Death By Chia Seeds

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So recently, in an attempt to get my physical health under control I’ve gone all uber health freak on my autoimmune disease’s ass.

Raw food. Yep. Quinoa. Yep. Gluten free. Yep. Cutting out all (ok. MOST) packaged foods, caffeine and alcohol. Yep. Making bread. Yep. Milling grains. Yep. You may mock, but it’s pretty much the only control I feel I have over my disease. And I don’t do well when I feel I have no control. AND I feel a whole lot better doing it. Physically the eosinophil infiltration in my gut have gone down. “Keep up the diet!” my immunologist told me. So I shall.

Anyhoo, so the other day I was really craving a chocolate milkshake, so decided to make the next best thing: a raw cacao and banana smoothie. Now I don’t have the best record with smoothies. Sure, they are super healthy for most people. But for me, no matter whether they are green, berry, banana, or cacao, I always seem to end up praying to the porcelain Gods for approximately 48 hours after consumption.

The smoothie of doom.

The smoothie of doom.

Did this stop me? No.

The recipe called for a large number of chia seeds, unsoaked, which was kinda weird. But hey, I’m all for trying new things.  I made the stupid smoothie. Took a sip, and almost immediately my tongue and lips started itching and burning.

Hmmm. That’s weird. I thought, trying to SCRATCH my tongue. Never had a tongue itch before. Then I turned the page in my book and in a rather regrettably cavalier fashion took another sip.

The burning got worse, and now even my ears started to feel like they were on fire. Clearly I like to live dangerously so I took another sip.

Then my tongue started swelling up, and I completely flipped out.

Oh my God! I’m having an allergic reaction! My airways are going to get blocked and I’m going to DIE! I randomly ran around the kitchen. Why. I’m not quite sure.

I tried to contact my Mum. Naturally when I called her number, I heard her phone ringing right next to me. Next I sent Hubster a message asking whether he thought I was having an allergic reaction. He suggested it might be hay fever (probably so not to panic me, which didn’t work because news flash: I was panicked). I gave up on Hubster. He wasn’t any use anyway as he was working in the city and I knew he would never get home in time to administer CPR or call a coroner or whatever it was that I was going to need.

I really didn’t know what to do. I have plenty of allergies/intolerances but they tend to affect my gastrointestinal system, not my mouth. So I sat back in an armchair and thought. So, this is how it ends.

Luckily at that moment my Mum arrived. Almost simultaneously my tongue swelling started to go down. I felt a bit silly for the terror I had felt, and was actually pretty glad no one was around to witness my freak out. With venom I chucked out the rest of my smoothie, and went upstairs to lie down.

Then the vomiting started. Then the unbearable pain. I cannot begin to even describe the pain I feel when I eat something I cannot tolerate. But lets just go ahead with BAD. Mum came up with a glass of water and I told her I think I had had an allergic reaction to chia seeds and begrudgingly admitted that I may need to see a doctor.

Just for future note. If you ever want to get in to see your GP super quickly tell them you are having an allergic reaction. They will tell you to go to hospital, but once you convince them that that isn’t going to happen, they will take you in immediately, and you will even get to go and lie down in a germ infested bed as opposed to the germ infested waiting room.

The first thing I asked for was a vomit bag. Then a maxalon injection. My GP came in to see me, the GP who knows ALL about my health troubles. And she was all “Hello Rachael…what have you eaten now?”

“It was the damn chia seeds!” I told her.

“Chia seeds. That’s unusual!” She said.

“Everything about me is unusual!”

They wanted to give me an anti-histamine injection but couldn’t because of the Lithium. Which is pretty much the story of my life. So I had to lay in the bed for ages under observation, listening to an old guy in the bed next to me getting some sort of abscess cut out of his ear.

I must have looked pretty bad at one point because I had the nurse and doctor hovering over me. And the nurse was saying “Rachael? Are you still with us?” I didn’t want to tell them that I was actually trying to meditate, the way I did in labour, to get myself through the pain, and their questions were TOTALLY DISTRACTING ME. So I just muttered a grumpy “Yes. I’m still here.”

After a designated amount of time, Mum and I left the practice, me barely able to walk and clutching the vomit bag. On the way home, without a whole lot of warning, I puked into the bag, which was all very well and good except the BAG HAD A HOLE IN IT. Now what kind of bag, with the sole design of containing vomit, has a hole in it?! I’m not sure I have ever vomited that much in my life. And believe me. I’m no stranger to the power spew. The holey bag was becoming a major issue.

Mum started winding down the windows and laughing (which she later told me was awkward laughter but at the time felt a trifle unsympathetic), and because I always get the giggles at inappropriate moments too I started laughing. It is almost impossible to laugh and spew at the same time. It was not a pretty sight.

