At this point, maybe I should stop explaining that this will be a long post, because that's pretty much the norm around here. ;)
We had a very unexpected incident when we tried to make our annual trip to see Dr. Xiu-Min Li in New York. I recounted our tale on a support group page, but I also want to share it, here, in the hopes that it might help someone.
Well, we didn't make it to New York on Tuesday, as we had a little incident at the Dallas airport. I never want people to worry, so I want to point out that my daughter is totally fine, now, other than very disappointed about not completing the trip to NY.
Our itinerary was to fly SAT (San Antonio) -> DAL (Dallas) -> LGA (NY). The SAT->DAL leg is 1 hour and the DAL->LGA leg is 3 1/2 hours. Last year, our trip with the same itinerary was totally fine, with no issues.
Anyway, given DD's multiple food allergies, I always pack all her foods and she doesn't eat anything "outside". I did give her some apple juice from the beverage service (not my best idea, ever) on the DAL flight, but it was at least an hour before the problem started, so I don't think it was related.
I'll try to recount the events with my [internal monologue] in brackets.
So, we're sitting at the gate, waiting to board the DAL -> LGA flight, which was 30 minutes delayed. We had already been at the airport for about an hour, hanging out. Then, I see her touch her throat and make a sound and she said, "Mommy, my throat STINGS"...
[Oh, NO, not now, what could it be? Oh, no, oh no, keep it together, stay calm...]
It's NOT the kind of thing we want to hear from our kids, right?! The thing is, though, she often says her throat is "warm" or "dry" or "hot" when she is thirsty. I wish she had better terms for it, as they are tortuous to hear, but she has been saying that all her life. This time, though, she said it stung and I said let's go get a drink.
[Should I be taking her to get a drink? Oh I hope she is just thirsty, we have 15-20 minutes before we're supposed to board this 3.5-hour flight...]
I bought her a water and we went to the Family bathroom (where we could be alone). She took a sip and I asked if the water helped. She said yes, but then said, hmm, no, give me more. She tried like 6-7 sips but it didn't stop the feeling. I decide to give her some albuterol, since she hadn't eaten in over an hour.
[Albuterol? Do you really think you should be doing this, first? Ugh, well she hasn't eaten anything in over an hour, but where is this coming from? She said the feeling is different than normal. What would you tell other people to do? Oh, let's hope this works, but am I doing the right thing??]
I gave her 2 puffs of ProAir HFA, but the first one came out half-heartedly, since we hadn't used it in so long and I don't think I shook the canister in my haste. After the ProAir, we waited a minute and she said, "OK, I think that might have helped." So, I'm like ok, good, though still nervous.
[OK, she thinks she feels better...Try not to panic, let's see how it goes...Oh, dear, the flight is boarding in like 15 minutes...]
We went back to the waiting area, and she sat down, but then said, "No, I feel it again" [NO!] and she emphasized a wheezing sound (sometimes she kind of "makes" a wheezy sound on purpose to show when she feels throat/breathing discomfort - she is not a traditional, out-of-breath wheezer) and I said what was that sound and she said "my breathing" and she made this fist tightening hand motion when describing the pain of the air going down her throat and she said something about "tight" and "pain" (she could talk plainly, so it wasn't too dramatic, but still)...
[I need to do something, NOW, and get help...]
I asked the gate agent if there was a place for medical help and Morgan tugged me and said, "Mommy, I don't feel well, I need to sit down"...[Oh, that is IT, I just have to give her the EpiPen, there's no way I can take the chance. I don't know what in the world is causing this, but she needs something now and the albuterol isn't taking care of it.]
I gave her the EpiPen right next to the gate agent and she put down her jacket so I could lay Morgan on the floor. [Ugh! The floooooor! It's so dirty! Thank you gate agent!]
Not even 10 seconds later, my daughter said, "Oh, that's MUCH better!" [OH THANK GOODNESS! OH MY BABY, MY BABY!] and I was talking her through it and she said her heart was beating fast and I told her that was the medicine, etc. I kept asking about her breathing and she said the medicine helped and it was better.
The paramedics came after a few minutes and it was a bit of a blur with Southwest employees asking for information, and answering the paramedics, etc. They put her on a stretcher and took her to an in-airport triage area. DD was shaken up, but handling things so well. The paramedic recommended taking her to the hospital for observation for a biphasic reaction (poor DD's eyes welled up with tears at the mention of "hospital" but I told her I'd stay right with her the whole time) and meanwhile they checked her vitals, which were all good.
[Oh, we've missed our flight...She didn't eat anything and this was probably asthma, but we should observe to be safe. Oh, my poor family, to have to get a text about this, even though she is doing just fine...She doesn't want to go to the hospital, but we need to be sure everything's OK...]
She was doing so well that I half-thought about not going to the hospital, but then I thought, no, she needs monitoring since I have no idea what happened or why. The paramedic was so funny because he told me he was glad I was being a sensible, logical adult by taking her to the hospital, but then he was telling me that he had a shellfish allergy and "needed to get himself a set of those EpiPens"...I was like, "Yes, you need to carry 2 doses at all times!"
