The other night was like any other night, as my husband, Michael, and I were getting ready for bed.
He was watching some mindless television, and I was responding to emails and checking my Facebook newsfeed on my iPad. Around midnight he reached over to give me a kiss goodnight, but was stopped dead in his tracks before his lips met mine. I did NOT like the look of horror on his face. That’s right: horror.
What, I thought, could he be seeing on my face to make his eyes bulge out so and render him speechless? I saw him take a big gulp, as he calmly recommended that I get up out of bed, march directly to my bathroom mirror, and check it out. I did NOT like his calm, controlled tone of voice, the kind one uses to disguise sheer panic.
I flicked on the bathroom lights and there it was, staring right back at me in the mirror: welt city! ACK! All over my face! My forehead, my cheeks, my noise, my eyelids, my under-eye area, the skin that covers my jawline and that leads up to my ears, you name it.
New ones were emerging by the minute. Every last inch of my face was covered almost completely with fiery-red blotches the size of quarters, some of them misshapen nickels, all of them very scary, monstrous, and ugly. I was afraid that, if the kids woke up from my loud gasp, that I’d really frighten them. But, why weren’t they itching me? They looked painful but, oddly, were not. I rued the suspicious shellfish I had for dinner at that restaurant earlier. Grrrr….
I was frozen in shock for a few minutes, assessing the enormity of my welty breakout. Weirdly, my first impulse was to photograph my allergic reaction. It had crossed my mind that I should document my condition just in case the medical examiner wanted proof of what finally did me in. Crazy, right? I even asked Michael to take some shots from angles I couldn’t reach.
The welts slowly spread across my body as I snapped away — red bumpy blotches traveling from my face to my shoulders, down under my arms, and slowly creeping down my torso. It even made its way down to the old legs.
Then it occurred to me that it WAS getting worse and that, maybe, I should treat it, somehow. I popped two pink Benadryl pills and gulped down some bottled water on my night stand and, generally, being a non-alarmist, tucked myself back into bed. As you were. Nothing to see here, folks. It would be all gone by morning, surely. Antihistamines are pure gold in these cases, after all.
I tried to cozy back into falling-asleep mode. Back to where I was. Now, where was I? Oh right, getting ready for bed. I rattled off random thoughts to Michael — my car needed an oil change, softball registrations were the next day for our eight-year old twins, and after work I’d pick up our older daughter from a play date (which is now referred to as hanging out, by the way). But mid-sentence, I had trouble speaking. Uh-oh.
My mouth felt weird. My upper lip was swelling up! That was it. Sorry, Michael, no sleep for you tonight. I roused him back to fully awake mode to show him. His eyes grew wide open once again, this time even more so. He declared I needed an Epi-Pen — the epinephrine, self-administered, intra-muscular injection to stop full-blown, allergic anaphylaxis — a life-threatening type of allergic reaction. Welts were one thing, but inflammation of my lip to the hardened size of corn kernals were another. Who knows if the swelling would travel down my throat and suffocate me.
Soon Michael was on the phone with a local pharmacy, having located one that was still open at almost one o’clock in the morning. As dentists, we are both licensed in New York State to prescribe medication, and pretty soon I overheard Michael talking to the pharmacist about my symptoms, telling him his license number, my date of birth, and our office address. This was all very sweet, his loving concern for me.
What was NOT sweet, however, was overhearing Michael discussing the COST of the Epi-Pen with the pharmacist! It seemed that a single dose cost $106.00. A double-dose was $225.00. Michael had just read, during his online search of Epi-Pen articles, that one of every five patients, requiring the medication, usually needed a second dose. But why, he wondered, were double doses more than just double the price? If anything, there should be a discount, he complained.
He rambled on to the poor pharmacist how this math and pricing did not make sense to him, and at one point, covering the telephone speaker, craning his neck from the other room, asked me,
“Grace, do you think you’ll need a second dose? I’m not sure if I should get a second dose or not.”
I couldn’t believe my ears! There I was, golf-balls for lips and fire-engine red welts on almost every last inch of my body, and all he could think about was haggling?! Over $13.00?!
I calmly replied that it would probably be better that he spend $225 now, buying the stupid, double-dose Epi-Pen, rather than paying someone to be cook, chauffeur, maid, tutor to his three children — not to mention finding another dental partner for our dental practice — when I am dead and gone. I think that he got the message from my tone and the daggers, with which I looked at him, because pretty soon he was out the door to pick up my double-duty medicine.
He returned about 30 minutes later, and thankfully, I was still alive. We opened the Epi-Pen packaging together, read the instructions carefully, and each practiced how to stab me in the thigh muscle, should the need arise later that night. It was almost two in the morning. Pretty soon, we were satisfied with our epinephrine preparedness and Michael was lying next to me in bed with me once more.
The Benadryl was starting to kick in and I was getting drowsier by the minute. My exasperation with him was starting to wane. Michael whispered to me that he was so glad I seemed to be okay. He told me not to worry, that he was right there if I needed him. I was very tired at that point, eyelids heavy as can be. He massaged my feet, because I mentioned they were feeling a bit swollen and itchy from the rash.
As always, for the past 20 years, having him near me was a great comfort, and especially now in my time of welty need. He stroked my hair, which I love, until I completely drifted to sleep. I felt safe, in his arms, realizing my life with my husband is nothing, if not funny and anecdotal.
I slept like a baby, and woke up welt-free and completely refreshed the next day, but with the Epi-Pen always within reach. Ha. ♥