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Trying To Avoid Anna Filaktik: A Day In My Life With A Deadly Allergy 
by Bob Olson, OfSpirit.com editor

Having once lived in Los Angeles, Melissa and I love to return now and then for a visit. The last time we were there, we stayed in a quaint little condo in Santa Monica that was within walking distance of a cool outdoor shopping area called the Third Street Promenade. And within this grouping of hip stores are several restaurants, including one that I particularly like called Johnny Rockets--a 1950’s style hamburger joint that unintentionally almost killed me. We were vacationing with our two nieces, ages 15 and 17, and the four of us sat down at a table outside the restaurant that overlooked the vacationers and street musicians. After ordering a #12 hamburger with fries, I decided to get a chocolate malt to really set the mood. And this is where my problems began. 

Since I’m deathly allergic to peanuts, peanut butter and peanut oil, I asked the waiter if he could wash the blender prior to making my malt, since they also make peanut butter malts on the same machine. He assured me he’d do it himself, which got me thinking, “Nice. Big tip for this guy.” 

When I got the malt and began sucking it down like a six-year-old, I noticed something unusual was getting caught in my straw. “Cool! Marshmallows,” I thought to myself. “This must be something new they’ve added.” 

On the sixth marshmallow, I said to Melissa, “This is odd. I think they’ve added marshmallows to their chocolate malts.” 

Melissa, who was in deep conversation with our nieces, stopped in mid-sentence, “What do you mean there are marshmallows? Are you sure that’s what they are?” 

“I don’t know,” I replied, and I bit into one. That’s when my day turned a corner. The little marshmallow-like substance was actually dry peanut malt powder that had stuck together because it wasn’t blended enough. Having eaten five of these marshmallows already, I knew I needed immediate medical attention. This was the largest amount of peanut anything that I’d ever eaten, and I’d been in emergency rooms more than once after eating much less. 

This is when the waiter came over to ask if our meals were okay. I asked him why there was peanut malt in my chocolate malt and he said that the cook spoke Spanish and must have misunderstood him. I didn’t bother to ask the waiter why he didn’t do it himself like he had promised. Instead, Melissa and I knew we needed to react fast. 

I quickly asked if there was a pharmacy nearby and was told there was a vitamin store one block down. I ran to the vitamin store while Melissa paid the bill and got directions to the nearest hospital. Because time is of the essence in these situations, I asked the vitamin store clerk where the Benadryl® was located rather than search the shelves for it myself. He had it stored behind the counter and told me that all they had was Benadryl® Allergy & Cold medicine.

I grabbed the package from the clerk’s hand, looked at the dosage amount and downed four capsules before paying. I then threw ten bucks on the counter and told him to keep the change as I ran out the door and back to Johnny Rockets. When I got there, Melissa had already obtained directions to the nearest hospital, but she also called her brother, Scott, (who lived nearby) to drive me there, since finding anything in L.A. can be a time-consuming treasure hunt. 

Walking halfway back to our condo where we were to meet Scott, I remembered that I left my sunglasses on the restaurant table. Our nieces quickly volunteered to run back and retrieve them. Yet two minutes later, when Melissa and I got to the condo, my allergy symptoms had escalated quicker than they ever had before. By this time already, just minutes since biting into the peanut-powdered marshmallows, my face was swollen to where my eyes were closing up, I was sneezing and coughing, my lungs felt like they were filling up with fluid--which was causing me to wheeze--and I could feel my throat slowly closing from the swelling.

I now knew I didn’t have time to wait for Scott. With city traffic, there was no way to predict how long it would take him to get there. I decided to drive myself to the hospital using the directions Melissa had obtained. Melissa had to stay behind to wait for our nieces. Again, although they were only minutes away, every minute counted. 

I jumped in our rental car and drove down the busy, city street. Melissa was told there were 11 traffic lights to get to the emergency room of a teaching hospital. If I were forced to stop at each one, I risked anaphylactic shock, and, at worst case, cardiovascular collapse, which basically means death. So I hoped that I’d hit a lot of green lights… I didn’t. 

On any other given day, the streets of Los Angeles are riddled with police. Not this day. Although I was extremely cautious, I drove through red lights hoping to save myself time and, perhaps, get pulled over by a police officer who could give me a police escort. Yet no police were in sight. I drove through 8 red lights without drawing the attention of so much as a meter maid.

The directions were accurate and I found the hospital despite my increasing symptoms. That’s when something happened that I had never experienced before. Just as I walked through the emergency room doors, I began to white out. This is how I knew my allergy had escalated to a new level for me. By “white out,” I mean that everything in my vision was disappearing into white and my hearing was becoming silent. A few seconds later, my vision and hearing returned. And this kept happening every few minutes. 

