It’s not the story of a first-time anaphylactic reaction where epinephrine wasn’t available. It’s not the story of a teen gone rogue and rebelliously challenging her food restrictions. It’s not the story of an epi-pen left at home while on vacation. This is a story where – by all accounts – everything was done right.
Natalie Giorgi took one bite of something she had eaten many times before – something she thought was a safe treat. This time it contained peanuts. She spit it out and alerted her parents who then gave her an antihistamine. Twenty minutes later, when she experienced the first symptoms of anaphylaxis, her father – a physician – gave her a shot of epinephrine. Then another. And another. Three doses of epinephrine were not enough to stop cardiac arrest in this beautiful thirteen-year-old.
We teach our children to look both ways when never crossing the street, to never get into the car with a drunk driver, and to always carry an epi-pen. In this case, even three epi-pens were not enough.
Of course we can ask the tough questions: If she had received epinephrine sooner, would it have made a difference? If she had been rushed to the hospital would the result have been different?
We have been taught that epinephrine save lives. And surely, that is usually the case. But what happens when epinephrine simply doesn’t work? Is it possible that a body can build up a tolerance to the drug? Or, that some of our immune systems have adapted to the point of not responding to it? How do we change the ending to this story?
I remain haunted.