Braille camp, allergic reactions, and thesis progress

Back from my second trip which was teaching a braille camp for children. It went really well, especially considering this was our first camp. Some of my activities went over extremely well and some were flops (but no complete flops!), so there will be some things to revise if we can secure funding for the camp next year (which I hope we will). I hope I am invited back as head instructor next year. The entire experience was a blast, including working with the other mentors volunteering to teach the camp. It's been seven years since I've taught a large group of students (rather than one-on-one or in small groups); didn't realize how much I actually missed it!

The kitchen staff were also amazing! The head chef sat down with me and the nurse at the wellness centre and went through the entire menu with me to made substitutions. They even asked how comfortable I was with other people around me eating potatoes, and I said I was fine. They had sugar-free Jell-O and sugar-free syrup and such for me to use. So I didn't to eat any of the food I had brought except for the coconut milk.

The second day at camp I had an allergic reaction after dinner. Everyone else had baked potatoes and chicken that night and I had chicken and rice. I had a small muffin for dessert. While I was eating the muffin my mouth started to tingle, but I ignored it because I thought I was just being paranoid about allergies from all the potatoes around. Ten minutes later my throat was feeling constricted when I swallowed and I was feeling a bit wheezy. I took a Benadryl at that point. About ten minutes later my back started itching and, the scariest part, my heart started racing really fast. I thought maybe it was SVT since I've had that in the past. I stayed in my bedroom for about half an hour and then went to a planning meeting with the other staff and then went to work on my thesis. By 8:30 I was feeling a bit better but my throat and back still felt weird. I went to bed around 10:30 but couldn't sleep because the reaction started to get worse - my heart started racing like crazy again, swallowing felt worse, and my face felt really hot/flushed. I started to seriously think about using my epi pen and going to the wellness centre. But then I knew they would call 911 and since the camp is outside a city a visit to emergency would probably go into the next morning, and I didn't want to let people down on the second day of a camp that I was running.

In hindsight I'm pretty sure I was stupid and made an extremely risky decision and should have used the epi pen when my heart first started racing and I was itchy and wheezy and my throat felt weird. I think the fact that I had no hives or swelling at all threw me off, but I think the combination of the other symptoms still equates to a serious allergic reaction. When I had a severe reaction last year I swore to myself I'd use my epi pen next time I had a reaction as severe. Well, this reaction wasn't quite as bad as that one, but it was pretty bad, and I didn't use the epi pen. I really need to get over this reluctance to either use the epi pen or at least call 911 when I have serious reactions. I've just been really lucky so far that reactions have always eventually resolved on their own instead of progressing.

The next morning I told the nurse what had happened (I felt guilty telling her because I knew how hard the kitchen staff was trying). She said I should have come to her the night before if I'd taken a Benadryl and still wasn't feeling right hours later. She went and talked to the kitchen staff and came back and said that the muffin I'd eaten had contained milk. Up until that point I wasn't even thinking milk; I just figured that I'd somehow had contact with potatoes. My allergist has told me that he thinks I am very allergic to milk and need to be very careful about avoiding it, but I didn't think milk was approaching this kind of severity. But maybe I'm wrong. I'll definitely be extra careful about avoiding it from now on.

I got home yesterday. I flew home on one of those giant planes with two aisles, and slept most of the five-hour flight. Today I did some assistive technology training with a private client I have. While away at camp I e-mailed back and forth with my thesis supervisor, and I am submitting the final copy of my thesis to my committee by Monday. I'll meet with my supervisor on August 7th, and my oral defense will be on August 14. I so can't wait to be done!

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Comment by Judith in Portland on August 2, 2014 at 10:26pm

Wow, my friend. What a few days! I'm so proud of you for all that you do and all the ways in which you make a difference in the world while struggling with multiple difficulties....And bravo to the kitchen staff!.....Blessings


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