Today I am choosing to tell this story, not out of self-pity or for attention, but for two very important reasons: First, to raise awareness of Epi-Pen safety, and second, to share how God was faithful, and how His presence gave tangible peace and help in a situation that was very scary for our family. Here goes…
Yesterday was a normal summer day.
The kids and I got up, ate breakfast and took a walk to the park.
Upon returning, we got ready and a neighbor invited our son to join them for the afternoon. The girls and I ran errands and came home for naps.
30 minutes into rest time, I found our 4-year-old sunshine girl on the floor, surrounded by books. We headed downstairs to read the books in the library bag.
We read every single one.
When finished, she asked if there were more books in the bag. Standing, I told her we read them all and walked to the kitchen to start cleaning.
She dropped from the couch to the floor and looked in the bag. I washed one dish. I heard a strangely loud plastic ‘click’ and looked at her.
I couldn’t see what she was doing. She was looking down at something behind the bag on the floor. It was such a strange noise, I asked her if she had broken something.
At my voice, she looked up – her eyes wide, as big as quarters. At her shocked, fearful look I ran.
In her hand was the Epi-Pen Jr. we carry everywhere for our son’s food allergies. It was out of its case, the blue safety cap was on the floor, and the orange end was pressed into her pointer finger.
The blood made it clear it had been activated and injected into her tiny finger.
As I lifted her, clasping her finger in my hand, tears and sobs flowed freely. She cried so hard she was nearly hyperventilating – in fear, in pain, and in shock at a curious moment turned horribly wrong.
A thousand things raced through my mind as I grabbed an entire stack of napkins off of the kitchen table. I cradled her in my arms while applying pressure to her finger.
Did she have epinephrine in her system? Was it too much? Did the needle damage her finger? How could I have been so stupid to leave it in the bag where she could reach it? How could this happen with me 10 feet away?
Familiar words flashed through my head.
Have I not commanded you? Be strong and courageous. Do not be afraid. The LORD your God is with you wherever you go.
-Joshua 1:9 (NIV)
Deep breath. Thank you, Jesus.
I quickly prayed, Lord just HELP us.
I pressed my forehead to hers and spoke softly, asking her to take deep breaths with me. Needing to hold her, I needed her to be calm enough to call the doctor and have them hear me.
Though her eyes remained wet and fearful, she was able to calm down enough so I could call her doctor. I hoped they would to see her in the clinic.
The nurse quickly asked a doctor what our next steps were. Take her to Children’s Hospital. Now.
Not as I’d hoped. Fear threatened. So many What IFs?
God is our refuge and strength, a very present help in trouble
– Psalm 46:1 (NIV)
I called my mom. She left immediately to come watch the baby.
Then I took a deep breath and called my husband. You guys, I am so thankful to be married to him – he was calm and kind when he did not have to be. He immediately left work to meet me at the emergency room.
As I spoke, explaining to others what happened, she got more and more upset. I kept it as brief as possible, but needed to give enough information to be clear. She could not calm down. We snuggled for a bit and looked at her finger – still bleeding but slower.
Now I could see the wound went THROUGH her finger – in the underside of the joint at the end of her pointer finger and out the top.
I began to be concerned about damage to her finger along with epinephrine that could be in her system.
We covered it with a band aid. Still holding her, we prayed, thanking God for being with us and asking for His peace and comfort.
I reassured her that she would be ok and that she was not in trouble.
She told me it hurt. And that she was scared.
My mom arrived. While I grabbed my purse and phone, my mom prayed with our daughter and made sure I was OK to drive. I was, so my mom stayed with the baby and we left.
In the car, I took some deep breaths. The words from a worship song came to mind:
I’m no longer a slave to fear – I am a child of God.
(No Longer Slaves, Bethel Music)
I recalled how God has worked in my life when it comes to fear over the past few years. This is it. In moments like this I either move forward in faith, demonstrating changed character, or revert to old habits.
I prayed for strength and peace so I could help our daughter calm down and be the mom she needed right now. I prayed that even in this situation, as fear rose up, that it would not paralyze me.
There was no time for that. She needed me.
The Holy Spirit did not disappoint – His presence and peace washed over me.
Sunshine girl was still very upset in the car. Unable to hug her while driving, I needed to calm her down with words. I couldn’t use the radio because I wanted to be sure I could hear her clearly if anything changed.
I asked her to sing me a song. I often ask her to sing to keep her busy, or to calm her down.
She would not.