I told the intern who was managing the emergency room patient-intake that I was experiencing a food allergy to peanuts and needed immediate attention. She told me that she would be right with me, but didn’t respond further. A minute later, I explained my predicament again, stressing to her that my allergy had already escalated to dangerous levels. She wouldn’t look at me, as if I were annoying her, then she said, “I’ll be right back” and exited through a door. 

I didn’t know if she was retrieving help or stepped outside for a quick smoke. Normally, in the 4 other peanut-related emergency visits of my past, I was escorted to an emergency room where a team of doctors and nurses quickly converged with injections, an EKG machine and who knows what else. Here at the teaching hospital, I was told to wait while my sight and sound continued to disappear every few minutes. 

When the intern walked back through the door, I was relieved. She said, “Come with me.” She then led me to a bench in the hallway and said, “Wait here, I’m going to see if anyone is available to help you.” 

I thought, “Huh? See if anyone can help me? She hasn’t even told anyone I’m here?” 

She quickly disappeared around the corner as everything turned white, once again. I was sure I was going to die. When my vision and hearing returned, I was having difficulty catching a breath. The wheezing now sounded like snoring. My throat was nearly swollen closed. I was lightheaded to the point of being dizzy. And my eyes were small slits from which to peek through.

I called Melissa on my cellphone. “You need to get here fast. They’ve got me waiting in the hallway. I don’t think the intake intern understands food allergies.” I didn’t want to alarm Melissa any more than necessary, but I now felt helpless. Nevertheless, at this point, they were just leaving the condo. 

Finally, a doctor came flying around the corner, as if he had just found out about me. His eyes widened upon looking at my condition, and he grabbed my shoulder and walked me to a gurney. He began asking how long it had been since I had ingested the peanut substance, what medication I had taken and how much of it. When I told him about the Benadryl® Allergy & Cold medicine, he appeared alarmed. I handed him the box that was still in my pocket.

“How much did you take?” 

“Four,” I said. “I wanted regular Benadryl® but the store only had the allergy and cold,” I added. 

“These have Tylenol in them,” he said. “You’re okay having only taken four, but if you had taken too many, the Tylenol could have shut down your liver. That would be a much bigger problem than what you’re dealing with now,” he said. 

Within seconds, the doctor gave me an injection of epinephrine, otherwise known as adrenaline, to administer the fight-or-flight response and keep my heart going. This caused my whole body to shake and become really cold. It also made me very emotional, and tears began running down my face as my hands, arms and legs began to shake.

A nurse came up to me and said, “You’re going to be okay. This makes your body do strange things, but it’s saving your life. It’s a good thing you got here when you did. With food allergies, every second matters.” 

“I wish your intern at the front desk knew that,” I thought to myself. But I didn’t have the energy to say it out loud and explain. 

The doctor then gave me a mega-dose injection of Benadryl®, which stops the allergic reaction. Now that I was beyond the shaking and shivering caused by the epinephrine, this new injection made me very sleepy and sort of dopey. At one point as I lay there, I opened my eyes to see about a dozen young doctors and nurses staring at me. My chocolate malt debacle had become a learning example for the students.

When Melissa came into the emergency room, she instantly fell to tears. She’d been through this before, but it’s something you never get used to seeing. The swelling had caused my face to distort in grotesque ways. Plus, now that she could let go of her worries and fears, her emotions came to the surface. 

Minutes later, the medication put me to sleep while it and the IV bags of who-knows-what did their work. As I slept, Melissa sat by my side for four and a half hours. All she could do was watch the multitude of medical emergencies that came and went. Six hours after my arrival at the hospital, it was time to leave. I thanked the doctor and nurses for their kindness and capabilities. Then I was given 5 days of steroids and the ever-helpful advice to “Stay away from peanuts.” Now why didn’t I think of that?

©Copyright 2007

____________________

For more articles by Bob Olson, visit www.ofspirit.com/bobolson.htm 

A former skeptic & private investigator, Bob Olson has been an Afterlife Investigator & Psychic Medium Researcher since 1999. In 1997, Bob Olson’s father died of lung cancer at the age of 64. Bob was just 35. The event ignited spiritual questions for Bob that he’d never before considered. Is there life after death? If so, what evidence exists to prove it? And, if one could prove the existence of an afterlife, was it also possible to know if our deceased loved ones exist in this afterlife, if they are okay, and if they are watching over us? Bob decided to use his skills as a private investigator to obtain answers, and this was the catalyst for Bob’s investigation into the afterlife.

In his search for evidence of the afterlife, Bob has tested hundreds of psychics, mediums & other afterlife-related practitioners. Bob is the host of AFTERLIFE TV, founder of BEST PSYCHIC DIRECTORY and BEST PSYCHIC MEDIUMS, and offers his PSYCHIC MEDIUM WORKSHOP to help psychics and mediums improve their abilities and business. Visit Bob on AFTERLIFE TV's FACEBOOK page & on TWITTER. And don't miss Bob's new book titled ANSWERS ABOUT THE AFTERLIFE.

 

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