The Emergency Kit: How to survive unexpected (and long) trips to the ER

It didn’t take long last year for me to start making a list of things to bring with me EVERYWHERE and to remember to bring to the ER. My little ’emergency kit’ serves me really well for other reasons too, though, so I thought I’d share! The list isn’t long, but I’ll explain the items afterwards in case you want to know why…

On me: Medication Card, Epipen, Ventolin, Benadryl.

In my ’emergency kit’, my little red zip bag:

  1. Medication Card
  2. Regular Daily Meds
  3. Cell Phone, Brick & Charger cable
  4. Earplugs
  5. Microphone/headphones for phone
  6. Benadryl
  7. Bandaids
  8. Hair Elastics

On the checklist of things to be sure I have when I travel in an ambulance:

  • Wallet (health card!!! and fare for a taxi)
  • Dry Socks
  • Pillow/blanket?

1) The medication card

You know when you meet a new medical professional, and they give you an intake form to fill out, with the tiniest section ever to list allergies and medications? If you’re like me, you aren’t a fan.

Many years ago, though, I came up with my solution: a Medication card. It came about after I’d taken a number of first aid courses, and they mentioned how your secondary first aid (once patient is stable) includes getting medication information ready. I remember once calling an ambulance for my mom, and the paramedics had us hunting down all her medication bottles, to bring to the ER, because of course WE didn’t know her meds… and she was not well enough to know them either.

So I started using the little ‘medication summary sheet’ that pharmacies give you with ever prescription refill. I’d cross off the non-regular meds like antibiotics, and write in why I was taking the others in the space I could find. Then I put packing tape over the whole thing.

Now I’ve typed it into a handy chart. I have one column for the reasons I take medications- in order of importance. Allergies, Asthma, Chronic Back Pain, Etc… then the next column lists medications (both brand and generic names), and dosage. Next column is when I take it, and then I added a column for the prescription number or DIN so that it’s easy for me to refill my prescriptions even if I’m out of the house.

The other side of the paper has my picture, my name, the important medical conditions listed again, emergency contacts, and contacts for my doctors. I laminate two copies, keeping one in my wallet and the other in my epipen belt.

2) Daily meds:

One of the most frustrating things about allergies is that most of my medications now have to be specially compounded. So if I’m in the ER when I’m supposed to take my morning or evening meds… it’s not always possible that the ER will be able to easily have them on hand. Plus, it’s not ideal to have to get the nurse to hunt around for meds that aren’t immediately related to keeping me alive. So I always keep a mini ziplock with my morning meds, and one with my evening meds, in my emergency kit. I *ALWAYS* check with the nurse/doc before I take them, so that they are aware of what I’m taking and can avoid any drug interactions.

To be honest, though, I use these most when I’m at work and realize I forgot to take my morning meds.

3) Cellphone Charger, Brick (& Cell Phone)

It’s hard for me to imagine a time when I’d be less happy to be out of touch with my family & friends… than in an emergency. I have, however, learned not to text while a blood pressure cuff is inflating (OW- don’t even hold it then!!!). I don’t often have any company for the 3-6 hr mandatory “let’s see if this reaction returns” wait, so keeping at least my sister up-to-date is important. My phone has downloaded movies, music, books, games… not to mention the ERs in my city all have free wifi… but of course all of that is USELESS without a charger.

I found a retractable charger online, and a small brick. It’s neat, tidy, and is also the thing I pull out most frequently when I’m not in an ER. Be sure to get something as long as possible, since it’s really nice to be able to keep it plugged in while you hold it.

4) Earplugs

ERs are LOUD when you’re trying to sleep off an allergic reaction. Beeping monitors, the occasional patient next door moaning or screaming… so a few pairs of these are really helpful for overall sanity.

5) Headphones/microphone 

ERs are LOUD… and you don’t want to be contributing. Or bugging your neighbour while chatting on the phone (I do that very, very rarely) or watching a movie or listening to calming music. I’d like to find a pair that retracted or some way to cool them more neatly, though.