I will say that I think it took a bit long for the ambulance to arrive for transport, but that might have been because she was reported as being alert, responsive, etc. They took us to the Children's Hospital and they put us in the "Asthma Wing" or something like that, which has chairs for breathing treatments. I'm guessing they also didn't think it was food-related.
It took them like 2 hours to bring her some oral corticosteroids and Benadryl, and the whole time she was fine, though she did say at one point that she felt the "feeling" again, but in a different way. It was hard for her to describe, but it wasn't very bothersome and nothing came of it.
Throughout the ordeal, Southwest Airlines customer service was so helpful. They gave me a number to call and the woman who helped me worked on getting everything arranged. At one point, I was considering continuing the trip in the morning and staying at a hotel, but, um, NO FOOD (and no luggage)! As most of you can plainly understand, I couldn't just get food for her any random place. There was a space of time where I had called for a cab from the hospital and I had to decide - airport to go home, or hotel to try to carry on...At the last second, when the cab arrived, I asked him to take us to the airport. After I came to my senses, I got us on standby for a 7:15pm flight home, with a 10pm fallback reservation.
[Throughout this ordeal, I had my dear friend was talking me through, checking on us, etc.]
By a miracle, we got on the 7:15pm flight. We were all the way in the back of the plane, but were SO grateful to be on it. We had no time, supplies, or energy to wipe anything down and I just put the novelty socks I carry, over the armrest. Then, a SWA employee comes on the plane and botches my daughter's name, asking for us to light up our call light. She comes to us at the back of the plane and says there is an irate passenger in the gate area saying that we somehow got ahead of her on the standby list. I almost broke down and DD's eyes teared up and mine started to well up and I pulled the tears back in and asked if she might explain that we had just come from the hospital and were trying to get home, etc. She said perhaps, but we'd have to deplane to sort out the issue. The other flight attendants on the flight were perplexed when we got to the front and were asking the lady why she had us get up when there were 2-3 empty seats on the plane. Apparently, the other staff member did her count wrong and we ended up being allowed back to our seat. Phew!
The flight attendants on our flight were so sweet to us. Poor DD was pale and exhausted, as the meds all kicked in. (Hospital had given her oral steroids and Benadryl...I refused Zantac and in hindsight probably should have refused the Benadryl...she had zero skin involvement.) By the way, on this flight, they asked if anyone had nuts from a previous flight, to not open them (they usually don't make that announcement anymore and just don't serve peanuts)...Toward the end of the flight, DD was asleep sideways in my lap and they asked if we'd like to deplane, first, and I was grateful, as I wasn't even sure I could wake her to have her walk out of the plane. They announced there was a "little one not feeling well" and asked everyone to stay put, etc., and nobody made a peep or grumble. I was grateful to them, as I know how badly EVERYONE wants to get off a plane when we land, so I felt bad inconveniencing everyone, but needed to get DD home, ASAP. When we arrived, they had a wheelchair for her and I pushed her to the baggage area. Ah, yes, our baggage. See, our baggage had continued on to LGA, so I had to asked for it to be returned to SAT.
DH was there to pick us up and we were so glad to be home! He brought a bag of safe snacks and drinks. He also went to pick up my luggage the next afternoon. I saw they put "RUSH" tags on it and we got it back in less than 24 hours! I called Southwest customer service to see if I could get the unused DAL-LGA portions of our travel refunded and they said they were giving us the WHOLE thing back and I could call and re-book that same itinerary (SAT-DAL-LGA) for free, when we were ready to return! Amazing!
Though it was not what we'd choose for our day or our trip experience, I think so many things worked in our favor. The 30-minute flight delay, which at first seemed annoying, turned out to be what saved us from having this happen on the plane, possibly mid-takeoff/flight. Also, my daughter felt near-immediate relief of her symptoms from the epinephrine, so I feel that gives her a "positive" experience with it, since she felt the results of treatment and it made her feel better. She knows she doesn't have to fear it. There were so many points at which we were lucky.
I *STILL* don't know what caused the asthma/throat issue, but I think the main takeaway lesson for me was that I may not always know WHY something is happening, but I just have to deal with what IS happening in front of me. We were in an airport, so I didn't have the comfort or luxury of a "wait and see" approach and she seemed to be getting worse, not better, and we know time is of the essence.
My daughter is very eager to get back and try the trip, again, but we will see how it all goes and are taking things day-by-day, for now. She slept a good 12 hours last night, which is more than she usually sleeps, so I think she is catching up and she has been fine and dandy ever since, so that bizarre incident will remain a mystery.
Since that incident, she has been completely fine and I find the whole thing to have been a complete fluke. I don't think I will ever know what happened, though some have wondered if the nearby Starbucks kiosk might have played a part, with its steamed milk. She has never had that kind of issue, before, but anything is possible. This happened in July, and we're now in October, and it all seems like a strange dream. I'm happy to say she is doing very well and doesn't seem to be having any heightened responses to anything, so I'm hoping this was just a one-off, random occurrence.