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It seems every parent has experienced that feeling of helplessness when their child is facing a medical emergency.
For Andrea Terrones, a nurse practitioner in Des Moines, it happened shortly after her family returned from a trip. Her 14-year-old son, Joseph, was stung by a wasp.
“I went back in the house and told my mom, and she tried a few things to make it feel better, but it wasn't working,” Joseph said. “I started getting itchy and hives started appearing really fast all over. It hurt and itched terribly at the same time, and then my throat started feeling scratch. I was coughing and started feeling like I couldn't breathe very well.”
Joseph was experiencing anaphylaxis – a potentially life-threatening allergic reaction. He had been stung in the ear, and the reaction started spreading quickly, causing his entire body to swell as he struggled to catch his breath.
Fortunately for the Terrones family, help was a short drive away at the UnityPoint Health – Marshalltown emergency department.
“The drive to the ER was unnerving, as I watched Joseph's reaction progress, and he began to complain of his throat tightening,” Andrea recalled. “I tried to help him stay calm and breathe slowly, while at the same time urging my husband to drive as fast as he could through town.
“Even though I’m a nurse practitioner, it’s so different when your own child is having the medical emergency.”
Once in the ER, the medical staff jumped into action. Monica Davis, RN, gathered details from the parents, while Physician’s Assistant McKenzie Cooper and Pediatric Nurse Practitioner Lisa Glantz started evaluating Joseph.
Joseph was given epinephrine (to open the airways in his lungs), Benadryl and a breathing treatment. Meanwhile, the staff worked to calm Joseph and reassure the family everything would be all right.
“We were just happy to be there for them,” said Glantz, “As a provider, you put a lot of energy into what you do, and I want to care for people like I would have for my own son. It gave us all a great sense of relief that he recovered like he did.”
“I started feeling better after the nurses and doctors said they knew how to take care of this reaction,” said Joseph. “And then I felt much better after they gave me the medicine to make me stop itching and breathe better. They were really nice!”
“Joseph was great to work with,” said Cooper. “He kept himself calm and trusted the process. An allergic reaction can become life-threatening quickly, so it’s imperative to initiate treatment immediately to prevent its progression.”
Now, Joseph has an Epi pen, and he knows how to use it. He also realizes there’s an ER close by if he needs it again.
“We were greatly impressed by the care Joseph received – and relieved that we have excellent emergency services available so close to home,” said Andrea. “I can’t imagine if we would have had to travel further than 10 miles. As a parent, that would have been my worst nightmare to see my son in need of help that I could not provide.”
Photo caption (left to right): Joseph, Emily, Andrea, Dan, Olivia and Benjamin