6) Benadryl 

If you have allergies, talk to your allergist about what emergency procedure you should be following. Because I have chronic hives AND anaphylaxis, I have been instructed not to use my epi at the first symptom, and thus I carry Benadryl (for the hives). Usually, though, if you have a history of severe reactions, and you start exhibiting symptoms… Call 911. Take the epi. Go to the ER by ambulance. As with many things in my life… I am an exception to what is normal.
The things I keep on me at all times are for really good reasons: without an epipen where I could reach it, I’ve had difficulty breathing… thankfully my brother-in-law intervened that time when he heard me coughing. Without ventolin on me, I’ve had to send colleagues running to get it from my locker as it felt like my lungs were on fire during an asthma attack… These are things I have learned to keep within reach, period. Usually in a belt around my waist, or a special pair of pants. Even when I sleep I can reach an epi. If I swim, I let the guard team know who I am & what the belt is at the side of the pool… When I have massage therapy or chiro appointments, they know where my belt is. It’s key.

7) Bandaids

I have first aid knowledge, but the most handy thing to have with me at all times? Bandaids. I keep cool “Planes” bandaids because they make me (and the patient) laugh.

8) Hair Elastics

If you have long hair like me… this one can really be helpful. In the ER you’re already tangled up in wires and cords, and getting your hair tangled too? Not cool. I usually keep two because i prefer to braid my hair into two braids when i’m not feeling well. Keeps my hair out of the way, but also doesn’t make a big bump on the back of my head when i’m trying to sleep.

The Other Stuff:

The last few items on the list are really just for comfort; my socks always manage to get wet somehow… probably from the paramedics tracking in snow and me walking beside them. And the pillow/blanket came from that one time the ER was out of pillows and heated blankets. It was not a fun night, but it’s pretty rare so sometimes I skip that option.

Hopefully you’ll never need to use these items, but… as I learned in girl guides many years ago, it’s always good to #beprepared!

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Ask Allergies Out! 

Whether you’re just friends or looking for more romance in your life, allergies tend to complicate things. But have courage! People who’ve dealt with allergies are people who are resilient in the face of danger, and are incredible problem solvers. In my case, the worse the allergies… the better my cooking has gotten… and my general survival skills! We’re the people others come looking for in an emergency, and we’re usually prepared for most situations.

From my food allergy perspective, dating is quite daunting. How can I find a way to let someone new meet me… without being overshadowed by meeting my allergies? I recognize that I am not defined by what I can eat, but would a potential date? Would a guy understand why he can’t kiss me without eating my food for 24 hrs beforehand, since that’s really what the experts recommend? It seems such a strange concept to me, dating without food or kissing involved… so I thought I’d go over some things that I’ve learned thus far. In case you wanted to ask me out… or someone else with allergies!

1) It’s ok. 

It’s ok to ask questions. 

Knowledge is the best way to prevent a reaction, and I’m happy to answer any question you might have. If I don’t know the answer, I’ll tell you, and maybe we’ll bond over finding the answer together.

It’s ok to be afraid, to feel overwhelmed and unable to help

So… Gentlemen, I know you’re not likely to admit it, but I know that allergies are really hard to cope with. Especially because you *can’t* fix it. Well, you can avoid my allergens, but you’ll have to eat them sometimes! In any case I’m going to put this out there: please, please, tell your allergic date if you’re freaking out internally. I really value honesty and communication, and when it comes to allergies? TOTALLY OK to freak out. I’ve had professional allergy conscious chefs swear in sympathy with my list… it’s ok. It’s normal to be overwhelmed by this.

It is NOT OK to lie to me, tell me that you know more than you really do, to goof around with my food or to joke about my allergies. Be respectful to the fact that food produces an incredible amount of stress for people with allergies, and the paranoia we have around our food is actually healthy, and necessary. Recognize that trust around food is almost impossible. I keep poisoning myself- so if I can’t trust myself… how can I possibly trust someone else? As my friend, or as my date, I need you to be paranoid on my behalf when you’re dealing with my food.

Which brings us to how to balance that fear:

2) Be prepared

Living by the Girl Guide motto has served me well for allergies, and as it turns out astronauts live by it too. They plan, and practice what to do for every different emergency. The same can be true for dating someone with allergies!

Be prepared for a reaction: we all hope it won’t happen, but if it does… I need my date to be ready to help. Ready to call 911, to help me take the epipen if needed. Ready to ditch the date plans to chill in the ER instead. Food Allergy Canada has free online courses on how to recognize & deal with Anaphylaxis, and there are lots of smartphone apps for general first aid, too.

