Darkness outside the window of my flat in Vienna’s 3rd district would soon be bright with emergency lights, but unknowingly, I simply focused on preparing my dinner with pride. It was a level of pride that only a young lady who moved to a country just a week before, not knowing the local language, who made a successful trip to the supermarket would feel. Pasta and sauce were on the menu, but the ingredients were in German. While I had looked up my most severe allergens, I failed to notice the tree nut listed on the jar of sauce. I was only three bites into my meal when my anaphylactic reaction began. Immediately struck by fear and denial, I failed to use the next precious moments of mental clarity to get my EpiPen and quickly learn the emergency number to call the ambulance. Instead, I panicked and called my best friend…who was 5,000 miles away. I did not get my EpiPen out of my bag nor look up the number to the ambulance. I didn’t call my boss, the one person who I knew in the entire country.
At eight minutes post exposure, stomach pain now accompanied my swollen and itchy mouth, throat, and lungs. I knew it was severe, but denial still hung heavy. I tried to force the poisonous allergen out of me, and I caught a look at my face in the bathroom mirror, now pale and gray. Fifteen minutes had passed and the wheezing increased. I still did not get my EpiPen, instead my distress guided me to Google and I struggled to hunt for the Austrian emergency phone number. I couldn’t find it. Everything was in German. I called my boss and left a terrifying message on her voicemail. I was alone. My thinking was clouded, but I knew I had to get my life-saving medication before I lost consciousness.
Sitting on the edge of the bed, I pulled out my auto-injector. It was in my hand, but my brain fog increased and I began to slip into unconsciousness. The needle went into my hand injecting the medication. It was not in the intended injection spot of my thigh, but it was enough to keep me conscious. Like a gift from God, my cell phone sitting at my side rang and my boss was on the other end. She was only blocks away at dinner with a friend. I made my way outside with the wall supporting me and the door trying to defeat me. As I stepped onto the sidewalk, my boss ran around the corner and the ambulance pulled into view, the bright emergency lights filling my small, dark street. I survived.
~Amanda J. Moore