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Why I Stopped Being Complacent About Food Allergies and Always Carry My EpiPen

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About 20 years ago, after a lifetime of eating shellfish, I went into anaphylactic shock and almost died. My entire face was swollen, I was dizzy and my whole body felt very tingly and itchy. My tongue was swelling up to the point of being unable to breathe.

Kathy and her son
Kathy and her son.

Thankfully, I was minutes away from St. Vincent’s Hospital in Staten Island. The ER staff gave me many doses of epinephrine and saved my life.

I felt pretty bad for a few weeks after this incident, but eventually my body recovered, and life went on. It was easy to avoid seafood restaurants, so I have, and to this day I have not been back to one.

I followed up with my doctor once after this incident and was given a prescription for EpiPens. I refilled my prescriptions occasionally but didn’t always carry the auto-injectors with me.

Just like many people, I did not take it seriously enough. I got over this scary event, then barely ever thought about it.

Until something similar happened to my 4-year-old son.

The son who is my world, the son who I love more than myself. The son who I would do anything to protect.

This time it was real.

This time it really woke me up and hit home. This time it affected someone other than myself — one of the people I love most. My second child, who came after many miscarriages. The second child who made my heart grow even bigger than I ever knew possible. I had to get my daughter tested also, and educate myself more about EpiPens and food allergies to learn to protect my children.

I did not know then what I know now:

What I know now is that I don’t know much, and I have a lot more to learn about EpiPens and anaphylaxis. I know that I will keep educating myself in order to keep my family safe. I try to learn something new every day. I take it one step at a time, so I do not feel too overwhelmed.

Do not wait until it’s too late; learn all about the dangers of food allergies.

One in 13 children have them. It’s a growing epidemic.

We must all take them seriously. We must all act to protect our families, friends and neighbors and try to make a difference.

I am no longer complacent. I take life-threatening food allergies very seriously now. I have them. My husband has them. And now my son has them.

I’ve finally realized how important this is. I’ve finally realized what I have to lose. The loves of my life…

Editor’s note: Any medical information included is based on a personal experience. For questions or concerns regarding health, please consult a doctor or medical professional.

The Mighty is asking the following: What’s one thing you thought on the day of your or a loved one’s diagnosis that you later completely changed your mind about? If you’d like to participate, please send a blog post to Please include a photo for the piece, a photo of yourself and 1-2 sentence bio. Check out our Submit a Story page for more about our submission guidelines.

Originally published: May 9, 2016
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