|The examination room|
After working through only two of the more than 20 questions, I heard a light knock on the door. A second later a woman in a white coat walked in with two plastic totes containing small glass bottles of yellow liquid. She set the totes on the examination table before taking a seat at the computer and introducing herself as Mary. Baffled by the speed with which things were moving, I quickly tried to answer more of the questions on the piece of paper as Mary began a review of the information I had provided earlier. I responded with nods and short answers and I scribbled answers onto the piece of paper. Noticing my hurried movements, Mary calmly redirected my attention, "Don't worry about that for now. You can fill it out later."
As I set the clipboard on the computer desk to my right she continued, "Now, bring your chair over to the left side of the examination table and extend out your arms, face up" she said rolling toward the totes on the examination table. Following her instruction, I took my position next to the examination table and laid out my arms. Moving to the opposite side of the table, Mary explained she was going to stick my forearms with a series of different common allergens to gauge my reaction to each. I watched as she pulled an apparatus containing eight points, each of which were submerged in a separate bottle of yellow liquid, from the handle of a tote before her. She leaned over the table and advised me I would feel a slight prick from each point on the tool as she pressed the device into my right arm. Without delay, Mary proceeded to grab an identical tool from another tote and drive eight more points into a lower part of my right forearm. Continuing, she grabbed one more tool from the final tote and stuck its eight points into my left forearm.
Mary stated I would start to feel a slight burning and itching if an allergic reaction was occurring and directed me to move back to my previous position near the computer. I moved my chair back to the computer desk and sat down. Mary followed suit, rolling back to her position at the computer after cleaning up the examination table. "Ok, I know its only been a few minutes, but let me take a look at your arms," she said reaching out for my wrists. With a burning feeling starting to overwhelm my skin, I turned my palms upward and extended my arms. Lifting her head to examine the injection sites through her glasses, Mary immediately responded to the sight of my forearms. "Oh my..." she said with obvious concern in her voice, "This is certainly something else..."
|My right arm a few minutes into the test|
The two of us chatted from several minutes about my family and my background. Mary happily fielded my questions about the sources of allergies, the body's reaction to allergens, and the methods to control allergic reactions. Sensing my curiosity, Mary was happy to provide me an in depth background of allergy medicine and the advances that have been made in understanding the sources of allergies. I listened intently and asked more questions in an effort to avoid the intense burning sensation covering my forearm. 10 minutes into the test Mary asked to check my arms once again, which prompted me to once again extend them outward. I looked at the injection sites with amazement upon noticing nine of them had grown to the size of a marble or a dime. Mary took her time looking over each reacting site once more, explaining to me the types of allergens to which I was reacting. "Cat hair, dust mites, maple pollen, birch pollen, elm, and one kind of mold; those are the ones that are really puffing up," she said as she rotated my arms in her hands. "Surprisingly, ragweed, dogs, cockroaches, and most of the remaining molds aren't reacting," she continued as she moved to type her findings into the computer. With my arms now feeling like they were enveloped in a poison ivy rash, I asked her how much longer the test would take. "About four minutes left.." she said lifting a small plastic timer so I could see it, "Only four minutes."
In an effort to stave off the burning, itchy feeling, I balled up my fists and squeezed as I looked toward the ceiling. "I can do this," I thought as I took a deep breath and bit my lip. I took one more glance at the welts on my forearm, which had now started expanding from circular shapes to obscure random forms. Noticing I was looking at them once again Mary did her best to distract me with an appeal to my inquisitive nature. "You know, what's interesting about this is that your reactions are quite random. Some animals but not others, one mold but not most, some weeds but not the most common ones, and only about half of the trees... It's very intriguing how this is coming out." she said glancing at the timer. I smiled at her before lifting my head back toward the ceiling. "Alright, let's start getting our final results," Mary chimed in suddenly despite the fact the timer had not quite struck zero.
|My right arm at the end of the test|
Mary laughed and directed me to the sink in the corner of the room. Scrubbing my arms vigorously, I looked on as Mary gathered a handful of medicines for me to take immediately and typed a series of prescriptions into the computer. Returning to my chair, I listened on as Mary gave me specific advice on how to avoid allergens in indoor and outdoor environments. She assured me I could take better control of my symptoms and that our efforts would help me find a way to better manage my allergies. I continued listening to her advise as Mary put together a folder of information for me and provided me a series of recommendations for treating the welts on my arms. Her concern apparent, Mary paused after her explanation and asked me how I was feeling. "It's itchy, but I'll get through it," I said smiling. She acknowledged my remark and reminded me of her contact information before leading me out the door. Wrapping up my appointment, I checked out of the clinic and started making my way home.
|My right arm on the drive home|
Today's trip to the allergist was something I likely needed to do years ago. Although it wasn't exciting or fantastic, the steps I took today are critical to maintaining my health and wellness. Perhaps now I can start to find a path to address my persistent and often overwhelming allergies. Considering they have affected my health and motivation in the past, doing so will be important to making sure I keep my "I have never..." goals on track. Sure, the experience proved uncomfortable and very itchy, but this test revealed some very important information on how I can be better for myself. I can't think of any better takeaway from a new experience.