The night my health took a turn for the worse

I’m no saint but on the whole, I’ve always tried to adopt a relatively healthy lifestyle. Although quite partial to the odd chocolate croissant and cappuccino, I’m one of those rather annoying people who would rather spend a weekend blasting balls on a tennis court or running outside than stuck indoors watching a TV Box Set.

I think nothing of blitzing up green juices and smoothies and at the risk of sounding like a total bore, I’ve never smoked, rarely drink alcohol and have followed a meat-free diet since the age of 13. Except on December 3 2015 my life was turned upside down when I was rushed to hospital with my first ever allergic reaction. It was a particular bad boy – life-threatening in fact –  and came on entirely out of the blue.

On the night in question, an old school friend had popped over for a drink and a catch-up.  I’d warned him in advance that I might be drooling – not in that way. Earlier in the day I’d had dental work carried out on an excruciatingly painful molar tooth which, it later emerged, was dying but by the time Stephen arrived at my house my mouth felt pretty normal and I was yakking ten to the dozen as usual.

“My mouth felt pretty normal – I was yakking ten to the dozen as usual”

Only, an hour later I became aware of a strange sensation in my upper lip. It felt heavy and tingled. “My lip feels weird,” I blurted out to Stephen, who was sitting in the armchair opposite me. He peered over.  “It looks fine to me,” he replied nonplussed.

So I let it go for the rest of the evening only when I went to wave him goodbye at the front door, I caught sight of my reflection in the mirror. Either my mate was being polite or needed his eyesight testing. Staring back at me was a massively swollen top lip.

By now it was midnight. I awkwardly brushed my teeth, negotiating the horrendous trout pout as I went, before climbing into bed, and prayed that the swelling would subside by the morning.

“I awkwardly brushed my teeth, negotiating the horrendous trout pout as I went”

Except, as I tried to nod off, I became aware of an intolerable itching in my throat. A voice inside told me to call 111 for advice – something I never do – but thank goodness I did. The operator was a calm and lovely chap who explained that the situation might be serious and he’d need to send a paramedic round asap to check me over. As I lived alone, he told me to stay on the line with him.

Within minutes a first responder had arrived at my house. He quickly injected me with antihistamine injection before calling an ambulance. Moments later two paramedics arrived at my door. “Ohhh, someone’s been in a fight with Frank Bruno,” quipped one, before turning serious when I refused to go to the hospital.

“There are people far needier than me, I wouldn’t want to take up a valuable NHS bed,” I exclaimed, before being told in no uncertain terms that I was having a severe anaphylactic reaction. “But I’ve never suffered from allergies,” I meekly protested as I walked up the stairs to gather my things. Precisely two minutes later my throat started to close up.

“Precisely two minutes later my throat started to close up.”

After this moment everything is a blur. I was pumped full of adrenaline twice  – first in the ambulance and then later on in the A&E resuscitation ward – before being admitted to hospital. Doctors asked if I’d eaten or done anything different on the night of the attack. I hadn’t.

The only thing I could think of was the dental work on the massively hyper-sensitive molar tooth earlier in the day but then I’d had a number of fillings in the past and had never experienced a reaction before to the anaesthetic. I was later given steroids, referred to an allergy specialist and sent on my way.

I shrugged the episode off as a random event, especially as I’d always been relatively fit and well. Little did I know then that my health – something I’d always worked so devotedly to maintain – was about to unravel in the most spectacular fashion. Read here.


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  • Reply
    19th May 2017 at 5:15 pm

    The funniest line you’ve written in your blog so far is….
    “I’d warned him in advance that I might be drooling – not in that way.”

    Second funniest is that you’d ever yak at the rate of 10 to the dozen. Not only is the original phrase actually 19 to the dozen (I’m a smartarse who spots these things!) but Gilbert in full effect is more like 119 to the dozen.

    • Reply
      Helen Gilbert
      19th May 2017 at 9:05 pm

      Ha. Thank you Jon. And for spotting the typo! It should have read 19 not 10 🙂

  • Reply
    23rd May 2017 at 1:44 pm

    Helen I am also called Helen and have similar strange allergic reactions which allergy tests for food have come back negative. I’ve been putting mine down to a preservative in food rather than HIT but this is worth investigating.

    • Reply
      Helen Gilbert
      23rd May 2017 at 2:18 pm

      Hello fellow Helen 🙂 Thanks so much for getting in touch. It’s so hard when you have no idea why the reactions are happening. How are you affected? What symptoms do you have? Are you seeing an immunologist? I’m no doctor but my immunologist has been supportive in terms of me following a low histamine diet for three months. This seems to have helped – although I’m quite limited in what I can eat and it’s not a long-term viable solution. At some point I’ll need to reintroduce higher histamine foods and hope that my body can tolerate them. You’re probably already keeping a really detailed food diary but I’ve found this really helps to identify patterns and trigger foods. Thanks again for posting and please do keep me updated with how you get on 🙂

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