Embrace Your Story
Written by Lindsay Gerber
It was all love and excitement as we were about to welcome the sweetest soul into our family. It was the day my brother-in-law married his bride. I will never forget it, but not in the way you might think. That day will forever be embedded in my mind and will go down in history as one of the most life changing events I have ever experienced. Unfortunately, it wasn’t the beautiful wedding I saw, but that of a dark hospital room.
My 2 year old son woke up the morning of the wedding and started his day. We had a suite at a hotel that we were sharing with other family members. There was a lot of activity that morning. I am not sure what I missed, but after a while something didn’t seem right with my son. He went from running the halls to lethargic real fast. He had gotten very ill in a short amount of time. As our family evaluated what was going on, my dear sister-in-law encouraged me to take him into the Emergency Room. She noticed he was starting to have trouble breathing. God bless her. She was right. My father-in-law offered to drive us over to the Mayo Clinic. Thankfully, the hotel we were at was near by. On the short drive there, my son became completely limp and was now breathing even more rapidly. I was frantic. My father-in-law and I rushed through the doors and before I could say a word, they had us in a room. After immediately noticing the shallow breathing, the medical team knew it wasn’t good and that he needed quick help.
Within minutes of being there, my son had received breathing treatments and an EpiPen injection. As the doctors were trying to talk to me, all I could do was lay on the hospital bed with my son and hold him as tightly as I possibly could. I was in utter shock. The doctors knew what they were doing, because shortly after the treatments, his blood oxygen level went from bad, to better, to good. After a couple of hours, it was great again. My overly lethargic child started to have life. It was determined that what happened to him was an anaphylactic response to an allergy. It could have been something he had gotten into at the hotel, but no one knew when it had happened or what caused it. I was shocked and scared, yet relieved at the same time. As all of this was going on, a visitor showed up. It was the bride’s father, who happens to be a pediatric ER Doctor. If this sequence of events isn’t a God thing, I don’t know what is. The bride’s father sat with us and comforted us in every way we needed. He was hours away from marrying off his daughter, and he still made the effort to come be with us. He received the call that we were there and instantly made the decision to come help care for our son. That is more than effort. That is a loving human right there. He made it back in time for the wedding. As I’m told, it was a beautiful ceremony!
The medical team at Mayo decided it was best to keep our son over night for observation. My mama heart was aching and felt this was the right decision. There was a journey ahead that I knew nothing about. My husband was the best man in the wedding, so he had duties to fulfill. During this entire time, our family covered us in so many ways. They loved on my other son, who was 6 months old, running back and forth from the hospital to get the milk I was pumping for him. We had the best nurse, too. I’ll never forget the way she comforted me. The conversation we had that evening was so sincere. She sat with me on the couch in my sons hospital room while he slept. She asked me how I was doing and just held me. As any mom in this position would do, I expressed my worry in the most vulnerable way. I had to ask her a question that I wasn’t prepared to hear the answer for. I said, “What would have happened to my son had I not brought him in?” She responded and said, “Look at me. You did everything right. You saw that he was struggling and you got him help. Had you not brought him in to get treatment, he would have eventually stopped breathing all together.” The amount of love and honesty she had for me in that moment was pure gold. I will take it with me forever.
After my husband gave his best man speech, he came to the hospital to be with our son so I could get some rest. I missed the wedding of two people I love very much and I still wish I could have been there, but there was no place I would have rather been than with my child that day. I was exhausted, but I was going to leave this situation with a new outlook on life.
The night went well, and we were on our way out of there the next morning. We were glad our son was feeling better, but we were still very shaken up. We had a lot of things to learn and many lifestyle changes to make.
After returning home, we made sure to get our son tested for allergies. We knew prior to this that he had some sensitivities but never thought a reaction like that day would ever happen. Overwhelmingly, so many foods came back positive. What would cause him to have an anaphylactic reaction? Peanuts. All of the other foods were mild. With all of this new information, we met with a nutritionist to develop a diet for our son. After 3 months of no gluten, dairy, soy, eggs, and peanuts he seemed to be feeling much better. However, our allergist was concerned with his weight loss due to the lack of healthy fats and calories. She suggested slowly adding back in one food at a time. We did just that, except for peanuts, of course!
I am happy to now say that my son is thriving. He is healthy, happy, and very energetic. This situation was hard in so many ways, but I feel we are in a good place. As my son has gotten older, he has become much more in tune with how food makes him feel and has no problem making healthy choices. He also now knows how to read food labels or chooses to ask someone what the ingredients are. For the past 8 years, I have had extreme anxiety about food allergies. Now, that my son handles it with such maturity, I feel some sense of relief. I would be lying, though, if I said I didn’t feel the weight of it all to this day. It is our battle. It is our story, and our story is far from over. This was the first situation, and we’ve had many more since. This is lifelong, and we continue to learn about it every day. Because my son endured this and many other instances like it, he is so much stronger. At age 9, he values life and has a “take it all in” attitude. It’s quite beautiful, and I’m thankful for it because it’s teaching me how to live well. I asked him what he would change if he could change anything. He responded with “I would make our world one without allergies”.
While this story will forever be vivid in my mind, it was a crucial piece of our family’s puzzle that I’m so thankful to have figured out. I hope this story not only speaks volumes for those who don’t understand how severe food allergies can be. Food allergies are real. They are always bothersome and sometimes fatal. I also hope it resonates with those who have struggled with something similar. Don’t let anyone undermine your story, your pain, and your growth. Let this story be an encouragement to follow your motherly and fatherly instinct. Lastly, always allow your tribe to enter the storm with you and surround you. Without our family, friends, and doctors who have helped me along the way, I would be ruled by anxiety and fear. Everyone has their own battle. Allergies may not be yours, but I’m sure you have one. Speak your truth. Tell your story, and never stop fighting for your children.
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