Thursday, February 10, 2011

Weird week

It's like something you'd see on TV----a frozen pizza sent me to the emergency room.
(Actually, it wasn't even the frozen pizza, it was a tiny piece of cheese the size of my fingertip that fell onto my kitchen counter after I put the damn thing in the oven that sent me to the emergency room, but I digress.)

I'm a good work-at-home/fulltime writer/housewife, and as such I cook dinner at home for my family most nights. Many nights it's a multi-course affair, and I frequently cook from scratch, but not every night. Some nights (like when I'm on deadline) I just pop a frozen pizza in the oven and make a side salad. Such it was last Wednesday, when I popped a locally-made Gino's frozen pizza in the oven, and like I've done so many times, popped one of the stray pieces of cheese that fell off the pizza onto the counter into my mouth. I did it without even thinking, like I've done hundreds of times before. (and I keep my countertops fastidiously clean, as anyone who's been to my house can tell you).

Almost immediately, I started feeling very strange. First off, the cheese didn't taste at all like cheese. It tasted more like Comet Kitchen Cleanser. Odd, since I know the company that made the pizza (a family-owned company in Crystal Lake,IL, just about 15 miles from my house) makes its own real cheese using milk from Wisconsin cows----one of the reasons I bought the pizza in the first place. Cheese isn't supposed to taste like Comet Kitchen Cleanser, that's for damn sure. Not only did it not taste right, I started feeling really weird. Like sick to my stomach. And dizzy, and then I began to gag, and even feel my throat swelling shut like it does when I go into anaphylactic shock after being stung by a bee. (I already carry an epinephrine shot everywhere I go because of that).

It immediately struck me that I might have been poisoned somehow----like the pizza I got was laced with cyanide or something. I called my husband's cell phone to see where he was on his commute (he was already late getting home by that point). Turns out he was still on the train, and the train was stuck in a snowdrift, so God only knew when he'd be getting home. So I bit the bullet and called 911, and told the dispatcher that I suspected chemical poisoning. For a little while I was worried I was going to die. (Death By Frozen Pizza---crazy, I know.)

So the ambulance and the fire truck show up at my house, followed by several curious neighbors (I live in a very quiet neighborhood). The EMTs say I need to go to the ER, and my next-door neighbor offered to watch my son until my husband got home. I get to the ER, and the ER doc tells me that I haven't actually been poisoned, but I have had an anaphylactic allergic food reaction, likely to the preservatives in the tiny crumb of frozen pizza cheese I ate. (Imagine what would have happened if I'd eaten a whole slice!) I got treated with prednisone and eventually left with instructions to go see an allergist.

I went to the allergist yesterday, and I'd say her job title would more accurately be described as Master Torturer. I got 48 different allergen scratch tests (24 on each arm), plus 13 (yes, 13!) subcutaneous shots (which hurt like a BITCH, by the way---this is coming from the lady who had 30+ hours of unmedicated labor with my son, mind you). After all of those tests, I discovered that I am not only allergic to multiple food additives and preservatives, but also chicken, soy, coffee, and peanuts. Who knew???

So now, I'm on an elimination "detox" diet, where I can basically eat only fresh foods that I prepare myself from scratch, with very little added to them. Chinese food is out due to the MSG (try that when you're married to a Chinese person), as is pretty much all frozen, canned, or otherwise processed food. I have to go back next week for more tests, and possibly even a year or more of allergy shots. Not only that, I've suddenly become hypersensitive to all sorts of foods and food additives---things are tasting different and strange, and making me have odd reactions (like today when I tasted a small amount of my son's Lofthouse sugar cookie and thought I'd eaten a mouthful of Drano).

I've never had a food allergy in my life, at least not until last week. How on earth did this happen? The allergist explains that as we age, we can acquire new allergies spontaneously, and that our bodies also can become hypersensitive following any anaphylactic event. Hence the elimination diet---I need to "reboot" my system so that I'll eventually not be allergic to everything I touch.

The bottom line is, this sucks. I love good food, and I love variety, and I also love the convenience some prepared foods offer me as a busy mom. But for the time being, I'll be eating nothing but unseasoned pork loin and plain white rice because that's all my body can tolerate. Le sigh.

Oh well. At least I'm not dead.


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