Weeks later, I met with a new pediatrician (looking back, I am ashamed to admit that we made the change for reasons that had nothing to do with food allergies...) -- I had interviewed him over the phone and, after deciding I liked him, I had scheduled an appointment for Susan to see him for a "check-up." During our visit, our pediatrician-to-be reviewed my children's medical history. My twins had had some issues, and we spent a lot of time talking about physical therapy, speech therapy...occupational therapy.
And then, just as I thought we were done, my pediatrician-to-be circled back to Susan. He must have seen something, because he asked about her skin. In response, I blurted out, "I think she is allergic to peanuts." She looked at me. He looked at me. I no longer remember what I said, but, I don't think it made sense.
My pediatrician-to-be looked at me, and even knowing we hadn't committed, he said, "What do you mean you *THINK* she is allergic to peanuts?" I explained -- I still remember the defensive feeling, the rush of blood to my face, words falling out of me -- as I explained that our (former) pediatrician had stated that there was no point in testing for food allergies prior to the age of three. I remember well the look that flitted across my soon-to-be pediatrician's face before he said firmly -- "Well, I disagree. Before you leave here today, I want you to have blood work done."
The pediatrician did not ask me why I suspected Susan had a peanut allergy -- in retrospect, I now understand that it does not matter why a parent thinks their child has a food allergy -- merely the suspicion is enough to merit testing.
A few hours later, my cell phone rang. I did not recognize the number -- and as I was still in the interviewing process, I had not put the pediatrician's number in my phone. I was surprised when the pediatrician identified himself, quickly saying that Susan's RAST for peanut was higher than any he had ever seen (it was a 78). He wanted to know where I was, and told me that he wanted to call a prescription for Epi-Pens in to the nearest pharmacy. He told me I should pick it up immediately. He added that I should not let Susan eat anything until I had the Epi-Pens. I no longer remember quite what I said, but, I do know that he clearly instructed me that Susan should not eat any new foods...and that he told me we needed a pediatric allergist.
I remember having a hard time taking it all in -- it in a matter of a few hours, I had gone from suspecting that Susan had a peanut allergy to us needing to carry around Epi-Pens and being referred to a pediatric allergist.
The pediatrician was reassuring, and said that he could see us the following day, if I wanted to be seen. In a split second, I decided that he would become our pediatrician, and I told him I wanted to see him the following day.
I remember not knowing what to think...and while I think I was at least a little bit afraid of the diagnosis of a food allergy, more than anything, I was confused and uncertain. Looking back, if I had known how serious Susan's food allergy was, if I had understood how it would impact her life...if I could have foreseen the reactions she had without ever actually consuming a peanut, I would have been terrified.
I should have been terrified.
It was only over time that I came to understand how truly frightening food allergies could be...