Be Your Own Advocate: Part 1

I got an emergency shot in my backside last week. I hate that it came to this. My family planned this amazing cruise vacation for the holidays, and on night two, I was laid up in the medical office at 2 AM.

I thought I could handle my allergy myself. Let me rephrase – I still have a lot to learn.

I informed the cruise line ahead of time of my allergies, but I wasn’t convinced the customer service representative I spoke to knew what she was talking about. She told me there was no dress code for dinner (wrong). And also that I was on a different ship than we booked (VERY wrong). I called back to confirm the latter two things, but not that my allergy was properly recorded.

Upon arrival to our first dinner in the dining room, I also informed the wait staff. They took note of it, but, just to be safe, I ordered items labeled as vegetarian. Well, unless blatantly mammal-free like shrimp cocktail. Because shrimp.

I’m pretty sure it was the dark chocolate custard that got me. One bite of the slightly sweet, fluffy goodness and the thought hit me – GELATIN. Sure enough, about 11:40 pm, the chest tightness hit. I couldn’t draw in enough breath. And then my stomach started acting up. I took Benadryl and went up to the top deck to see if I could find anyone who could find out the ingredients in the custard before I used my EpiPen unnecessarily. No luck. So I thought I would stay up top for some fresh air and cold water. I was trying not to pass out when a few very kind crew members insisted on taking me to the medical office. THE medical office. You know, the one where everyone with norovirus goes and breathes and touches things? The literal setting of my very worst nightmares. My Purell-hoarding self was not loving any piece of this suggestion. But they insisted. So I went.

The first thing I realized is that people, even some well-informed medical staff, become incredulous at the suggestion of a mammal allergy. I think one person even rolled their eyes. Which made me defensive and apologetic, and all the things I didn’t need to be in that situation.

Once they established that I was actually having an allergic reaction, they started an IV Benadryl drip and gave me a steroid shot. In the butt.

I didn’t sleep much after that because all I could think about was how I was riding on a floating hotel of death in the middle of the ocean with no available hospital and a staff that may or may not believe I have an allergy to mammal-derived products. And that I had probably contracted norovirus.

That’s when I realized I am going to have to be my own advocate.

I have alpha-gal syndrome.
I cannot eat meat or meat products.
I paid enough dang money for the vacation that they should accommodate my needs.

And when it came right down to it, they shaped up. A couple of phone calls were made and the head waiter was informed. He provided me with the upcoming night’s dinner menu each day so I could choose what I wanted to eat and he could check with the chef to make sure there was not even a smidgen of mammal. They even cooked it separately. And they didn’t seem put out at all.

So, the rest of the world has a lot to learn, too. But at least the cruise staff now knows gelatin is not vegetarian. And alpha-gal syndrome exists.

I’m not going to let this stop me from vacationing wherever I want to go. But I will have to be an advocate for my own needs. We Alpha Gals deserve the right to live and breathe and sunbathe and swim, even on a floating hotel of death in the middle of the ocean.

(Post-vacation note: I did not contract norovirus.)

🐟🐓❤️ Debbie

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