I’m breathing life back into my blog.
It only took a brush with emergency services during a global pandemic to help me remember my WordPress password. And well, now, writing sparks so much joy, you’re stuck with me.
Mayday! Mayday! On May Day.
I think it’s what a lot of people who have eaten their way through a long, dark Swedish winter would think, when they look into the mirror and see that their face, neck and throat look a little odd: “Do I look fat? OR IS THIS THE START OF MY FIRST ANAPHYLACTIC EPISODE?” I went with fat.
On Friday, May 1, a public holiday in Sweden, I looked at myself in the mirror just after lunch and thought, “Jesus, do I really look like this? I look a bit weird but maybe I actually just look like this all the time and there is no cause for alarm...”. I went on organising some craft for my daughter and her friend; it was just us at home. I then sorted the recycling. I faffed about the house, scratched a bit, felt flushed, considered taking some anti-histamines but that moment passed; then I did the laundry.
Soon, I took another peek in the mirror, at my throat and neck, “Gee, I need to start working out a bit, I look SO FAT… is this normal? Or should I take a picture and ask my husband? I’D BE INTERESTED IN SEEING WHAT REPLY I WOULD GET TO THAT QUESTION”.
Time ticked on, ‘recycling craft’ was a big hit, the children were happy. I started scratching more; didn’t get any answers from The Swede. Turns out, my husband was impersonating his wife, by having his phone on silent and not answering any calls.
“Do I normally look like a wrestler? Where’s my collarbone gone?” The only person qualified to answer those sensitive questions was my sister-in-law, a board-certified medical doctor with emergency experience living in the same time zone as me. Via FaceTime, she confirmed, I was indeed very likely having an anaphylactic response, and no, I was normally not this fat between my ears and my shoulders. “Have you taken any medication yet?” she inquired. “I took one of these and one of these,” holding up the bottled evidence to the screen. “Merde! No, you need to take ONE of those, and 15 OF THOSE!”. What??? So your official recommendation is that I take 100% of the emergency dose of cortisone and not a mere 10%? She thought it was a good idea.
From a slow burn, things suddenly moved quickly, and by the time I’d walked upstairs and tried to take the additional 14 tablets, I realised I couldn’t really swallow or breathe much. This shit is getting real, I can’t swallow or breathe, I feel very, very faint, THIS IS A BAD, UNEXPECTED OUTCOME FOR TEAM SWEDEN. Self-talk kicked in, from god knows where: I can either CALM DOWN NOW and try to take one tablet at a time, fizzy in water X 14; or die on the floor of our unrenovated 60s kitchen in front of my daughter, whilst trying to remember my pin code to call for help.
The tablets finally went down, the neighbour arrived to pick up his kid and start looking after mine; I started to cry. “Mummy, your neck is very, very red!” exclaimed The Flash as she came into the kitchen. “I’m fine darling!!” I wheezed. “I’ve taken my meds and now I just need to check-in with a doctor to see if I need to take more… Pelle will look after you, AND LOW AND BEHOLD, IF THE DEVIL OF YOUR FATHER EVERY DECIDES TO MAKE AN APPEARANCE, YOU CAN TELL HIM WHERE I AM”.
Next, I knew I had to get to the hospital, stat! Not wanting to risk my Swedish citizenship by overloading an already overloaded health care system, I did what any other self-respecting 44-yr-old Australian living in Sweden would do: I called an Uber.
Hello emergency services
The seven-minute ride with Said went well; although, as I slumped in the back, I was surprised at the amount of traffic WHEN EVERYONE REALLY SHOULD JUST BE AT HOME. I was quickly admitted and saw a flurry of doctors who were very attentive and showed appropriate concern at my lack of oxygen.
After a few hours of getting the good drugs and stabilising, other test results started to flow in: my kidneys had the steady rhythm of a Souza march and were coping with the episode, however, my heart was showing a range of minimalism of which Steve Reich would have been proud. It even had a rather sad ‘whistle’.
They needed to investigate what was going on with an EGC; did I have any wire in my bra? And that’s when it hit me. When you feel that your throat is closing off, who’s got time for the finer things in life, like putting on your glasses and getting properly dressed? Over the last few hours, I’d been inspected by every non-Corona attending doctor at one of Stockholm’s largest hospitals, being whizzed in and out of every department; all, as a blind, bra-less wonder*.
Food pollen allergy syndrome anyone?
We’re not really sure what the trigger was, and we will probably never know. The most likely theory is something that I’ve been suspecting for a long while now: that Sweden is trying to kill me.
Ok, maybe not Sweden, but its pollen-releasing glorious flora and fauna which is on springtime overdrive at the moment. Or was it eating a good dose of fresh tomatoes, my old nightshade allergy nemesis? Perhaps poorly dealt-with compounding stressors of the shitstorm known as 2020? Highly likely: a combination of all of the above.
When I was finally released and came home in a heavenly cloud of heavy medication, I was filled with lightness; of thought, of love, of gratitude. I could breathe.
At the end of a very long, long weekend, I was just happy that a stretched health care system operating during a global pandemic unheard of in our times, still has the capacity to swiftly look after the rest of the tomato-eating population.
Lou Lou Loves
What else does Lou Lou Love? A husband that also drives her to the emergency when THE EXACT SAME THING happens 36 hours later**, and although is not allowed to enter the hospital, waits in the carpark for two hours just in case you die. For quick-acting neighbours who swoop in and take care of your children X 2 times, neighbours who say the sweetest things just when needed, for recovering in your glasshouse and listening to spring rain tap dance on its roof, for muddy feet, for cuddles, for cups of tea and your own fresh cotton sheets, and so much, for texts and calls coming in thick and fast from the south pole to the far north, just to double-check you are still alive.
Gold star award
A lot of things went right for me last weekend. I got the right advice, just at the right time, and managed not to totally freak out at all the important moments. Historically during an emergency situation, my natural inclination has been to put my hands up in the air, start crying, curse the gods and then trip over something, by which adding another dramatic layer to the original situation. This time, I’m proud to say, I walked along the tightrope between life and deaths*** with just the right balance of cascading hysteria and rational thought.
It’s a weird thing that happens to you, when you realise you can’t swallow or breath and need to act quickly to ensure your own sustainability. With its ancient DNA summoned, your body instinctively goes into self-protection mode and just knows what to do. You move from the flurry of thoughts successively agitating your mind, deep down into your body.
Found on the kitchen table a few days later…
Your body thankfully forgets it mind and doubles up with an ancient life force. Don’t talk, don’t move, don’t groove. During both episodes in the later stages, I went very quiet, didn’t say much and went inwards. As the swelling increased, I could feel myself going inside, touching the very essence of who I am before I even had a name, tapping into the collective conscience from time immemorial.
There have been four times previously in my life that I have felt this. At the final stages of the birth of our daughters, when my brother died in my arms, and now, on May 1st from 1pm onwards.
Despite the Uber decision****, the emergency doctors told me that I was very lucky, and that I had done everything right. I got a gold star for my handling of the situations. So it turns out that in emergency or extreme situations that so rarely occur in one’s life, I am ACTUALLY very good and can deliver the goods.
So now, really, it’s just the other 99.99999% of the time, that needs a bit of work.
More to come.
*One of my favourite Sienfeld episodes of all times.
**Yes, I suffered two severe anaphylactic episodes and was hospitalised again within 36 hours. The staff said welcome back.
***yep, plural, happened twice.
****The emergency doctors totally gave me the green light to overload the system and said next time, they much prefer I take an ambulance instead of an Uber. Point taken.