Fifteen days ago my sons ate cookies on the way home from their grandmother’s apartment. My 3-year-old son, Adam, arrived at the door spitting, begging for a drink, and repeatedly saying the cookie was salty.
“Did the cookies taste bad?” I asked my older sons.
“No,” they both said. “They were really good.”
A few minutes later Adam was pale and drowsy. Then he vomited and vomited. I had never seen a child become so violently ill so quickly. There were no warning signs. He didn’t have a fever. “I’m scared he’s been poisoned,” I said to Mike. “I think he needs to see a doctor right now.” But before doing anything else, I called Poison Control. Poison Control told me nothing, except to go to urgent care.
I hurried into a cab with Adam. He could not stay awake during the ride. I carried him into the clinic, cradled, like a newborn. In the clinic the doctor told me there is no such thing as a poisoned cookie, and that I should stop having delusional fantasies. I held my ground. “Adam was not sick before the cookie,” I said. “And I know it’s not a virus. I just know this is connected to the cookie.
“What kind of cookie was it?” the doctor asked.
“I was told it was a butter cookie.”
“Butter cookies can spoil if left out of the refrigerator,” the doctor explained. He was irritated and patronizing.
“No,” I said. “This is something else. I really think Adam ate some kind of poison.”
After examining Adam, the doctor changed his tone and admitted him to the treatment room. We walked in and Adam vomited again. He got an IV, cried, and then fell asleep. But every few minutes he woke up to cough. He coughed until he gagged. Then, behind his ears, on his neck, and scalp, Adam turned bright red. Shortly thereafter red spots appeared on his arms and legs.
Around the same time I received the news that my mother-in-law had tracked down the cookie baker and learned the cookies contained four ingredients: butter, flour, sugar, and pistachios (and not sleeping pills, rat poison, or bleach). But… pistachios. I had heard of a pistachio allergy. I called the doctor over to Adam’s bed and asked if Adam could be having an allergic reaction to pistachios.
After being treated with steroids and antihistamine, Adam improved. He stopped coughing. The red went away. By evening we were home.
This week we spent two long afternoons at the allergist’s office. We have confirmed that Adam is highly allergic to pistachios and cashews. “It’s dangerous,” the allergist said.
No fucking kidding.
I slept very little this last week. I’ve been reading a lot about having a child with a nut allergy. I’ve been crying here and there. I’ve been angry – nothing particularly cathartic about voicing anger at a pistachio, yet I do it anyway. I wished for a nut-free earth until I thought of the mother squirrels who need to feed their babies. Then I took back my wish. I felt the emotions of a D-parent a few times when people told me to just “make sure he’s not exposed to nuts and he’ll be fine.” Like, “just manage your kid’s blood sugar and he’ll be fine.” It’s really easy, right? Am I going to be next to my son every second? What if another 3-year-old kid at a birthday party hands Adam a cookie just as I’ve looked away to get my phone out of my bag? And what if I forgot the Epipen? What if a million other things?
I’ve been writing this blog post in my head for days, but I haven’t wanted to write it. I still don’t and I’m having a hard time doing more than just getting down some facts. I feel flat, dry, trampled.
The first day of nursery school was this morning. I sent Adam and along with his diapers and change of clothes, I packed the Epipen. It made me sad. But the picture below makes me happy, and I’m working on a plan. I want to train Adam’s feline guardians to become nut-sniffers, though I’m not sure how they’ll feel about going to nursery school every day.