Be prepared for the date: If you invite me somewhere, I will need to know details in advance in order to plan allergy-wise. Are we leaving Ontario? What is the 911 response time where we are headed? What sort of airborne environmental things might I need to be prepared to deal with? Much more importantly… what should I wear??? A girl’s gotta know the dress code!

Be prepared for food: For most people with allergies, calling a restaurant a week ahead is more than enough time. In my case…I have thus far found one restaurant capable of feeding me, and they request a month’s notice. So, because of that, it’s much easier to go on a picnic or eat in. Please remember that food feels very much love/hate for those of us with allergies, and that the words “I want to learn to cook a meal we can both eat” are just about the most loving words I’ve ever heard. That said, I would probably not be comfortable cooking in my date’s kitchen right away… so… that brings us to:

3) Non-Food First Date Ideas

  • Museum
  • Bowling
  • Mini Golf
  • Urban Quest
  • Escape Room
  • Geocaching
  • Cycling
  • Skating
  • Fly kites
  • Scavenger Hunt
  • Swing Dancing
  • Laser Quest
  • Painting
  • Croquet
  • Giant Sandcastle or Snow-Fort building
  • Winterlude ice slides (tubing!)
  • Board game night
  • Jigsaw puzzle night
  • Canoeing on Dow’s Lake

4) Non-Food Later Date Ideas

Once I get to know you, then these are great date ideas:

  • Watch fireworks together
  • Multi-player computer games (I have AoE3)
  • Hiking- Champlain’s Point, Hog’s Back Falls, behind Parliament
  • Roller coaster?
  • Little League Baseball Game?
  • Wash cars together
  • Tree planting
  • Sailing
  • Clean-up a park
  • Star-gazing evening
  • Making a meal together
  • Concert/ Movie
  • Theatre- eg. Shakespeare in the park!
  • Swimming
  • Archery tag
  • Play music together
  • Make a care package together for a friend
  • Taking a community centre class together to learn a new skill
  • Photography mission somewhere in the city
  • Quilt show!
  • Volunteering together
  • Water balloon fight!

 

And… that’s it. Good luck on your allergic date 🙂 Feel free to ask questions, or comment below with your favourite non-food date ideas!!!

Fabulous Failure

So lately I’ve been in an experimental mood with recipes… probably brought on by my discovering I really love watching 18th century cooking videos. I have to adapt all their recipes, but the ideas are often very old solutions to the problems I face in food preservation! 

Anyways, the other day they posted about Puff Paste, which is now known as puff pastry. I decided that since the butter has to stay cold… I would make it in the winter. Plus I was hungry. 
So I threw together a flour substitute (my wheat flour’s not allowed in the house, lest I poison my celiac sister & housemate), and calculated what I’d need so that I wouldn’t use a full pound of flour & a pound of butter… 

except that somewhere in there I screwed up. And thought it was 1:1 flour:butter in VOLUME. 

Fast forward to rolling out the dough. It seemed odd that it was SO thin the butter peeked through a lot. It wasn’t springing back like they said it would. But meh. Gluten free flours behave oddly, I thought. 

Then I cooked it. It took a lot longer than I expected, and to my surprise it looked like it was deep frying itself in the pie dish! The meat wrapped in pastry had the pastry spreading out all over. So I waited until it was all browned, and took it out. 


Not exactly *beautiful*… but OH. SO. GOOD. Good enough that I have decided not to try and salvage the leftover dough into new puff pastry that might get overworked in the salvage… but instead to make more of what I will call: Fried Pie. 

Behold, the blueberry fried pie that started it. I just filled the pie with frozen blueberries. Easy!!!

This week I made kiwi fried pie, with straight kiwi slices, and then done kiwi jam on top, and then coconut on top of that. 


Let me know if anyone wants the recipe for these failures! Lol. Otherwise I’ll post my adaptation on puff pastry once I get it to work!!!

COCOA

Well, this week has been a long wait. I “challenged” cocoa last year, but it contained milk and may have contained other random things. Throw that test out… 

This year I was chatting w my allergist, and since things are going so well on the hives front (I frequently have days without hives now!!!), he cleared me for trying the cocoa nibs I had found at the store. These are sulphite and nut and everything else I’m allergic to FREE. Note: he cleared me for doing this at home, as it’s highly unlikely to cause anaphylaxis for me. DON’T challenge things at home without your allergist’s approval!!!