We got home and since I was covered in vomit I was chucked out of the car to dispose of my vomit bag before coming in. I seized the opportunity to throw up in the hedge. I then spent the rest of the evening rolling around in agony and rushing to the toilet.

So, lesson learned. No chia seeds. No smoothies. And if your mouth starts getting itchy after eating, just stop (no matter how good it tastes).

Chia seeds 1: Rachael: 0.

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Amber and The Allergy Test

A few months ago I visited the immunology department of our local hospital to get have some allergy testing done. Oesinophilic Gastroentoritis is often associated with food allergies, so one of the first steps with immunology was to isolate my irritants.

The nurse told me what each prick was for as she worked. When she came to “Dog” I almost had a heart attack.

“Oh god! I hope I’m not to allergic to dogs!” I told her. “I could never get rid of my Monsieur bark-a-lot!”

“Monsiour-bark-a-lot! That’s quite a name!” She said, carefully dropping a tiny drop of what was presumably Essence of Dog Dander on to my prick.

“He lives up to it.”

Then I had to go and sit in the hallway to wait for the results.

A beautiful young woman, who was pretty much the splitting image of Isla Fisher, sat down next beside me. Suddenly she  turned to me saying “Nice arm! Been pricked?”

“How could you tell?” I joked. We both laughed and then started talking.

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“Last time I had that done I went into anaphylactic shock and was rushed down to the ER.” she told me casually.

“Holy crap!”

“Yeah…I almost died that day. They had to get the paddles out and everything” she gestured towards her chest. “They don’t prick me anymore.”

“I should think not!” I exclaimed. “That’s terrible!”

“It’s life.” she said, giving me a smile. ” I have this really rare condition where I’m allergic to everything. Like, literally, EVERYTHING. Do you have many allergies?”

“Not sure.” I told her. Well allegedly peanuts according to my bloods. Which is kind of weird as I have never had any trouble eating Snickers bars…But I can’t eat gluten or pineapple. I have this rare autoimmune disease so they want to check things out.”

“Oh! I’m a pastry chef and make loads of gluten free products for people”. she told me.

And we started to talk. She was 28, like me, with a sunny disposition, despite the serious nature of her health. She had just moved to our city from Sydney. She was engaged and hoped to have a baby when her health was more stable, as she had just found out she had ovaries. This isn’t kind of a metaphorical way of suggesting she was clucky. She literally had just found out she had ovaries. From birth she was told she would never be able to have children. A recent surgical investigation showed the pesky ovaries “hiding”. Hiding where, I’m not quite sure.  It was all very intriguing.

I told her about my year, she told me about hers. We empathised on the awkward moments we’d had running from family events and restaurants to vomit. We talked about the difficulties of having a rare and “invisible illness.” We talked about how annoying it was to feel sick the time. How it had impacted our lives and our mental health.

She told me that she had to come to the hospital every week for the next six months. It was part of some experimental drug trial. And because of her tendency for bad allergic reactions she needed to stay at the hospital for a certain period of time after the drug administration.

“Jeez..that must eat into your time!” I said. “I’m lucky if I don’t spend half a day in this hell hole every time I come in. And that’s just for an appointment”

“Well, you know, my social calendar is PACKED right now!” she joked, giving me a wry smile. “I’m sorry if I’m bothering you, I just like to talk to people. My fiancee is FIFO, I have no family in the state, I can only work when I’m well, which is like, never. Most of the friends I have I met here at the hospital. That’s a bit lame isn’t it?

“Not at all. It’s a nice change to have someone to talk to. I’m Rachael.”
“I’m Amber.” At that moment the nurse came back and called my name. As I stood up Amber said “Hey. It was nice talking to you. I really hope your health improves.” I responded with the same sentiment and then there was that awkward moment where I wondered whether I should ask for her phone number.

I’ve never asked a guy out in my life. I get nervous asking mothers at Master D’s daycare to exchange numbers so the kids can have a play date. I’m a giant wuss. So I waved her good bye and walked back into the treatment room, and instantly regretted my decision.

“Good news!” the nurse said. Rubbing off the ink on my arm. “You’re not allergic to dogs.”

“Thank God for that!”

On the way out I looked for Amber, but she was gone. We only talked for a while that day, but I  think about her every time I head to the immunology department. Despite having a chronic and life threatening illness Amber was positive, friendly, and empathetic. Unlike me, she had been sick from the moment she was born, and despite her troubles she managed to make the best she could out of life. She inspired me.

So Amber, if you are out there, I hope you are doing well. I hope the drug trial works, and I hope that you are able to have the baby you so desperately want.