This is the story of how one M&M cost $1500 and wrecked an entire day.
Several weeks ago, Sean had the day off of school (reason unknown) and it was a beautiful fall day so we got together with a friend for a play date in the park.
Before we left to go to the park, he asked if he could have something from his Halloween candy stash. I said yes and let him pick out something.
He chose a little package of M&M’s. I noticed that the package was red, but I figured that someone had pawned off their leftover Valentine candy on unsuspecting little trick-or-treater’s and I did not think much of it.
Sean bit into one of the M&Ms and immediately ran to the sink and began spitting it out.
It was a peanut butter M&M.
Sean is allergic to peanuts.
I was baffled because as soon as he got home from trick-or-treating, I immediately culled through his candy and pulled out all the known peanut products like Snickers, Butterfingers, Reese’s and the blindingly obvious yellow packages of Peanut M&Ms, all of which I set aside for me who is quite happily not allergic to peanuts.
Unbeknownst to me, they now make peanut butter M&Ms and they are in a red package and they look exactly like the regular M&M’s. Except they are not. This you should know.
I got out my magnifying glass and took a closer look at the package and sure enough “peanut butter” is stamped on the front of the package in itsy bitsy teeny tiny print nearly invisible to 50-year-old eyes.
If we watched TV which advertises the latest in candy packaging fashion, we might have known better. But we do not.
Sidebar: It would be nice if all peanut-containing candies were packaged in the same blindingly obvious YELLOW (or some other universally agreed upon bright color).
Heretofore when Sean has ingested a peanut bearing product, his reaction has been fairly brief and mild. Since he hadn’t actually swallowed the M&M I figured that we could rinse his mouth out really well and be on our merry way. He seemed to be okay so we went on to our play date.
Thirty minutes later I noticed that he wasn’t himself. He was lethargic and would stop running to lay down on the ground, but not in a playful way. When he said he felt really tired and queasy, we ended the play date and went home. By the time I got him home, five minutes later, he was wheezing badly and seemed a little loopy, so we drove straight to the local children’s hospital ER.
They admitted him immediately and gave him an Epi-Pen shot in the thigh. Within seconds, the wheezing stopped and his lungs were clear and he felt better. It was really just that fast. It is astonishing how quickly that works. They put him on an IV drip and administered some other antidotal meds and he spent the next four or five hours drifting in and out of sleep.
The doctor told us that these kinds of allergic reactions can spontaneously reoccur anytime with the next 6-8 hours so we would have to stay in the ER for rest of the day for observation. And let me tell you this, you have not had a fantastic day until you’ve spent an entire day behind the curtain in a children’s ER room sitting in a hard straight-back chair, listening to the other patients wail and puke while you keep busy mentally flogging yourself for being the worst and most irresponsible parent ever.
The first time we suspected Sean was allergic to peanuts was when he was about two. After I had eaten some peanut butter I kissed him on the cheek and the place where I kissed him turned crimson red, like he had a rash or had been scalded. And then when he was about three, unbeknownst to me, he had helped himself to a peanut butter cookie at a family get-together. He came to me very distraught, clawing at his tongue, trying to indicate to me that his mouth and throat were itchy and on fire.
In both cases, after a short time the symptoms subsided, so while it was a little scary, these incidents never seemed life threatening and we wondered if he might eventually outgrow it. So far, his allergy is mild comparatively — he is fine on airplanes that serve peanuts, he can sit at a table with others who are eating peanut butter, although he doesn’t like it because he hates the smell, and he can eat chicken strips that have been fried in peanut oil. He just can’t eat peanut products, and luckily, he has no desire.
So I was surprised that this time, the reaction was much much worse. I knew that I had to get him to the ER. I’ve since learned that typically, each subsequent exposure will increase in severity. It will only get worse from here on out.
Before they would allow us to check out of the ER, I had to go to the pharmacy and buy two sets of Epi-Pens, one for home and one for school, which thanks to our cruddy insurance was $300. And then in Saturday’s mail I saw that the ER had sent me a $1200 “thank you for stopping by” note. If the geologic law of uniformitarianism is really true, and that which has happened in the past will happen again in the future, I know I have another big fat juicy bill coming in from some invisible medical professional whose face I never saw.
And that is how one M&M cost $1500 and ruined an entire day.
When I put my little boy to bed that night, in his own bed, and I sat beside him in the rocker I’ve sat in for seven years, none of that mattered. Not one bit.
As I sat there and rocked and watched him drift off to sleep, safe and well, I thought about how I would have sat in a hard straight back chair in the ER for seven days and spent seven times seven times seven times $1500 to have him safe and well.
But I’d rather not.