Two nights before my nineteenth birthday, I was studying for my last final exam, which was supposed to take place the following evening, spooning peanut butter into my mouth. Suddenly my tongue started to tingle and swell, my chest and neck began to itch, and my throat started to close. I soon found myself at the University Medical Center of Princeton at Plainsboro (PMC) with an epi-pen in my arm.
Since then, many people have asked me what being stabbed with an epi-pen felt like, and if I experienced the “impending feeling of doom” that HEART Wilderness First Aid instructors describe as the post-epi experience or if it was like the shot of adrenaline to the heart scene in Pulp Fiction. I guess the answer to both of these questions is: sort of. To me, it instantaneously felt like my heart was exploding and I immediately sprung from lying down to sitting up, gasping, coughing, and screaming, as my hospital gown fell forwards and I flashed the emergency ward because my hospital bed was in front of the window. My first thought was, “I hope I never have to do that again.” I had a rebound reaction and received another epi-pen the following day at McCosh right before my exam was supposed to be administered.
The day after that, I took my exam and had a birthday party. I realized that for the first time, I was actually thankful for living to see another year. I had melodramatically felt like Dean’s Date had tried to kill me but it hadn’t and something I ate literally tried to kill me, but it hadn’t, all within a 48-hour time frame. I had survived my first semester finals against what I felt to be all odds.
After that I spent much of intersession with an allergist taking various tests to prove that my reaction was in fact to peanuts. I found this hard to believe because I have been eating them for my entire life, and even ate peanut butter for breakfast the same day I had the reaction. Turns out allergies can develop at any time, even over the course of a single day (although this is extremely rare).
I still find the whole thing quite hard to believe and incredibly ridiculous. I never thought that I would be one of those kids who carried around epi-pens or insisted on the use of two different knives for peanut butter and jelly. It’s a damn shame that I can no longer indulge in the unbeatable pairing of peanut butter and chocolate. But ultimately the experience taught me that finals really aren’t that bad and that life is full of surprises. So savor your peanut butter because you never know if the next time you eat that salty, creamy, and delicious colloid it will try to kill you.