Thursday, March 19, 2015

A Brush with Death

I really like to eat. Not only that, but I quite like to try new things when I do.

It peeved me, as a result, when nearly ten years ago I experienced a rather violent food allergy to either crab fat pasta or fern salad, the only two "new" things I tried that night. I was rushed to the emergency room that night, and fortunately, was able to get timely treatment, which involved injections of steroids and other drugs that I had not only never had introduced into my system, but which I had avoided like the plague.

It was a life-changing experience, that, and not in a good way. I had already gotten to the age where I would have to watch how much I would eat, but now it became important to watch what I ate, as well. The good news was that I was not hit with another attack for several more years (at last three), and it was similarly unpleasant; it involved driving myself to the emergency room and sleeping in an office in the hospital (as all the beds in the ward were full) after my horse tranquilizer of an antihistamine put me out for about four hours or so.

The third attack was particularly bothersome; I experienced a violent reaction to some whole wheat pancakes with strawberry syrup, and just as I was about to board a flight for Tacloban City. What bothered me was not so much the discomfort I felt as a result of the attack but the fact that the medical staff at the airport (NAIA-3, for anyone who's curious) were at a near-complete loss as to what to do. I was the one who had to tell them to shoot me up with epinephrine. I eventually received proper medical at a clinic on top of SM Megamall. It's fortunate that my attack then was not as severe as the one that followed, years later.

I haven't, unfortunately, quite narrowed down what it is that gives me food allergy, and unfortunately, this has caused me to be a lot more selective about what I eat than I would like. My menu for the last several years can basically be reduced to less than two dozen different kinds of food. Last year, on a trip to Bangkok, I wanted dearly to try some deep fried locusts, but I didn't dare, as I wasn't keen on dying for it.

Flash forward to yesterday morning. Before I woke up, I dreamed about Jay Tan, a dear, dear friend of mine who passed away at 32, from complications related to a kidney transplant. I rarely ever dream about him anymore, and every time I do, it feels like a vaguely bittersweet thing, especially since, most of the time he just stands around and smiles, even when I try to talk to him.

I woke up from the dream, and had a breakfast consisting of a new brand of chocolate chip pancakes (Krusteaz, if anyone is curious, which I only bought because my previous brand, Pilsbury, has apparently stopped making them) I had just bought from the grocery store over the weekend. My daughter, who had gotten up earlier than everyone else because of her how early her school bus picks her up, was complaining that her chest hurt and that she could not breathe. I thought that she had simply contracted a virus that was basically going around the house from my wife, and told her she could stay home from school.

After finishing the first piece, I began sneezing and coughing, and felt a distinct, sharp pain in my chest. I thought, then that I had caught the bug myself, and I popped some vitamin C and a flu pill. Within minutes it became exponentially harder to breathe, and my eyes began to swell, and it was then that I realized that this was no bug; this was my first food allergy attack in almost three years.

My presence of mind helped; my wife and sister-in-law rushed me to the nearest hospital, and no sooner had I set foot in the emergency room than I started to projectile vomit. I made alternate trips between the sink and their (mercifully clean) toilet. The doctor, unlike the poor excuses for professionals at the airport, were quite prompt in taking action, even as I was starting to writhe in pain from my stomach aches. This was a particularly violent attack. But that wasn't what was bothering me.

What bothered me was the dream.

I was terrified, in that moment, that Jay had come to pick me up and take me home, or "sundo" as the vernacular goes. All of my closest relatives are still alive, and I was never particularly close to my grandparents, but this guy I loved like a brother. And so it stood to reason that, at this point in my life, if anyone was to "fetch" me from this mortal coil, it would be him.

And, as far as I can remember, for the first time in my nearly forty years of existence, I shouted, out loud, in the emergency room, "I want to live! I don't want to die yet!" It felt distinctly ridiculous as soon as I said it, even though at the time the doctor and nurses were elsewhere and didn't hear me.

Well, obviously it all worked out and here I still am, though, like before, I was pumped with copious amounts of steroids, as a result of which I am now required to "taper off" for a few days, and I was given, yet again, what felt like horse tranquilizers as they kept me knocked out the whole day.

There's no moral to this story, really, or any earth-shaking realizations about the human condition, but I found it funny that, after all I've seen and even been through in this life, I could still be as terrified as I was yesterday morning, sitting on a hospital gurney, because of some lousy pancakes.

My daughter, who also went to the E.R. with me, is fine, by the way. They just gave her a pill and she was fine.