors.  Then it's usually a mad dash to the hospital where the doctors and nurses (and sometimes respiratory therapists) fight to bring me back to breathing on my own. It usually involves lots of needles, oxygen, monitors, collapsing blood vessels, drugs and organized chaos to keep me from dying.  As well as a lecture on using my Epi-pen at the first sign of a severe reaction instead of waiting, which I usually counter with some sort of excuse about the pens being so expensive and wanting to wait until I'm actually sure I need to use it. Overall, not a pleasant experience.

Last week I was blindsided by a snack that was not as Joy-friendly as I was led to believe it was.  Within moments of eating it, I broke out in hives around my mouth and throat, my heart rate started going crazy, I got sick to my stomach, and shortly thereafter my breathing became labored.  After a brief moment of panic during which I thought I was home alone and mentally ran through a list of people who might actually answer their phones if I called needing a ride to the hospital (I try and avoid the ambulance if I can), I realized my roommate was indeed home and went downstairs to tell her that I had loaded up on Benadryl and was maybe going to need the Epi-Pen.  Because my roommate is amazing she was super calm about the whole thing and we waited to see if the Benadryl was going to do its job or not. After waiting 15 minutes for the Benadryl to kick in, and feeling it kick in but not reverse the reaction, I realized that I was going to need the Epi-pen.  At this point I was still completely conscious and could even still kind of talk.  I actually gave the epinephrine to myself for the first time, while LDK called the library where she had to work in half an hour to tell them she would be late (I have awesome roommates, just saying) and went next door to grab a neighbor to help me to the car (epinephrine makes me really woozy).   On the way to the hospital the epinephrine did its thing and by the time we got there, other than my blood pressure doing silly things (side effect of epinephrine), my vitals were good.  I still had hives, but I was breathing on my own with a large degree of success.  After a round of oral steroids and some meds for my stomach, they kept me for about 2.5 hours and then sent me home - no needle sticks, oxygen, monitors, or organized chaos.
When all was said and done and I came out of the drug induced haze (okay, I'm still coming out of it and will be for a few days yet) I looked back on the whole ordeal and tried to figure out what made this particular reaction so different from past  reactions and what I could learn from that. The suspected allergen in this case was nuts of some sort, one of my major allergens. Past nut reactions had resulted in reactions similar to the ones described in the linked posts above.  It would take a couple days before I was anywhere close to back to normal and a week or more before the bruises on my arms would fade.  This time it was different.  Once I figured out that the prescription antacid that the doctor had given me was full of cornstarch and making me very sick and stopped taking it, I was pretty much back to normal (well, normal with a prednisone kangaroo in my brain).

I finally figured out the difference.  I had taken the epinephrine early on. I knew it was going to hurt like crazy, but more importantly I knew I needed it.  Usually stubborn gets in the way and even though I know I need it, the desire to avoid the pain overrules the common sense.  In the end, it results in an even more painful process (trust me, having nurses fight to start IV's while your blood pressure plummets and your veins collapse is way more painful than a dose of epinephrine).
As I thought about it, I realized that it is much the same way in my walk with Jesus.  I know that letting Him work in my life is going to be painful.  There's a lot of junk He has to deal with.  And I know I need Him to deal with it, because I can't fix it myself. But often, stubborn wins, and I try and fix things on my own.  And I fail.  In the end, the process of Him fixing things up is more painful than if I had stopped being stubborn earlier, because in the end, He always gets His way, just like in the end, the drugs needed to save my life always get into me.
It's easier on me (and everyone involved) if I just take the epinephrine when I know I need it instead of waiting until I'm almost dead.  Likewise, it's easier if I cooperate with Jesus when He is trying to make changes in my life instead of waiting until I'm at the end of my rope, dangling between a rock and hard place, with nowhere to go except down, but I can't even really go down because I'm already at rock bottom.
How would my life be different if I stopped being stubborn? Is it even possible?  And if it is possible, is it a good thing?
Enough thoughts for now.   The kangaroo is waking up.

1 comment:

tribaljade said...

Thanks for writing this. Truly insightful. I love (even though it's a hard love) how this correlates with how Christ deals with the tough things in our lives. It reminds me of a Relient K lyric: "When the burden seems too much to bear, remember, the end will justify the pain it took to get us there..."