As far as mistakes go, I've made a lot. But none quite as grave and life threatening as this one.
I'm standing in the kitchen cooking up my favourite dish, chicken and cashew nut. From nowhere I get this gnawing feeling in my stomach that I shouldn't give it to Tricky despite him having been declared "not allergic" to cashews at a previous allergy test*.
But I don't listen to that internal voice. I push down my gut instinct and, with a haughty (and completely judgmental) "I'm not one of those paranoid parents", carry on.
We sit down as a family to eat. I love these moments, the three of us together, talking about our day and reconnecting. Tricky eats one cashew nut and looks unsure of it's texture. We laugh at the funny face he pulls and watch him enthusiastically spoon mound after mound of rice in to his gob. After a pretty standard bedtime routine, I put Tricky to bed without any fuss.
An hour passes and he cries out so I go in to check on him. He is scratching at his knees and elbows furiously - now someone else might have seen that first sign and known straight away something was wrong, but I've lost count of the number of nights Tricky has woken crying and clawing at his eczema so I don't think anything of it.
Instead, I sit with him in the dark, singing and massaging a soothing salve in to his inflamed skin, just as I always do, then leave the room telling him to go back to sleep. He coughs once or twice then falls back to sleep.
A short while later he wakes again, comes out to me wanting cuddles. Because I am still in "get him back to sleep" mode I don't turn a light on... if I had, I would have seen his face was swelling up and his body breaking out in hives. So we cuddle in the dark on the couch and after a few more coughs and being so clingy I decide that he is probably coming down with a cold.
He coughs more. And more.
Less than five minutes pass.
He starts wheezing.
And it all starts clicking in my head. The scratching, the crying, the coughing, the wheezing. This isn't the beginning of a cold, this is an allergic reaction.
We consider calling an ambulance but think that since the allergy test has shown he isn't meant to be allergic, that this must only be a mild reaction, I'll drive him myself. So I do, picking up my parents on the way for support.
I feel like an idiot, but I'm not too concerned. A quick trip to the hospital and a dose of antihistamines, I think.
On the way there, Tricky gets itchier and he scratches his skin off parts of his arms and neck. What was once a faint hiss of a wheeze becomes louder and louder, clearly audible from the front seat.
Fuck. This is so much worse than I thought.
Triage takes all of two minutes before we are whisked through to a bed with a "we'll get your details in a minute" rush, and straight on to a monitor that showed his oxygen saturation at 89% and his blood pressure very low. What the hell is happening? My little boy is shutting down.
What have I done?
I hold him down while they jab the biggest needle in the world in to his tiny thigh. His scream pierces my soul and I squeeze him even tighter, smothering him with kisses in the vain hope that they'll help. I am barely holding it together when I look up and see my Mum starting to cry. It tips me over the edge and tears spring from my eyes. But they're not sad tears. They're angry tears. Embarrassed tears. Guilty tears.
How could I be so stupid? Why did I ignore that gut instinct? For a moment I let my thoughts run wild. What if he didn't get itchy? He wouldn't have cried and come out for cuddles... his airway would have just closed. Silently, without us knowing. What if, what if, what if?
My blood runs cold.
We're moved to the observation ward to stay the night. I sing and pat Tricky in an attempt to get him to settle, but he is, quite literally, full of adrenaline and isn't having a bar of it.
It's not until much later, in the early hours of the morning when he finally dozes off. He's still attached to the monitor and it alarms every hour or so as his oxygen levels fluctuate. They tell me he's fine, that it's just his sleep cycle, but I cannot look away from it, this machine that goes ping.
I manage to get about an hour of sleep before Tricky decides it is time to start the day.
I'm ladled with information on anaphylaxis and the use of an EpiPen. I'm given brochures and a DVD that I watch on a portable player as Tricky drives toy cars up and down the railings, unaware of how serious the situation is. We're given our EpiPen that he'll have to have with him at all times, a referral to an immunologist and we're told to never have cashews in the house again and avoid anything that contains tree nuts.
They bring us each breakfast. I read the label. May contain traces of tree nuts. Fuck you, world.
*I was told yesterday that initial allergy tests on children who haven't been exposed to an allergen aren't worth the paper they're printed on. The body doesn't always react on the first exposure, as was the case with Tricky, so it was the second exposure that caused anaphylaxis.