Monday, October 10, 2011

Serious Allergy Issues

This post is long so please bear with me.

It seems that with every passing year my allergies are getting worse.  Starting in mid-August until the first freeze I experience the following symptoms:  nasal congestion, decreased hearing, sneezing, itchy and watery eyes, sinus pressure and headaches, a dry cough, etc.  The only way to make to make the symptoms go away would be for me to live in a glass bottle with air conditioning.

This fall I was experiencing the same symptoms.  Usually I take over the counter medications until I can't take it any more or I know that I have a sinus infection.  Doctors have stopped giving allergy shots, no matter how bad your symptoms are.  I used to go in and practically beg for a shot and less than 24 hours later I was bad to normal.  Those shots were the wonder drug.

My allergy problems all came to a head on Tuesday, September 13th while I was at school.  I went to school as normal that day and went about my duties.  I wasn't feeling any worse than usual.  I had taken an Allegra pill that morning.  Mrs. Nedrow, the preschool teacher, was reading the students a Bible story when I started to experience chest pains.  After the story the students were coloring a sheet about the story, and my chest pains were getting worse and I was having a hard time catching my breath.  The pain and shortness of breath would get worse if I bent over.  I sat down for a minute to catch my breath and it was continually getting worse.

At that point, I decided it was best to leave the room and go to the office to lay down for a little bit.  I told Mrs. Nedrow that I did not feel well and needed to lay down.  She nodded and called to tell the office that I was on my way.  The preschool room is located at the end of a long hall from the office.  The whole way down the hall I kept telling myself to NOT panic, keep breathing, and not to pass out.  I did not want to scare any of the students in the building.

Upon reaching the office, I told the school secretary, Mrs. Koch, that I didn't feel well and I needed to lay down.  The look on her face was awful.  At this point, I could hear myself gasping/wheezing for a breath.  I wasn't able to lay down in the nurse's office because the pain was worse if I laid flat.  Shortly thereafter, Mrs. Nedrow reached the office and it was decided to call 911 because things were not getting any better.  Mr. Berryman, the school principal, was paged to the office over the intercom.  I was told to just stay calm and keep breathing.

I thought that the ambulance only took moments to arrive, but the staff said that it took forever.  They thought about just driving me to the hospital themselves because it is only 4-5 blocks from the school.  Upon arrival the EMTs hooked me up to a portable EKG machine to check my heart.  They took my pulse and blood pressure.  They decided I needed to be transported to the hospital.

At the time that this episode occurred it was close to the afternoon recess for Kindergarten through 3rd grade.  One of the lower grades was also outside for PE at the time.  The kids outside were scared when they heard the sirens and saw the ambulance.  Therefore, the PE teacher was calling the office on her walkie talkie (this results in every teacher in the building hearing the conversation).  The kids going outside for recess were all told NOT to use the stairway by the office and traffic was rerouted so the students did not see me being hauled out of school on a stretcher.

After getting into the ambulance, I was given four chewable baby aspirin and a nitroglycerin tablet just in case I was having a heart attack.  They also started an IV in the ambulance.  Mrs. Nedrow had called Keith at work and she had called the mothers of the students that I take home from school each day.  She had said not to worry about my kids that she would take care of them.  Mr. Berryman followed the ambulance to the hospital.

At the hospital I was hooked up to an EKG machine again, given oxygen to help with my breathing, had a chest x-ray and a full blood work-up to check my heart enzyme levels.  Everything came back clear.  The ER doctor determined that the allergies were causing an irritation to the lining of my lungs.  He said that this can be very painful.  Keith asked if the doctor would give me an allergy shot.  The answer was NO because he couldn't.  Instead he gave me the equivalent in pill form.  I was told to follow up in a week with my family doctor.

A week later I went to see Dr. Adams for my follow-up.  I was still experiencing a heaviness in my chest.  It was a pain, but more like an ache.  This symptom would get worse if I laid down flat.  He put me on two different inhalers.  One inhaler I use twice a day to cause the inflammation on my lungs to go away.  The second inhaler is for emergency use to get my air way and lungs to open up quickly.  He told me that I should not exercise until the situation was better under control.  He said that I could walk, but if I experienced any chest pains to quit immediately.  He also got me an appointment to see an allergist that comes to Norfolk from Omaha.

Last Wednesday I had my appointment with the allergist, Dr. Zieg.  He had me take a breathing test to measure my air flow.  The test left me light headed and not being able to breathe well.  Then I had a breathing treatment followed by another air flow test.  The test results only improved by 3% which meant that the inhaler that I use twice a day is working for me.  They then tested me for 15 different allergens.  They tested me for grasses, trees, weeds, mold, household dust, feathers, and cats and dogs.  The results came back that I am not allergic to feathers or grasses.  I am allergic to the rest, but my ragweed result was huge.  He has taken me off of Allegra and prescribed a different drug to control my symptoms.  He determined that I probably have some asthma that is induced by my allergy problems.  Also, I continue to have two inhalers.  He said that I can slowly go back to exercising, but if I experience any trouble breathing or chest pains to quit immediately.  I go back for a follow-up in two months.

I can never let that happen again.  I was so scared.  It is an awful feeling to not be able to breathe.  The girls were upset when they got called into the office after school and told that the ambulance had taken me to the hospital because I couldn't breathe.  The awesome teachers and staff at school helped them get through it until Grandma Leader arrived to take them home.  Grandma Leader dropped everything when she got Keith's call that we needed her help.`I am very grateful for everyone's help that afternoon.

Now to getting back to normal.

Take care,


  1. Michelle! Good Lord!

    I'm glad you're OK, but what a horrible thing to go through. Thank goodness everyone was helpful with the kids. I know you must have been terrified. Prayers coming.

  2. Oh my word! How flippin' scary! Hope you are feeling better soon. The allergies have been terrible this year!

  3. Oh, that is terrible! I am so sorry you had to deal with all that (I would have been fighting the urge to panic, too!). I do hope you figure out a combination of medications and lifestyle alterations that allows you to feel "normal".