October 2004: I was living in Brunswick, Georgia at the Federal Law Enforcement Training Center (FLETC) training to be a Special Agent.
Part of my overall training was physical training. At this point, it was a fairly difficult physical training program. It was three months after I arrived at FLETC that I had my first EIA episode.
I remember I had a headache that morning, so I popped an ibuprofen and thankfully it went away before I had my PT class. Our trainers decided to take it "easy" on us and we were going to run 5 miles. Half way through our first mile I tripped on a rock and fell on my knees. I fell a little behind from my group and started to feel sluggish and my face started to itch. I pushed through it but by the time I reached one mile my face and neck were on fire. I stopped running and called our trainer over and he said maybe I brushed up on something when I fell down or a crazy Georgia bug bit me. They rushed me to the FLETC clinic and each second that went by my face burned more and more. My face was swelling up and my throat had started closing up. I saw my reflection on the door windows and I looked awfully swollen.
I was immediately injected with epinephrine and Benadryl to stop the reaction. Epinephrine stops the body from trying to kill itself and Benadryl is a histamine blocker so it blocks whatever is causing the allergic reaction. I was bombarded with a ton of questions as I was physically examined until the medication took affect. What are you allergic too? What did you eat? Did something bite you? What were you doing? They did a full physical exam to see if something had bit me, but nothing had.
Within 30 minutes all my swelling was gone and I looked normal again but I was left feeling exhausted and hyper at the same time. Benadryl makes you terribly sleepy and epinephrine is pure adrenaline so it's like having an upper and a downer at the same time, not fun at all. The FLETC doctors couldn't figure out what had happened to me and chalked it up to an environmental allergy and told me I could not run in the forrest trails and that was the end of that.
December 2007: I was working in San Francisco that morning of my second EIA episode. I had woken up with a really bad migraine that day. That was a period of my life that my migraines were awful. I had 3-4 migraines a week, almost every other day. I took some ibuprofen and went on my day. Half way through my work day, we had received notification that my co-worker had gone missing the day before near Mount Tamalpais and we were being called to a search and rescue.
In the afternoon my migraine had come back so I took some more ibuprofen and it went away before we started searching for my co-worker. We paired up with park rangers and hit the trails. We were hiking along calling out for my co-worker, sadly we did not find her that day. Her body was found a month later, from an apparent suicide off a trail nearby in Mount Tamalpais. Sadness.
After going up a somewhat steep hill, my hands started to itch and I wonder if I had touched some poison oak. I ignored it and continued hiking for another 10-15 minutes until I knew something is clearly wrong. My feet and hands were burning, my throat started feeling tight and each second that went by the burning sensation was spread all over my body, fast. I told the park ranger that I was having an anaphylaxis reaction to something but I did not know what. The park ranger radioed the fire department, requested medical assistance.
I was very internally scared because I was in a lot of pain and each second that passed by my throat is getting tighter and tighter. I called my husband and calmly told him what was happening and told him to come to the nearest Kaiser near Mount Tamalpais. In hindsight, I wanted to hear his voice in case I died on the mountain. I called my co-worker Oscar who was near by at the other end of trail and he ran up with the Jr. Park Ranger he was with.
The ambulance could not make it up the hiking trail so the firemen said they would arrive in an off road truck and it would take a little longer than they had hoped. At this point, I'm sitting on the floor trying to keep still and calm because I knew if went hysterical, my reaction would get worse. I felt like I was on fire, I had hives everywhere, I was swollen and my throat is was getting tighter and tighter. The Park Ranger, Jr. Ranger and Oscar were trying to keep me calm and after what felt like an eternity we finally see the trucks headlights down the mountain. The firemen finally arrived and I was going insane internally from all the pain. They asked for my weight and height to get the proper medication dosage. They gave me an oxygen mask and injected me full of epinephrine and Benadryl, lots of it. I lost it after I knew the medications were in my system. I started scratching and maybe screaming from the pain, it's somewhat a haze after that. Oscar decided to take a picture when I was sitting in the back of the truck (the picture above). I think I'm smiling in the picture but like I said I was in a daze.
The firemen had to transport me down to the ambulance that was waiting for me at the trail head. On the way down I started to feel much better and worse at the same time. I could breathe, the hives were going away and the burning sensation was less and less, but the side effects of the medications were really strong. I started to get very drowsy but I was having rapid heart palpitations. I started to also have a mental disconnect from my body. I could tell that I was not well by the way the firemen were asking me questions. The same questions I was trained to kept someone awake during a traumatic event. I hear.....what's your bosses name? How old are you? Are you married? What's your husbands name? I heard the questions and tried to answer them but my mouth could not respond for a few seconds. My brain could process things quicker than my body could respond. Then I shook uncontrollably and was cold from all the epinephrine.
In a daze then moved me over to the ambulance where I was strapped down, given more oxygen and had an IV stuck in my hand. Those EMTs are amazing, how he put an IV in a moving car without hurting me. The EMT kept on asking me the same questions as the firemen did. Finally got to the hospital, the ER doctors evaluated me, gave me some steroids to keep the allergy down, prescribed some Epi-Pens and referred me to an allergy specialist. They said you are terribly allergic to something and have to find out what it is. I saw my husband and parents a little later and was discharged, I was very happy to see them. I was still in a daze the rest of the night, my heart palpitations lasted for a couple days and I felt exhausted. Jesse and I stopped for some Popeye's and a tub of Haagen Das chocolate ice cream and I ate the whole tub with very little help of my husband.