Sunday, July 27, 2008

All by myself

Cue treacly music...
I spent yesterday the afternoon/evening in Denver shopping for a dress and shoes to wear to a wedding while my partner went to Ellich Gardens (formerly 6 Flags) with our friends and their kids. We had decided that it was not safe for me to go based on the the popcorn and nachos sold in the park, and I reeaally needed to get that dress. That was pretty much it for smart decisions for that outing.

I had already programmed the places I wanted to go into the GPS and was ready to start what promised to be an all day shop-a-thon. Everything was going fine till about 2:30 when my stomach signaled that it was time for lunch. I realized that I very rarely eat by myself away from home and since I was the one with the car there was going to be a BIG problem if I had a reaction. So, I tried to ignore the lunch concept lunch figuring that we could all get something for dinner or maybe I would see a Whole Foods before then where I could get a FAGE (corn free) yogurt. Eventually I pulled into a Safeway to get some water and got hit by a bunch of chemical corn-y fragrances just trying to get to the water isle. That's when I started thinking that maybe this shopping alone day wasn't the best idea.

But, I was on a shopping mission, I had to find this dress and shoes and I had not wanted to inflict this slog on any of my friends, so I kept going. Amazingly enough, I found a dress in a relatively short time. After trying on so many things I think I had too much fashion and too many clothing chemicals so I decided to go to the Apple store for my next errand, a new power adapter. Since I had downloaded all the Apple stores in the US to the TomTom map, it was easy enough to let the GPS direct me there. What I didn't know was that it was not a stand alone store, like the one in Boulder, but was inside a mall. With all the corn-y foods and fragrances being sprayed everywhere, malls are a high hazard area for the corn allergic. I don't really have a good excuse for what I did next, except that I really wanted this power adapter, I am overly attached to my computer and will take stupid risks for it. Geek girl. I decided to go far enough into the mall to look at a map and if the Apple store was too far I would either drive around to avoid the hazards or just quit. So I parked, and I went through the minefield of the Macy's cosmetics area. Nobody was spraying perfume, my lips weren't tingling with "you are being poisoned" warning, things seemed okay as I rushed through the store, trying not to look too panicked. I figured if I ran or looked really nervous their security would have a reason to stop me and only having a limited life span in a mall, so have to get in and out before I hit something that causes a big reaction.

Made it out of Macy's, into the atrium, no popcorn, some pretzel things but nothing pushing pure corn proteins into the air--safe so far and the directory straight ahead. Found the Apple store, 1 floor up, food court far away, Apple store just past the Nine West/Easy Spirit shoe stores. Up the escalator, no perfume on this level, into the Apple store, away from all the smells except technology. Safe. This mad dash through allergen land turned out to be for nothing as there were no G4 adapters in stock. As I prepared to dash back through the minefield to the parking lot, I stopped at the shoe store to find some silver sandals to go with my new fancy dress. After trying on about 6 pair of shoes, I wound up buying the first pair I had tried on -- needlessly prolonging my time in allergen land. At this point I felt like I needed a diving watch to show how long I had been in and how much time I had left, or at least someone with me to tell me if I was showing any of the preliminary signs of exposure.

Since there was nothing I could do about it now, I hustled back down to the first floor, past the pretzel stand, through scary fragrance and cosmetic land and out to the beautiful fresh air of the parking garage where I wanted to take in big lung-fulls of ethanol laden exhaust, but thought better of it. So I hustled to the car, cranked up the a/c with the air on recirculate, and tried to think of somewhere safe to go till it was pickup time from the park.

I wanted somewhere small and quiet, so I picked through the favorites programmed into the TomTom till I found the Tattered Cover , a great local bookstore on the 16th street pedestrian mall in LoDo. Quiet, calm, fragrance free, local, they probably even had something I could eat if I got really desperate. Usually I take food along for me, but it had been a exhausting week and I had not given myself enough time to get organized that morning. I passed a Whole Foods while I was driving, and, in retrospect, I should have just gone there, had a yogurt, bought a magazine and hung out for an hour. The Tattered Cover is a great bookstore, I finally bought Michael Pollan's book, The Omnivore's Dilemma, which, if you don't know where your food comes from, you really ought to read (you will also want to visit and ).

Here is where I made my mistake. I sat down. I relaxed. I got tired. So, I thought I would have a latte. I ordered my coffee, checked to see that the milk was from the local dairy (not the local dairy where I live, but one close to Denver that I thought was corn safe-I had forgotten to recharge the palm pilot and couldn't check the list) in a plastic, not cardboard, container, and I brought my own cup -- all the variables covered. I had coffee at the Tattered Cover about 6 months ago with no problems, I didn't think there would be a problem this time. Unfortunately previous successes do not accurately predict present conditions. The coffee was decent, I was running on fumes so I drank it quickly, rather exercising caution and holding a small sip in my mouth for a moment to see if my lips start to tingle (I am the queen at surreptitiously spitting things out). As I drank the last sip I my face started to tingle and the phone rang, time to go to Elich's to pick everyone up.

Great, now what? If I take Benadry, I can't drive, if I don't take Benadry, I might not be able to breathe. I quickly ordered another coffee, for A. not for me, so that he could stay away for the hour drive home once I took Benadryl, and started popping Zantac. Zantac, according to my allergist, is a histamine B blocker. I was hoping this would help buy me a little time while I drove to Elich's (about 5 min.) 1 min to get the coffee + 5 for the drive, then Benadryl time. I felt like a junkie craving a fix as I drove. I trying to drive safely, keep a eye on the unfamiliar streets, pay attention to the reaction and my breathing, listen to the TomTom, and figure out how long I had before I couldn't stop this reaction and need the Epi-Pen. While my brain was handling all these tasks, there was also that not-so-helpful-internal voice screaming WHAT WERE YOU THINKING! IS THIS HOW YOU WANT TO DIE!

Obviously, everything worked out and I even managed not to used the Epi-Pen although now I think I should have. 3/4 of a bottle of Benadryl and a lot of wheezing and coughing later everything worked out. Today I feel like I was beaten up, but from the inside, and my lungs and throat hurt. That's why I think I should have used the Epi-Pen. My rule is as long as I am breathing okay I don't use it -- my allergist relaxed his initial advice for me or I would be using 1 every week. His advice was whenever your lips or tongue swell use the Epi-Pen. Now it is whenever your breathing is impaired. [Note: If you have an allergy and are reading this --do not change your usage, this depends on how your reactions progress!!! Always follow your allergist /doctors recommendations for the use of the Epi-Pens, these things can save your life! Nothing I say in this blog is actual medical advice, I am NOT a doctor. This is just about the stupid stuff I do. I am the horrible warning, not the good example.]

What I was going to write about when I started this post was how infrequently I am alone all day, particularly when I eat. There are only a few places in our town that are corn safe and they know me, so that is not a problem. The chef at one restaurant recently watched King Corn and thinks that it is cool that I can eat at their place with a corn allergy, and likes making the adapted food for me (no peels on my cucumbers please). When I travel, I am usually with my parner so if I have a reaction he is there to help me deal with it. As an added bonus, he is aware of the early signs ( I get a crimson butterfly mask pattern on my face and a sharpening of the outline of my lips before I feel it) and can start me on Benadryl before it becomes a critical problem and can take over things that I can't do once Benadryl is involved, like driving or decision making. I like to think I am an adult and it would be nice not to need a watcher, but all by myself I am a hazard to myself.

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