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Life Is Too Short To Drink Bad Wine: 59 - A Constant Worry

…Karyn’s face was swelling alarmingly. She began to erupt in giant hives and her eyes swelled so much that they looked like slits in her face. I took her at once to the doctor and was told that she most likely had an allergy to something in the sausage roll she had eaten and was given antihistamine medicine…

Gayle Woodward has good cause to worry about her young daughter, and also to be disturbed by a peculiar phone call from Massey University Library.

I continued with my studies the next year, with two more Stage One papers; one in Psychology and the other extending my Sociology study. The Psychology course work was nothing like I had expected, being scientific in nature and including lots of mathematical formulae. I withdrew after a few months struggling to keep up with understanding the readings. The other paper was interesting.

I began to use the Massey University library service, which meant one could borrow books from the Palmerston North campus library and the books would be sent out by post. I read heavily, feeling very confident after my triumphant effort in the last year.

But one afternoon something happened which tainted the joy I was getting from extramural study. My phone rang and a young-sounding male voice told me he was phoning from the Massey Library. He told me I was being watched at home by someone close by and that they had found my address from registration files.

I shivered as I listened. If I did not do what they wanted, he continued, I would receive a huge fine from the library and then get no results posted to me if I did not pay.

I should have been angry. I should have phoned the library straight back to report this violation of my privacy, but the only thing I did was slam the phone down mid sentence. I sat down in an armchair and shook. I was very frightened. I did not call back being scared that the same person might answer.

I did not borrow any other books from that library and found that my course work was marred by the less specific books I could borrow from the public library in our town.

When exam time came around again, I had passed, but only with a ‘C’ pass. I had never in all my time at school, teachers college, or university study received a C before. I was disappointed and disheartened.

At the end of the year, Karyn’s gym club was holding a final display for parents before a shared party. I had been asked to provide some food, “a plate”. I cooked a pack of frozen sausage rolls and arranged them on a disposable card plate.

Karyn was holding this plate on her lap and as I drove her to the gym hall she sneaked one of the rolls and gobbled it up. I reprimanded her and told her to rearrange the rolls so it was not noticeable that one was gone.

During the performance, the coach noticed that Karyn’s face was swelling alarmingly. She began to erupt in giant hives and her eyes swelled so much that they looked like slits in her face. I took her at once to the doctor and was told that she most likely had an allergy to something in the sausage roll she had eaten and was given antihistamine medicine.

We thought it might be the preservatives in the food. It wasn’t until we realised that she got the same symptoms every time that nuts in any type or way were in her food that we thought it might be serious.

We remembered that as a three-year-old she had eaten a peanut butter sandwich, or rather one mouthful of it, and had yelled “Yuck” and rushed off to clean her teeth to get the taste away. She cleaned and rinsed and cleaned and rinsed till we asked her to stop.

Karyn was taken for the first of her allergy tests. When the peanut test liquid was first put on her arm an angry and alarmingly fast reaction occurred. I was told to keep nuts from her diet, even peanut oil or nuts used as protein filling in processed foods.

However, a new worry appeared. It seemed that if she ate just before going to gym practice or to a competition, that as soon as she worked up a sweat, the hives would appear again, she would swell and be itchy and her nose and eyes would stream with mucus. Her antihistamine tablets worked quickly but it was a constant worry as each episode was worst than the last one.

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