The last time I was at the Emergency Room was for my four-year-old daughter. Since April of this year, she has been suffering from chronic hives. At first glance, these hives could be mistaken for an allergic reaction— or worse, some kind of viral infection. During the course of her treatment, I’ve had multiple parents approach me asking if she is contagious. Which, of course, I’ve promptly set the record straight and informed them about her condition. But, I digress. Chronic hives is defined as welts that last on the patient for more than six weeks, or recur over months to years. They oftentimes cannot find a direct cause for chronic hives (which is my daughter’s case), although sometimes they can be a sign of an underlying autoimmune disorder, such as thyroid disease or lupus.
Chronic hives can sometimes also cause varying degrees of swelling, called angioedema. This swelling can occur suddenly around the face, lips, eyes, and throat, and can— in severe instances— cause trouble breathing.
My daughter experienced her first angioedema event about two months after the chronic hives appeared. It began with a severe outbreak of hives (these outbreaks never have an apparent cause), and when her lip suddenly started to swell, we wasted no time. We immediately took her to the Emergency Room, and although it only took us 15 minutes to get there, by the time I pulled up her face was completely swollen. Her entire body was red and felt like it was on fire. I’m sure you can imagine my alarm, but I forced myself to remain calm. Thankfully, the staff at the ER worked so quickly and almost immediately got it under control. They were so gentle and sweet with her, that I had to choke back tears of gratitude. Within a few hours after we arrived, the swelling started to recede.
This was just one event— one instance of an emergency— and it made me think: The medical personnel and supporting staff in the ER do this all day, every day. They work tirelessly to help every patient that walks through their doors, and I’m in awe of their resilience, strength, and ability to work under tremendous pressure. Thanks to these skilled professionals, we have peace of mind that help will be there when we need it.
Celeste Jo Walls