So I sang to her – off key, strained, but as happy-sounding as I could manage. I sang her favorite songs from church and BSF. Worship is a powerful thing in fearful circumstances – there is not a lot of room for fear when praising God. I felt calmer, stronger, with each off-key word.
Jesus Loves Me This I Know…Holy, Holy, Holy…Joy to the World…she began whispering the words with me. So I kept going. The Bible Is A Treasure Book…Good Morning God…
Now that she was calm, I tried asking a few questions about what happened.
I asked her if she knew it was the Epi-Pen. She did not. We usually keep them in a black case. This particular pen was ‘extra’ from school, kept in the bag we use for activities, so we never forget to have one with us. (We’ll need a different plan going forward)
I asked what she thought was going to happen. She said she wanted to know what the orange part does and began choking back tears. (I’m grateful it was not closer to her face)
I asked if it surprised her. She closed her eyes and nodded yes.
I asked if it hurt. Fresh tears. Yes.
I choked back my own tears as I considered how she was just a little girl being curious and then a needle shot through her finger. How it was scary and hurt so bad and how she was also afraid of being in trouble.
I asked if it hurt now. Surprisingly, she smiled and said her finger felt like ‘nothing‘. Upon further questioning, ‘nothing’ meant numb. While glad it didn’t hurt, numb might not be a good thing…
We rounded the corner to the hospital.
I am grateful my husband beat us there. By phone he told me exactly where to go. As we rounded the corner from the parking ramp to the emergency department, his face was kind and concerned – no judgement.
He took our daughter from my tired arms and we walked in together. His presence was a relief, encouraging and strengthening.
They handed us masks because of the recent measles outbreak. We sat with a triage nurse. This was all familiar – I remembered being here before with our son for an asthma event.
Our daughter’s vitals were good. Heart rate wasn’t too fast. Some relief set in.
She was shy but cooperative with the nurse, her bloodshot eyes peeking out over her Mickey Mouse mask.
The nurse asked questions. We answered.
And we waited.
In the room, sunshine girl wanted to sit on the bed and was thrilled to hear she could pick a princess movie.
She sat alone one the bed. She watched carefully, curious about everything the nurse and doctor did. If this child does not go into the medical profession, I will be shocked. She is brave, remarkably calm, curious and excited by every doctor visit. No matter what they ask of her – shots, looking at her injured finger, you name it – she will do it as long as she knows it has a purpose.
For the remainder of the visit – the only time she got upset was when I asked the doctor if we could dispose of the Epi-Pen at the hospital. The sight of it evoked obvious memories of pain and fear.
The doctor examined her finger and asked us all kinds of questions, starting with ‘I’m assuming this was an accident?’ I told him what happened, shoving down the mom-guilt for another day.
Long story short, her X-rays showed no fragments of needle or bone, and it appeared the needle went between the finger bones, through the joint. She could bend it with pain.
The doctor cleaned it up.
The working assumption is epinephrine injected after the needle passed through her finger, leaving behind a doozy of a puncture wound. It was both interesting and scary to learn that if epinephrine is injected in a high dose into the joint, it can cause blood vessels to constrict so much that blood flow is cut off to the finger. This constriction can be so severe, it can lead to necrosis and tissue death.
The doctor reassured us this was not the case and sent us home with instructions to use bacitracin and band aids on the wound, give Motrin for pain, and watch for signs of infection.
As we left, the doctor mentioned these injuries are actually very common. I guess we weren’t unique.
Sunshine girl was actually pretty peppy as we left the hospital. She was more thrilled to wear her Hello Kitty sticker and to bring home printouts of her x-rays to show people her bones.
Here is a photo of all of us in our lovely masks.
A few lessons from this story:
- Accidents can happen even when a child is being supervised and in the same room with a parent
- Epi Pens are life-saving devices but can be quickly activated in the hands of a child with dangerous consequences
- While it is important Epi-Pens be accessible to adults – a purse or bag can be accessed by a child – I need to think through where ours will be located at home so we don’t forget it but have it in a safe place
- Children’s Hospital in St. Paul has amazing staff who were efficient, kind, and made our daughter and us feel comfortable and well cared for
- We have amazing family and friends who showed up and prayed for us when we needed them
- God is not distant – His presence and help is real and tangible and He is faithful
- God’s word is alive, powerful and active, giving peace and comfort in real-life circumstances
- How we respond in a scary circumstance may determine how our child responds
- God has made our sunshine girl to be amazingly calm and fascinated in medical situations
We are so very grateful.