So far… I spent a day doing a standard challenge. A weird feeling mouth, and some flushing, twice in the day after eating them… But nothing major and maybe my chronic hives acted up.

Tried some more again last night- again felt weird, but the hives only came later on and may have been related to something else.

I *will* keep trying these. Enjoy Life chocolate is also sulphite-free, though I’ve learned that they go ahead and label natural sources of sulphites as sulphite-free… so… many of their “sulphite-free” products are only under 10 PPM. Sigh. Thankfully… the chocolate is not one of them!!! YAY! 

In any case trying cocoa has been a delight, hives or not!!! The nibs taste like coffee beans in texture, but the smell is totally chocolate. Just smelling them is SO, SO nice!!!

I might try the *real* chocolate on valentine’s if I’m not super busy… seems like a good day to try chocolate! Wish me luck 🙂 

Carrot cake, without carrots? 

So this is not a recipe exactly… but the other day I decided to experiment a little. I was thinking that it would be nice to make a carrot-like cake. How hard can it be to make it without carrots? 


So far the first attempt was quite satisfactory, though I do now wonder what carrot cake would taste like without the spices, and whether this is comparable.

How did I replace the carrots? Sweet potato.

How did I come up with this idea? Sheer insanity. 

They have the same consistency, right? Occasionally they even come in similar colours! Though this time I used a Japanese white sweet potato (it’s what I had), next time I’ll try orange. I may also try cooked mashed sweet potato in the pancake batter too, instead of banana, so as not to muddy the flavour.

No recipe yet, though. I took my standard pancake batter, and threw in fistfuls of grated sweet potato until it looked decent. Then I mixed sugar and butter, spread on top, and baked at 350 until the toothpick came out alright.


The Verdict? Sweet Potato Cake… tastes like cake. Oddly it now has little flecks of green in the cake (I’m guessing something about being refrigerated brought out some of the blue in the purple peel?). But definitely edible.

The more vegetables, the healthier, right? Plus… I have a bunch of dehydrated sweet potato that I’m not fond of. I hear a dehydrated carrot mistake was the source of the original carrot cake recipe… so perhaps there is hope for a useful outcome to my dehydrated potato chunks. I hope!!!

Marshmallow #Fails

When you are substituting a TON of ingredients in recipes… Sometimes it works, and sometimes it doesn’t. 

Just in case you think I’m some sort of innate cooking genius… I burned eggs as a child multiple times. And bacon. And water. A lot of what I know comes from failures, so this month I thought I’d share one of my MANY failures of last year. This one was one I ate, and enjoyed. There were a few (dehydrated yogurt & fruit leather for example) which were so inedible I just had to compost. And some, like grapefruit toffee… which I made myself eat over a month or two because I’m that stubborn. 

This past summer the attempt was MARSHMALLOWS! So far it’s resulted in some very sweet, not very marshmallow like confections. I can’t use gelatin because of the sulphites, and agar is very far down the list of things to try next when I have no hives. Chocolate is MUCH higher.

But anyways, I found a recipe that used icing sugar and corn syrup, and substituted golden syrup… and i think the recipe wasn’t well tested. I tried it twice in small batches with complete failures. Delicious failures, mind you.


I tried it later at different temperatures, and it looked a lot more like marshmallows… smooth… but was basically just sugar fudge. With no flavourings.

So. All that to say: If you have a marshmallow recipe that doesn’t use gelatin or agar… please let me know!

Or if you know how to MAKE gelatin that might work too. 

TOAST

Confession time… up until about a month or two ago I was still using a shared toaster. I know, I know. Russian Roulette. After a few too many toast-related hives I finally gave up at stopped. 

Guess who is really awful at toasting toast with an oven? Me. Guess who hasn’t made toast in a while ? Me.

Imagine my jealousy when I saw my mom had a toaster bag!!! Bought in my city, no less, but gifted from a friend so she had no idea where to find it. 

But after some sleuthing (and interrogating a Santa who found some for my sister…) I found the truth. In Ottawa, turns out toaster bags of two varieties are available at “Ma Cuisine”! YAY! 


I was a bit skeptical at the plastic… but… seems to have worked!!! Guess who is now a happy camper full of toast? Me.