He’s been taught to use it since three.
He’s seven now.
Time goes by and he practices and still… tonight’s drill was a shot in his lower butt, then his upper knee… he gets close to the thigh…and always misses. This skittish kid.. and his EPI pen.
We have this rhyme we do that he refuses to rhyme and instead completes the entirety of the need.
“Hey grown up! Help me please! Use the EPI.. PEN!!”
He’s so aware of his food allergies. He’s so aware how they have become who he is. And how he has grown with them, through them, out of them.
Cow’s milk until he was two. Peanuts until an oral challenge had him consume two tablespoons. Tree nuts remain that still cross contaminate so many things… especially baked anything and…sweets.
We’ve carried EPIs with us for most of his life. These last few years since he started school… they were either locked away in with the nurse or in a “very obvious medical bag” mommy had with her.
Today… I bought a purse.
I haven’t owned a purse…in… can’t remember. It’s always been a bag that counts as luggage at airports or a clutch or my back pocket… plus this black awful thing we carry representing the … life or death always immediate thing.
But not now.
He and I strolled into Target where I saw something I thought might work to blend that part of our lives into everyday coming and going. I made sure the EPIs fit along with his inhaler and mommy’s wallet and phone.
“You should get it!” He smiles excited that his medication fit inside.
It sounds like such a silly little moment. But it’s such a so significant moment of teaching him and helping him in the process that one day… he has to carry that EPI everywhere. Every day.
Seeing mommy move from “emergency medical bag” to “what I can never leave home without” meant something. It meant something in this whole world of “must always have with us the means to save his life if…” thing.
It’s a strange horrible unbelievable reality where words don’t do justice and very few could grasp why it even mattered that two EPI pens fit in a bag.
So I asked him if he thought we still needed to carry the practice EPI along with the real medicine.
Do we think most grown ups know or does he?
“The grown ups probably know. I want to. Let’s practice again.”
He tried. Swing and miss.
“You have to get better at this. But let’s do that rhyme so we know you’re safe?”
“Hey grown up! Help me please! Use the EPI (Pen)!”
And with that… we can only hope you know the other rhymes given:
“Blue to the sky. Orange to the thigh.”
If you have never learned how to administer an EPI during anaphylaxis shock…or the symptoms that signal it… please take a few moments to learn.
It won’t matter how much I teach and train and journey with this child in these coming years if grown adults are not in the ready to help if he needs it.
It won’t matter how much I transition him from “mommy’s got it” to “it’s now your responsibility son” if other grown ups can’t bridge that gap and not leave him alone.
He is at the age where the next ten years of his life rely on his navigation and the adults he has learned look out for him. As he learns to do it himself.
Be able to answer our rhyme. Please.
Nationwide Children’s: How To Use An EPI
Stats: Food Allergy from FARE
Elizabeth Grattan is a broadcast talent and writer who has covered current events, human interest and social justice for over twenty-five years. Her loves are laughter through tears, old ball caps, reasonably priced blended reds and her dream come true little man.