2012 Wellesley High School Lacrosse Season
The ground is warming up, flowers are blossoming, and everything around me is brighter than the day before. Spring has arrived, and the 2012 Lacrosse Season is just around the corner. I laced up my running shoes at the Wellesley High School track in Wellesley, Massachusetts where I was specifically training for the 2-mile run test. It was just recently announced by the Varsity Lacrosse Coach, Rocky Batty. In 2012, Wellesley High School was the most talented public high school lacrosse team in the state of Massachusetts. If a player did not pass this conditioning test, they were not allowed to try-out. No exceptions.
Following an inadequate warmup, I placed my phone on the line with a timer set at zero. 1, 2, 3… I was off. I thought to myself about doing everything in my power to cross that finish line in under 12 minutes. I motivated myself from within, fighting through the pain and pushing my body to new extremes. After 2 laps, I felt a needle pierce my abdomen. This sharp pain grew exponentially, but I convinced myself I was out-of-shape and needed to push through it.
Lap 3, 4…
I’m halfway there. I feel my skin overheat. Tingling sensations consume my extremities and start to creep up my arms and legs. “I’m almost there, I’ve got this.” I envision myself making plays and competing on the field.
Lap 6, 7…
My breathing gets heavy. I can feel my overheated face emit steam in the late-winter air. I’ve hit the final stretch. I hear the imaginary footsteps of my competitors at my tail. I speed through the finish line and immediately stop to check the timer... I beat it!
Life or Death
My seconds of celebration are instantly engulfed by a fear of the unknown. Itchy hives assailed my skin like ants on a gummy worm. My body is in anaphylactic shock, but my mind has no idea why. I race home and run through the front door screaming to my mom in search of my EpiPen. An EpiPen is a life-saving auto-injector that contains epinephrine; the drug of choice to combat severe anaphylactic reactions.
After I find it in the kitchen drawer, I sit down in the chair, relax my right leg, and swing & stab my life-saving dose of epinephrine into my right quadriceps. I can feel the symptoms immediately dissipate, but I still have trouble breathing. Minutes later, an ambulance arrives. While sitting in my kitchen chair, one medic injects my left leg with a second dose of epinephrine, a second medic inserts an IV in my right arm, and 2 others prepare a stretcher at my front door. Fortunately, I received my life-saving medication in time, but for many allergy sufferers across the world, this is not always the case. In fact,
Only 20% of the 17 million food allergy sufferers in the united states report carrying their life-saving medication with them at all times!
Despite this severe reaction, I was determined to pass the official run test for two main reasons: first, I hate excuses, and second, I feared that my teammates wouldn't take my allergies seriously. I knew that I'd feel disappointed and embarrassed if Coach Batty let me try-out without having passed the test. I did not want special treatment. I attempted the 2-mile run three more times that same week, and each time I had to stop short because I felt the sharp needle pain in my abdomen. This is often one of the first physical symptoms of severe anaphylaxis (at least in my experience).
"You should quit."
To test for allergies, doctors conduct a skin test where they expose a small amount of a certain allergen to your open skin. When my renowned Boston-based allergist re-tested me for different trees, grasses, and mosses, I severely reacted to every sample. I explained to him the run test and try-out situation, but his suggestion was to quit playing lacrosse all together.
I was shocked.
My food allergies already limited my taste buds. I was definitely not going to let them take away my favorite sport. Since no allergist could accurately explain the reasoning for my reactions, I set out on my own to become an expert on myself.
What Exactly Is Exercise-Induced Anaphylaxis (EIA)?
Anaphylaxis is a life-threatening allergic response. It varies in severity from patient to patient, and there are no clear definitions as to why food allergies develop in the human body. Since every patient is different, this is my personal story about my personal food allergies.
My EIA reactions are caused by a combination of several factors. When ingested, I often experience severe allergic reactions to peanuts, tree-nuts, and sesame seeds. I’m also allergic to wheat, trees, grasses, and mosses, in addition to the skin on red-skinned fruits. The Wellesley High School track is surrounded by healthy oak trees that drape over both sides of the track. As winter snows turn into spring showers, these oak trees undergo a surge of rebirth, and this fertilization period plays a crucial role in the complex triggering of my anaphylaxis.
My EIA is triggered by a combination of these allergens. For instance, I consume wheat-based foods quite often with no consequent symptoms. However, I do experience anaphylaxis when I eat wheat-based foods within two-hours prior to a strenuous workout—that is, one with a minimal or no warm-up, followed by an intense burst of energy like a two-mile sprint, and finished with an insufficient cool down—or no cool down at all. The environment plays a pivotal role in the triggering of this anaphylactic response.
I have learned that this type of training sends a shockwave through my body, otherwise known as "The Perfect Storm". This physically unidentifiable reaction occurring inside my body from the wheat-based foods eventually erupts into anaphylactic shock in response to this shockwave.
Now, over 5 years later, I am confident in my understanding of my personal food allergies. When I train—depending on the level of intensity of my core workout—I will warm-up and cool down my body for fifteen to thirty minutes each. I also pay close attention to what I eat throughout the day, and I tend to avoid gluten in general. However, despite this more clear understanding of my food allergies,
ANAPHYLAXIS STILL HAUNTS ME EVERY SINGLE DAY.
I'm not alone. More than 1.6 billion people worldwide have allergies, and over 250 million of those people have food allergies specifically. Allergies are not only growing exponentially in prevalence, but they're also growing in severity. Every time a reaction occurs, that reaction is worse than the time before. Therefore, it is crucial that patients, caregivers & administrators treat these 'mild' reactions as if they are life-threatening, because the truth is, they are life-threatening.
There is no such thing as a 'mild' food allergy!
LET LIFE CARRY ON