Saturday, September 25, 2010

Near death experiences and other tales from my weekend

I will start by saying the good news is that this story has a happy ending. Assuming you think me living through it is a happy ending that is.
For the past month I've been very excited to take off a few days and drive up to DC. I just needed a break from Roanoke, and wanted to see "my" town, be around other fun single adults, and just feel fun again. In Roanoke I feel like a daughter, granddaughter, sister, and cousin. I very rarely feel like a fun single woman.
So off I went yesterday, excited to go to dinner with friends, and looking forward to going to Adams Morgan- one of my favorite ethnic neighborhoods in DC. I was wearing a favorite pair of shoes I have worn a million times. But every once in a while my feet rebel and in spite of there being no good reason for it, my feet suddenly and very rapidly get covered in painful blisters. So there I am in a walking area, and my feet are starting to bleed (this is after just a few blocks of walking! nothing major!). I toughed it out and did my best, and thankfully my friends were sympathetic about it.
One of my awesome girlfriends let me sleep in her guest bedroom. And naturally we stayed up way too late enjoying some girl talk. And I have to say, it was good for my soul to talk to a like-minded, single woman, who has shared many of the same challenges in life, and just compare notes. I feel like my life isn't quite so singularly sucky anymore.
I've had a bad head cold for a few days now, but forgot to bring my cold meds with me. Overnight I developed a bad cough. In the morning I got up to go to the Washington, DC Temple. I stopped at CVS and picked up massive huge bandaids for my blisters (I could barely walk my feet are so cut up) and some Sudafed. First aid applied, and I was off to the Temple.
I have almost NO memory of being in the Temple, other than that I was sleepy. It was impossible to keep my eyes open! I even fell asleep standing at one point and nearly fell over! (I have mastered the art of falling asleep standing. True story- I once fell asleep standing up at a They Might Be Giants concert at the 9:30 Club.) I know I did a session at the Temple, but honestly couldn't tell you a thing about it. I found a comfy chair in the Temple and slept like a rock for over an hour. I went out to my car and fell asleep again in the parking lot.
When I finally woke up enough to be logical I checked the Sudafed box. As you may have guessed, I hadn't taken the non-drowsy formula. I must have accidentally picked up the wrong box. This wasn't just a "may cause drowsiness" version either. The warnings said "may cause marked drowsiness." I"m here to tell you, it does!
Once I was coherent enough to think straight and drive, I drove down to Tysons Corner Center. It's my happy place. I love that mall! I went to one of my favorite restaurants, Coastal Flats, and ordered the special- grilled mahi and cauliflower mash. It was DELICIOUS! I was in love! The cauliflower mash was so good I couldn't stop eating it. And I inhaled the mahi mahi. But the mash was so good, and there was this little popping taste every few bites. I had never tasted anything like it! I loved it! So I stopped playing with my cell phone long enough to actually inspect what I was eating.
Oh no!
For those who don't know, I have a life threatening allergy to corn. NOT GOOD!
Turns out I was eating polenta, and not cauliflower mash. I had read the menu wrong! I quickly warned the waitress that I was about to go into a horrible allergic reaction. I remembered I had a Benadryl in my purse (specifically for emergencies like this. ironically, i hadn't taken it earlier in the day because i didn't want it to make me drowsy at the temple) and took it. (Oh and if you don't know that polenta is made from ground up corn, now you do!)
My throat starting getting tight and hurting. I ordered the waitress to start bringing out Dr P's as fast as she could. There's something about feeling like your throat is constricting that helps if you can be swallowing or sipping something. Knowing you can still swallow can help a lot. Also, focusing on drinking like that can keep you from hyperventilating. Also, I wanted the caffeine to quickly counteract the drowsy effect I was bound to get.
I was terrified. I couldn't drive myself to the hospital in that condition. I had no one I could call to come rescue me fast enough. All I could do was sit there and wait for it to get bad enough to call an ambulance. Or hope and pray someone in the restaurant would have an epi pen on them. My poor waitress appeared to be equally terrified and was never more than a few feet away. I have never felt to completely helpless or trapped. This was honestly my worst fear come true- a life threatening allergy, and no one around who knows how to help me! What would happen if I suddenly stopped breathing in the mall and collapsed? Corn is such a bizarre allergy, no one would think that was the problem!
My imagination ran wild with scenarios as I sat there for another hour, just waiting for the worst to happen. But it never came! It was the craziest thing! In spite of the fact that I ate enough polenta to kill me and then some, I never got much of a reaction besides a tight throat.
Finally I left a very generous tip (a waitress who makes sure you don't die deserves a nearly 50% tip, right?) and went shopping. I paid my respects to H&M and went back to my friend's house. By the time I got there I was tired again, and lied down on the bed, still holding my keys, and wearing my shoes, and woke up an hour later.
I checked the Sudafed again. It had antihistamines in it. Exactly what I would need if I had an allergic reaction. My stupid little mistake this morning saved my life this afternoon! I already had the counteragents in my body and didn't even know it! That combined with the Benadryl is all I would really need to avoid a bad reaction.
Sadly, I also made an interesting discovery. Corn is delicious! I haven't had real corn since I was about 8 years old! I had no idea what it tasted like. Turns out corn is good! Too bad I will never risk my life to try it again. I wish I didn't know now what I've been missing all these years.
I'm back in Roanoke now, in my own bed, and I've just taken another dose of the Sudafed. I'm looking forward to sleeping tonight like I haven't slept in years! Goodnight!


  1. Anonymous3:15 PM

    Reading's a good thing, try it sometime.

  2. I'm so glad that you are okay!

  3. glad you are ok, keep safe and healthy!

  4. Wow, corn allergy? Weird cuz corn is literally in EVERYTHING. How do you stay away from it?

  5. Anonymous11:28 PM

    how do you fall asleep 1 standing up, 2 at the 9:30 club (a great live music venue along with the blues alley) and 3 in front of a great band? that is just odd and i would like to explore this more. also glad you didnt die from you food allergy.

  6. SJ- It is very hard to stay away from corn. For the most part, I just try to avoid all processed foods! Its not easy! I pretend to stay away from corn syrup, but fail most of the time. It just leaves me with a bad stomach ache I've learned to deal with. And I try to buy "grass fed" beef and chicken when possible (not corn fed).

    Anonymous- don't ask me how I do it. I just do! I've even fallen asleep while walking. I can fall asleep just about anywhere except my own bed. Also, I am a world class sleepwalker! (Just ask my parents!)


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