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2am Epipen Run

August 29, 2016
epipen

Life savers. Probably not a great cocktail…

I don’t often feel like I live in a place that doesn’t have everything I could possibly need.  Because, in this city, one could find almost everything, for a price.  But when it comes to healthcare, sometimes it’s hit or miss with local doctors.  Sometimes, it’s fine.  Tropical medicine is their sweet spot and often they are able to treat cuts and breaks.  But diagnosis and problem solving are not well taught in medical school, so it can be difficult to find quality healthcare, leaving us expats with the weight of self-diagnosis.  Thankfully, we are supported by Western doctors, who live here, who know that their skills are invaluable.  And they’re happy to help, as friends.  And we are SO GRATEFUL.

So, this story has a happy ending, okay?  Because of our doctor friends.  All of whom we woke in the middle of the night.  And, surprisingly, they’re still friends!

Saturday, Matthew’s foot was hurting and all signs pointed to infection.  He began taking the antibiotic we had on hand, Cipro, at the advice of one of our doctor friends.  Cipro is a pretty good kill-all and Matthew had taken it before, without side effects.  Late that night, as we were getting ready for bed, he complained of feeling itchy.  Being the good wife I am, I brushed it off and blamed it on an abundance of bug bites obtained earlier in the day from being outside in a buggy area.

At 1:30am, I woke to Piper’s hungry cries and as I fought the groggy state and sat up, Matthew, in a voice that indicated he had not been asleep, told me to wait.  He was having trouble breathing and the internet told him that this combined with the itchy feeling was an allergic reaction.

Again, in my awesome wife-ness, I said uh-huh and proceeded to get up to feed the baby.  Matthew stopped me again, but I realized he was on the phone with our doctor friend, who lives in another village.  At 1:30 in the morning!?  With that, I was awake and realized how serious he was.  No man asks a doctor anything, especially in the middle of the night, unless it is serious, am I right?

Our awesome friend said that it, indeed, sounded like a classic anaphylactic reaction to the Cipro, but since Matthew wasn’t wheezing or coughing, it would probably slowly digress, just don’t take anymore.  We were out of benadryl, but found a different class of antihistamine in our random supply of Dramamine.  It would help a bit, at least.

Cool, so I got up to feed the baby and Matthew crawled back into bed.  About five minutes later, I heard Matthew’s hushed voice, muffled coughing, and the classic sound of jeans zipping.  More muffled coughing.  I quickly put Piper back to bed (she stayed asleep!) and ran into our bedroom, where Matthew was fully dressed and explained the plan: he was going to have Nick (our boss who lives down the street) take him to the doctor.  He had begun coughing and wheezing.  He was afraid of going into anaphylactic shock and having nothing to help – no Epipen, since we have never had any allergies.

On his way out of the door, he asked me to call our in-town doctor friends to see if they possibly had an Epipen.  I ran inside and called our friends, who had only come back into town after a summer “home” earlier in the week – we hadn’t even really had a chance to say hello yet – and she immediately answered “Lisa.  What’s wrong?”  Because she knows that we would only call at 2am if there was a medical problem.  I explained what had happened and she said she had an Epipen and would wait for them to come as quickly as possible.

I couldn’t go back to sleep, of course, and the rest of the story is pretty straight forward.  By the time Matthew arrived at our friends’ house (the couple are both doctors) his symptoms hadn’t worsened and likely wouldn’t because of how long it had been since his last dose.  She said she has had the same reaction to Cipro.  But they found some Benadryl and gave him an Epipen to take home, just in case.  Thankfully, it remains unused.

But, it certainly gave me pause to be thankful for what we have: doctor friends who are able and willing to help us, friends willing to drive in the middle of the night, children who sleep through it all (ironically, the following night was up and down all night long with various children), and medicines if and when we need them.  Because the what-ifs and various outcomes from that night are too scary to ponder, when the preventions and solutions are so simple.  Serving here is not without ups and downs, and moments of excitement.

Thanks for your continued prayers.  I have a feeling some people were praying at 2am, Congo time, early Sunday morning…

One Comment leave one →
  1. Ailsa Harper-Hennessey permalink
    August 30, 2016 0829

    Oh dear bad enough to happen anywhere but in Congo tough. Pity I am back in Scotland I keep 4 handy as I too suffer severe allergies. Sending hugs

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