Several months later after an overnight at my parent's house, he had peanut butter on a waffle for breakfast, and when I went to pick him up after church, my mom said he'd been complaining about his ears itching. As soon as I'd heard he'd had peanut butter again, I knew immediately that he was having a reaction. I rushed him to Children's Mercy, and by the time we got there, the left side of his face was so swollen that he couldn't open his eye. Scariest car ride of my life, by the way. Every time I looked back at him, he looked worse, and I was terrified I wasn't going to make it to the hospital before his throat closed up.
The nurse practically jumped over the desk to listen to his breathing when she saw him, and took us straight back into a room where doctors pumped him full of antihistamines and stopped the reaction, thank God.
From that point on, we've been a label-checking, epi-pen-carrying, online-researching, peanut-free household, and I've lived with a quiet, constant worry about Gavin being accidentally exposed to peanuts again. He's a child, after all, and we can't expect him, and everyone he comes in contact with to have the same heightened sensitivity as we do. I certainly didn't know what to look for on a food label or which restaurants fry their food in peanut oil before he became allergic. It's something we've had to grow into as a family, and something we've had to ingrain in him. He's gotten so good at asking, "Does that have peanuts in it?" when someone offers him food, and I'm incredibly proud of him for it, but still...that constant, nagging worry persisted.
So this year, when blood tests came back that the antibodies in his blood had decreased steadily every year, and his allergist suggested doing a peanut butter challenge in the office, I was equal parts nervousness and excitement. The day came and he was a champ. The nurse fed him gradually increasing amounts of peanut butter while we watched movies and played on the iPad. Little by little he ate it and nothing happened, and little by little, I got my hopes up that maybe, just maybe he'd have a different life...one where he didn't have to worry about measly little peanut proteins.
But then I saw a little red splotch right below his lip and noticed him scratching his bottom lip with his teeth, and those hopes crumbled. He told the nurse his lips and tongue were "itchy" and the test was stopped immediately. His reaction was mild enough this time that he only had to take an oral dose of antihistamine to stop it, which was a relief, but I don't think it was until that moment that I realized how badly I just wanted it to be over. His peanut allergy. The constant worry. All of it. Though he remained oblivious, I was heartbroken. For him. For me. For the easier future I'd started to imagine for all of us.
So now we go back to the world we've known with our hopes a little shaken, but not abandoned. He still has a chance to grow out of this, and that is our constant prayer. That, and the grateful prayer of thanks we give for a generally happy, healthy, smart, strong, and incredibly awesome kiddo.