When I first started to write this blog entry, I just wanted to share with you how I have spent my summer. Ironically, since that evening a few days ago, I experienced an allergic reaction. So, now, I have a slightly different story to tell.
First off, my name is Karen, and I’m allergic to peanuts and tree nuts. I am currently working in Whistler, British Columbia this summer at a hotel. This is the first time I’ve worked away from home for a longer period of time. Whistler is an amazing place, especially during the summer. You can hike, zipline, bungee jump, canoe, go white water rafting, ski and snowboard, or go swimming at the lake. I have been here for just over 2 months, enjoying every minute of it.
I live with a roommate, and we have our own kitchen, where I cook a lot of meals, instead of going out. She arrived a few days earlier than I did, and so, did her own grocery shopping ahead of time. The first night I got here, I found a jar of peanut butter sitting in our cupboard. I quickly explained my allergies to her, and now the jar, plate, and knife that she used are sitting in a separate corner of the kitchen, and has not been touched for the past couple months.
Since I am still in Canada, communicating with others about my allergies at new restaurants is not very difficult, considering there is no language barrier, and that many people are familiar with food allergies. So, luckily for me, I’ve been able to try new foods, and enjoy new restaurants, with the help of friendly waiters and chefs.
At work, I have met some of the most incredible and friendliest people who I never want to leave behind, as I go back to school in September. Everyone is really kind and open, so sharing with them that I have allergies was really easy.
In the hotel, as staff, we have our own kitchen where we receive a hot meal every day. The very first day of work, I spoke with the head chef about my food allergies, and was assured that they did not cook with nuts in the kitchen. I decided to stay away from the baked goods though, because they came from a different bakery.
So, as of a few days ago, I had been reaction-free for at least a year, maybe two. Unfortunately, I had a reaction while at work. I had just eaten lunch, and I didn’t think about asking questions because I trusted that everything was allergen free, considering I had been eating the same meals every week. As I was upstairs in the hotel, doing my job, I started feeling nauseous, blaming the fact that my food just was not settling well. Several minutes went by, and I noticed that my hands were getting tingly and turning very red. That was when I started to question what was happening.
I proceeded downstairs to the manager’s office, and explained that I may be having an allergic reaction, but was unsure yet because nothing else had progressed. I grabbed both of my auto-injectors, and took a seat, cautious of what may be happening. People came in and out of the office, concerned about me, because I apparently looked worse than I felt. I had not noticed how red my face had gotten, but when I finally took a look in the mirror, clearly my reaction had escalated. Minutes later, I was wheezing and had a few hives, so I used my auto-injector and was driven to the emergency clinic (in the hotel’s valet car, which was so cool!). I know I should have used my auto-injector right away, but I did not feel the way I looked, if that makes sense. I was admitted immediately, and then placed under observation.
Throughout this whole ordeal, I learned that my being outspoken about my allergies has been in my favour. My co-workers were all supportive, and concerned, and thankfully, understood what was going on. Those that were with me knew what to do in the event of a bigger emergency, they were trained on how to use an auto-injector, and they remained calm, which really helped me out.
While I was sitting in the office, I learned about other co-workers allergies, and their experiences of having work-related reactions. I also spoke to a hotel guest, who thought I was just holding my auto-injector for no reason, who offered some information about it because he had one too. Additionally, I learned that people really do understand that carrying epinephrine is so important for someone with anaphylaxis.
In case you are wondering, my supervisor and I followed up with the chef, but we are still in the process of pinpointing what may have triggered my reaction. I am more cautious now when I eat at work, but that paranoia will likely disappear, especially now that I am asking more questions. I am grateful for all the people who I was surrounded by, and as I spend my last month here in BC, I am confident that I can enjoy the rest of my summer, regardless of this allergic reaction.