Thursday, August 14, 2008

Allergy Testing

On Tuesday, we finally broke down and had Tucker tested for allergies. The five and a half years leading up to this moment were filled with many allergy-related conversations, including:

Old women stopping me in Walmart to say "Honey, I think he might have chicken pox."

Different old women stopping me in the grocery store to say, "Look at his skin! You should really try putting some lotion on him!"

And, most recently, well-meaning mommies at Vacation Bible School (the hell that it was) bringing him to me during my only break because he had "hives," offering to give him the benadryl they carried in their purses because they're good mommies, and (when they couldn't get me to freak out) convincing him that he has an allergy to nuts and can never have m&ms again.

I suppose it was VBS that broke this camel's back because suddenly I realized that with Tucker starting kindergarten, I no longer control his environment. There will be substitute teachers, parent volunteers, and older know-it-all kids who will diagnose Tucker's skin condition and convince him of various leprosy-like maladies. We had waited for him to outgrow whatever evil had inflicted his skin since birth, but now it was time to take drastic measures.

I told the pediatrician that I was ready for allergy testing, and he gladly wrote up the required referral. I soon learned that when kids are tested(maybe adults, too, I don't know) the doctor covers their backs in topical lidocaine to numb the area before they begin pin-cushioning. This was going to be okay.

So Tuesday morning came, and Trey, Tucker, and I made our way to the allergist, prepared for the 2-3 hours of testing they told us about. Tucker knew they were going to numb his back (like the dentist does to your mouth) and that they would put stuff on him to see if he was allergic.

When we arrived, they slathered the lidocaine all over his scrawny little back, wrapped him in saran wrap (no joke), then wrapped the saran wrap in gauze, then told him to put his shirt back on and wait. He was smiling and happy - this was no big deal for a guy like him.

While we waited for the numbing to kick in, we sat through the interview with the allergist, or "The Great Inquisition." We answered bullet-fired questions for a full 45 minutes as if we had been present during the murder of a Hollywood starlet.

"When did the skin problems start?"
"What have you done to treat it?"
"List everything you've ever tried to correct his skin."
"Does his nose run?"
"When he's around certain things is his skin worse?"
"Does he scratch at night?"
"Does he sleep well?"
"Does he have asthma?"
"How do you treat his asthma?"
and on and on and on and on and on.

In that office I remembered that I don't remember anything. Especially when Trey was describing a skin treatment that we tried three weeks from his second birthday on a Tuesday. His memory is ridiculous, and mine is ridiculous in a completely different way.

I didn't want to seem like the forgetful mother, so I kept throwing in the names of the medicines I knew. Trey would be explaining the 10 step process he uses to treat Tucker's skin every morning and night, and I would yell out "diprolene!" When he talked about bedtime, I'd shout "benadryl!" Trey and the allergist kept looking at me like I was crazy. I was sure at any moment they were going to ask me to go play xbox in the other room so the grown-ups could talk.

But despite my lack of knowledge about my own son, we made it successfully through the inquisition. Then the testing began. For the first round, the nurse scratched Tucker's back with about 25 different allergens, including airborne allergens and the 5 most common food allergens. He never stopped smiling, never flinched. Then she set a timer for 12 minutes and left.

Tucker and Trey played brick breaker on Trey's phone while I stared at Tucker's back. It was amazing! Most of the little red spots started to go away pretty quickly, but there were two things he was obviously very allergic to. Two tiny pin pricks turned into giant whelps. I knew one of them was eggs (because she wrote "eggs" next to it), but I couldn't tell what the other one was because it only had an "H." For 12 minutes I studied the "H." What could he possibly be allergic to that starts with h? hogs? hot tamales? herons? I couldn't figure it out!

When the timer went off and the nurse came in, I descended on her like a hawk. "What's that H one?" I asked, "He's really allergic to it."

Turns out it was the "histamine" they use for the control group. I knew that.

Round two of testing was a little more difficult as he had to lay on his stomach on the table. This time they used needles and syringes to inject allergens, and they were very careful not to let him see the needles. After about 15 shots, he caught a glimpse of one of the syringes, and he decided this wasn't such a good idea after all. So Trey and I held our baby down while some person we had just met injected him with 7 more needles. Ugh.

Then we did it again for round three. Interestingly, he only calmed down when I began to count. As long as I was counting, he was okay. When I stopped counting, he screamed "I can't talk!" When he did so I explained that he could, in fact, talk because he just said the words "I can't talk," but I'm not entirely sure he appreciated my explanation so I kept counting.

Three and a half hours after we arrived, we left with good information. Tucker has a severe egg allergy, and we immediately removed all egg products from his life. I went to the store that afternoon to do egg-free shopping.

We also learned from lung tests that he is a true asthmatic. The doctor showed us that he has the lungs of a "great athlete" because his lung capacity is 131% - he can hold 31% more air than normal people. However, one random number (the large something capacity, maybe) was at 70% of what it should be and the other random number (small something capacity) was 16% of what it should be during the first lung test. After a breathing treatment, the first number increased 17% and the second increased 70%!

So we left with 6 prescriptions, a new skin regimen, daily asthma treatment, and a little boy who had received 25 pin pricks and 30 something shots. We were surprised to see he was smiling again. If his skin clears up, this will be worth it. If he starts getting more oxygen that he didn't even know he needed, it will be even more worth it.

For the first time since he was born, we feel like his skin might actually get better. I'm so thankful! So thankful that now we're going to take Keaton.

I feel another victory, too. Nut allergy - whatever...

1 comment:

emily bee said...

aw tucker is SO brave! i had allergy testing done twice, and it was nooooot fun. that is so helpful that you found out what it was. i took 4 shots a week for 2 years (yuck) but totally over time i grew out of them, so i hope tucker does, too! woo!