The Dreaded Phone Call

I’m going to disclaim this post by stating that Zax is fine, and was fine (in terms of allergies, anyway) in both of these cases.

I never knew my blood could run so cold at the sound of the phone until I started getting calls from the school nurse.

This happened to me twice within the first month-and-a-half of kindergarten.  The first time it happened, it was also the first day Zax had had a substitute teacher.  Our health assistant introduced herself and asked me how I was.  I answered with the usual pleasantry, all the while thinking “Is there any reason for me NOT to be okay???

Nothing had happened, but she was checking in because the substitute had been handing out plain m&ms as incentives, and did we let Zax eat plain m&ms?

I relaxed a bit.  We do, and have never had any problems, and I appreciated her checking in with us.  But then I tensed up again.  While we allow our peanut-allergic children to eat plain m&ms, there are plenty of others who do not–whether for higher levels of sensitivity or plain old caution, it’s a valid dietary choice either way.  Zax later reported that he’d asked his usual “Does this have egg or peanut or nut,” and the teacher had said, “No, just chocolate.”  Her ignorance of the fact that plain m&ms say “may contain peanut” on the label underscores my trepidation about how safe my child is when someone other than his classroom teacher is in the room.

That first substitute took me by surprise (Zax had known about it the day before, but didn’t think to share until he saw the substitute as he was walking into the classroom.)  Since that day, I’ve made a habit of reminding Zax to be extra careful of any food a substitute offers him, and I also walk to the door to talk to the sub.  “I’m sure this is in your information,” I tell them–I think they’re more receptive when I say it this way.  “But my son has food allergies to egg, peanut, and tree nut.  I just wanted you to be aware.”

The second phone call from the health assistant–a few weeks later–sent the already-familiar chills down my spine.  Again I picked up, thinking “get straight to the point!”  Zax wasn’t having an allergic reaction, or at least she didn’t think so, and he swore he hadn’t eaten anything.  What was happening was that he had completely shut down in class, he was hot, and he said his head and stomach hurt.

Again I got the chance to calm down.  This sounded a lot like his migraines.  (He hasn’t been diagnosed with migraines, but they run in the family and he’s had a handful of headaches that fit the description.)  I had to pick him up early, of course, so I headed down to the school.

Upon arrival, I had plenty of reason to be impressed by the health assistant.  She had the lights low because the light bothered him, and a trash can beside his bed (because he’d thrown up several times since we’d hung up the phone–more migraine pattern), but most importantly she had her notebook of Allergy Action Plans open to his page while she bent over my son.  She was ready for action.

The moment I saw Zax, I knew he was having a migraine.  Actually, I think he had a virus that had given him a migraine (he’s had fevers and migraines at the start of colds before, a pattern I’m just starting to recognize.)  The health assistant doesn’t know Zax the way I do, however, so I was gratified to see that she was ready and watching for any signs that said “Allergy!”

Fortunately, I haven’t gotten that dreaded phone call again since late September.  I hadn’t anticipated it scaring me so much, but I’m coming to realize that I will probably panic every time I get a “your kid got sick in class” kind of call.  It’s just the nature of the beast.  I try to take heart from the fact that at least they can get ahold of me anywhere.  When my mom sent me off to school, she lost all lines of communication if she left the house for any reason.  Cell phones have truly revolutionized the world!

How do you feel when the school nurse calls?

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One thought on “The Dreaded Phone Call

  1. How did I feel when the school nurse called and before I found out what the problem was?? Exactly the way you described. Blood ran cold. And I felt like my heart had crawled up out of my chest into my throat. That's how. It can be very hard trusting your food-allergic child to someone else. Especially if they don't think the problem is that serious.

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