Something terrifying.

No previous surgeries. No medications. No medical conditions. No known drug allergies. No known allergies.

No known allergies. NKA in shorthand speak. NKA will never be written on Kate’s charts again.

I am a humor writer but this is not a funny post. It’s a terrifying one.

“Your daughter’s next exposure to shellfish could be fatal.”

Your daughter. Fatal. The words slapped me in the face. Kate is at school now. She’s walking on a tightrope with no net under her. Or maybe she’s an acrobat on a swing with no net.

Kate is one bite away from anaphylaxis. Kate could fall.

It took one weekend to become that mom. It took two rolls of sushi on two different days. California rolls to be exact, with crab. I became the mom that reads food labels and questions waiters. I became the mom living with a desperate fear in the back of my mind and I’m not sure if it will ever go away. I am the mom that will be hovering within a few miles from the school. I will be the mom with a very expensive EpiPen in my purse. I will be the mom whose heart stops every time the school calls.

Shellfish is one of the easier foods to avoid. It’s rarely hidden. In fact, Emma and Kate have lived their entire lives without crab or shrimp or lobster – until this weekend. It may be one of the easier foods to avoid but now it’s deadly.

The hives appeared first. We didn’t know what caused them. It could have been anything, really. Maybe her sheets haven’t been washed for awhile or maybe there was something outside that bothered her skin. It could have been a virus. The hives faded.

Kate ate a sushi roll with crab for the second time in a week. Kate loves sushi and she found a new love with crab sushi. Within the hour, Kate’s hives came back and they worsened. Her face swelled. Her hands and feet swelled. She said her throat hurt. Her breathing was ok. We kept Benadryl in her every four hours. At 2 am, with Kate scratching her body in her sleep beside me, it clicked. The crab.

Parties, restaurants, dinners, every meal Kate ate in her seven years flashed through my mind. I couldn’t think of a time she ate shellfish. She’s never eaten lobster. “Gross, it looks like a big bug!” She’s never eaten shrimp. “Ew! I’m not eating that! There’s poop in that!” She’s never eaten crab.

The crab. She shouldn’t have eaten the crab. She should have said “no, I’m not eating that!” She should have rescued the crab like Ariel, the Little Mermaid.

The next morning, there was swelling but she looked better. Her hives started to fade then come back then fade again. Eventually the swelling disappeared. She appeared normal when she walked in the school this morning. She was happy.

I emailed the school nurse and Kate’s teacher. I called Kate’s pediatrician. I explained what happened. Even though we controlled her hives and swelling with medicine and she “got over it,” my mom instinct nagged me. Scott still wondered if it was a virus.

It wasn’t a virus. No. I made that baby in my body and I can feel it kicking. It’s kicking hard and I can’t ignore it. Something is wrong with her. She’s not ok.

Every medical professional I spoke to told me the same thing – 

“Your daughter’s next exposure to shellfish could be fatal.”


Wait, don’t go! Find me on FacebookTwitter, and Instagram. I am that mom screaming to the world that my child has a severe food allergy.

8 thoughts on “Something terrifying.

  1. That’s how allergies work, sometimes. It starts off with something minor (hives!). Next time it’s hives and swelling.
    Totally. Scary.
    Thank goodness for that mom instinct. I have an allergy that triggers my asthma (sulfites – a preservative that is in so many things, including wine!!) and now I have to read all the labels. It’s not the same as when it’s your kid who is in danger, but I can relate to label-reading, at least.
    Kate is in good hands 🙂


  2. Oh, that poor baby girl. Shellfish is so delicious! Is it something people sometimes outgrow? Our middle one is allergic to most everything, and we have those expensive epipens for him too. Poor kid gets two shots every Saturday now for like 8 months or something as part of some allergy thingy. Yeah, thankfully, my wife has good instincts too, because I’d be telling him to suck it up or just giving him Tylenol. In all seriousness, parenting can be hard work, so it’s lucky for the kids when at least one of the parents isn’t a mental numbnuts when it comes to important stuff like this. I wish her the best….and you too since I know you’ll always worry about her from now until you die.


  3. Ugh. I totally feel you. My 2 yo is allergic to peanuts, tree nuts, sesame seeds, dairy, and eggs. We keep an epi pen with us at all times, even when we go to the neighborhood park. I am terrified of my daughter going to other kids’ houses for playdates when she is older.. But you get used to it, to some extent. I cried and cried when we got the diagnosis, over a year ago. And now it feels normal. All the interrogation of waiters, all the planning when we go to other people’s homes for dinner, always bringing her special snacks… It’s just how we live. I am hopeful she will outgrow at least some of them, being so young, but yeah. It’s hard.


    1. Oh man, the peanuts. I can’t imagine trying to eliminate that. It’s hidden everywhere!! I told Scott, “what if Kate is in college and she gets drunk and is not careful to see what she’s eating?” My mind went off the deep end. We’re taking her to the children’s hospital tomorrow. I have a list of questions. It sucks for kids now. It makes me sad it’s so life-threatening.


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