WHEN YOUR TONGUE SWELLS UP ON A LONG HAUL FLIGHT

It’s now the summer of 2016 and I have a follow-up appointment with a different neurologist about my unexplained Foot Drop.  Although there’s still a degree of weakness in my left toes – I can’t wiggle them – I have movement in my foot and can lift it. Improvement. Yey.

Meanwhile, a nerve conduction study had identified some mild nerve damage in my right hand. Again, there is no explanation as to why. Nevertheless, I’m delighted to be given permission to try light exercise.

The reactions affecting my airway are still ongoing but the allergy management plan prescribed by my immunologist is helping and has afforded a sense of control. The dark cloud that has been hanging over me is beginning to shift, so I decide to accept a travel commission to Barbados – one of my favourite Caribbean islands. The trip is FANTASTIC. And it makes a refreshing change to the merry-go-round of hospital appointments I’ve grown accustomed to.

“My lizard-esque antics attract some quizzical looks from other tourists”

I’m with a great bunch of people including blogger Nadia El Ferdoussi who acts as my Official Tongue Checker. Now, as a rule, I know when I’m reacting because it becomes difficult to swallow or because my tongue no longer fits within my teeth. But it’s always good to have a second pair of eyes monitoring the size of your tongue.  Speed is of the essence in these situations as the antihistamines must be taken at the onset of a reaction otherwise they’re unlikely to work. Nadia checks the size of my tongue morning, noon and night. It’s such a relief to have that support, although my lizard-esque antics attract some quizzical looks from other tourists.

Meanwhile, my troublesome left foot is greatly responding to the gentle swimming and paddling. I even dabble with paddle boarding. Dramatic as it sounds, I remember what it’s like to laugh again and by the end of the trip, I feel in a much better place physically, emotionally and mentally.

Only, as we taxi across the runway preparing for our eight-hour night flight home, I become aware of a familiar sticky feeling in my throat. “Please tell me I’m not having a reaction,” I quietly whisper to myself. Then boom. It happens. I can feel my tongue swelling. Not only that my right hand is starting to grow in size. This has never happened before.

“I’ve stupidly left my medication in a bag in the overhead locker.”

Panic consumes me. Our group is scattered about the plane. The cabin crew are strapped into their seats. And I’ve STUPIDLY left my medication in a bag in the overhead locker. I have no water. The seatbelt sign is on. So I just sit. Petrified. I need to take my meds fast but can’t get up. I hit the call button as soon as we are permitted to move. My tongue is huge.

A crew member grabs my emergency drugs and shuffles me off to the back galley, collecting Nadia along the way. The FSM (flight service manager) then calls a doctor on the ground who advises I up my antihistamine dosage. Thankfully, the plan of action works. My tongue stops swelling and Nadia stays with me for two hours. I vow to make a checklist on how to travel with allergies as soon as I get home and made a mental note to always have my medication within easy reach and carry water on me at all times. How could I have been so stupid?

Back on dry land, I pay to see a different dentist about my hypersensitive tooth – the one I’d originally been treated for on the day of my first severe allergic reaction.  It had been prepared for a root canal and had a temporary dressing inside but the new dentist examines me and regrettably explains the tooth cannot be saved and needs extracting. It’s a huge chunky one in my top set so now I’m going to be left with a GAPING HOLE in my smile on top of everything else. My heart sinks.

My Worzel Gummidge appearance is going to take a while to grow used to.”

The procedure is made all the more worrying because we still do not know the cause of my reactions. My dear mum accompanies me to the surgery. I’ve taken a long and fast-acting antihistamine as a precaution and we have two Epi-Pens on standby. Fortunately, the extraction goes well although my new Worzel Gummidge appearance is going to take a while to grow used to.

Only by the Autumn, my health begins to deteriorate again. Another appointment has come through the post.  Back to the hospital again, this time for a less than glamorous investigation involving my rear end and a camera. The diagnosis? Irritable Bowel Syndrome.  I’m also dealing with intermittent horrendous stabbing pains in the muscles and joints all over my body. The episcleritis is back. I feel exhausted. And each day I wake up feeling as though I’m  fighting the flu.

My wonderful GP is as bewildered as I. Sat in front of him is a patient who desperately wants to return to her active, healthy lifestyle but whose body appeared to be falling apart. He orders more blood tests, takes one look at the results and immediately refers me to an endocrinologist (hormone specialist). Six months later the appointment comes through.

So what does he find? Read here. 

 

 

 

 

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