It is hard to talk about allergic reactions and auto-injectors. It is triggering for some people, and until today I didn’t feel ready to share my story or answer the questions that went along with it. However, I know that sharing our stories is what makes this community stronger, so today, I want to share just a little bit about my experience with my EpiPens and Auvi-Qs. Growing up, I had a funny relationship with my auto-injectors. In elementary school, my teacher would carry them in this big red bag, and I always knew they were there. My stomach would hurt at the sight of the bag and I’d get nauseous every time my mom would teach a new friend’s parent how to use the EpiPen when dropping me off for a playdate.
As I got older, I tried to push them out of my mind. I kept them buried at the bottom of my bag, much to the dismay of my parents, who always had me bring them to the top again. It was like constantly carrying around a reminder of all my anxiety.
Then something changed: I actually had to use it.
When I experienced anaphylaxis on my own when I was twenty, I didn’t react in the way I expected. I had some of the worst stomach pain I have ever felt, and after taking a look in the mirror, I just had a gut feeling that it was happening; I was having an anaphylactic reaction. My Auvi-Q truly saved my life. Even though I had known what to do for as long as I could remember, nothing could have properly prepared me for that moment. Yet, I had this very intense focus. As my symptoms worsened, I logically knew what needed to be done, so I started to do it. I held my Auvi-Q in my hand, just looking at it as the device repeated over and over to remove the red cap. While I was on the phone with my parents, I did just that. I prepared myself for the pain of the needle, and honestly, didn’t feel a thing. I don’t know if it was the natural adrenaline I already had in my body or the sheer panic and shock I felt in the situation, but I truly did not feel pain from the Auvi-Q.
Once I was on my way to the ER, I felt truly proud of myself. Although my leg was hurting at the injection site, and my body was shaking nonstop from the epinephrine, I felt accomplished. I had a big realization that day, and although I wish allergic reactions didn’t happen at all, I am grateful for the experience. I am no longer afraid of potentially having to use my auto-injector, and now truly view it as a life saving device instead of a burden hanging over my head. I am grateful that it worked and I am grateful that I summoned the courage to administer it to myself.
After being involved in the allergy community, I have learned that most reactions do not look like the textbook example of anaphylaxis and that waiting for those textbook symptoms can lead to tragedy, which is why I believe it is important to share my story.