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A swollen face, an allergic reaction, and how meeting Laney has changed my perspective

I woke up yesterday morning and immediately knew something was very wrong. My face felt hot and swollen and I was having trouble opening my eyes.

I ran into the bathroom to look in the mirror and check out what on earth was going on only to be startled by my appearance. My eyes and half of my face were very swollen.

A wash cloth with ice cold water did little to alleviate the swelling and we ended up heading into the doctor. After examination, they determined I’d had a severe allergic reaction to something. We’re not sure what, but the allergy medication has slowly been reducing the swelling and relieving the pain–gratefully.

It was inconvenient, it looked bad, it was a little disconcerting, and it was definitely painful. And yes, I’ll admit that I worried about seeing someone I knew when I was at the doctor’s and I also worried about what my swollen face might look like when I head to Texas on Friday!

But truthfully, it was hard for me to stay stressed out about my swollen face. Instead, I kept thinking of Laney–one of the moms in our CSP that I met in the DR last week.

She’s a mother of three and lives in the home pictured above. Her home does have an outdoor toilet, refrigerator, and stove, but it provides little protection from the elements–and it’s only a little ways from the dump.

{One of Laney’s adorable daughters}

Her home was hot and fly-infested, but Laney didn’t seem to notice. Instead, she talked about how thankful she was to have a part-time job and three children.
Her face beamed as she told us how thankful she also was to have a leg. I was having trouble understanding through the interpreter until she pulled up her pant leg to reveal that a large section of her ankle and calf was missing. She had been in a motorcycle accident and had almost lost her leg.

I also noticed her face had a large scar on it. I assumed this was from the motorcycle accident, as well. But she told her us it was from her husband–he had been really abusive and had bit her one night. He left two months ago and she hasn’t seen him since.

As I stood in front of the mirror yesterday morning looking at my swollen eyes, I looked at them with new perspective. Instead of being stressed about what was going on, I realized what blessings I have: money to visit a doctor, a husband who cares for me, health, clean water, access to medicine… the list is endless.

A swollen face is a small problem to deal with in light of the burdens and difficulties so many are struggling with right now.

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  • Oh my, so sorry to hear that! Glad to hear that the medicine is working! I know it’s hard not to worry about outwards appearances, but the women at the convention in Texas will be able to see the beauty of your heart, no matter what your face looks like! 🙂 Prayers to you!

  • Sam says:

    Thank you. You are so right. We are so blessed.

  • What a story! I hope you are feeling better soon and it is interesting how someone’s suffering can place our in a different light….

  • Amber says:

    Amen! Sometimes a little perspective is what we need in life. God bless Laney’s outlook.

  • Heather C says:

    Thank you Crystal for reminding me that life is so much worse for so many others. My family has had the worst year we thought imaginable, my 25 year old brother was killed in a car accident in December, then my husbands dad passed away suddenly on Chirstmas eve, our water pipes burst in January causing our whole bedroom to have to be redone, all while I’m 7 months pregnant. Then Today I was distracted by my 2 year old in a parking lot and backed into an oncoming truck. A stupid mistake that’s going to cost us $500 we could really use elsewhere. The lady was so mad, I spent all morning crying I felt so bad and then was feeling sorry for myself thinking about how it just seems to be one thing after another. But alas I should be counting my blessings, I have a wonderful Husband, a beautiful son, a roof over my head and we live in a great country, we still have it pretty good. Thank you so much for this, your post could not have come at a better time!

    • Crystal says:

      {Hugs!} I am SO sorry, Heather! 🙁 I just prayed for you that God would bring some encouragement your way.

    • Michele says:

      I am so sorry about your brother. What a tragedy! My sincerest condolences. Couple that with the loss of your father-in-law and everything else, and it sounds like things have been very rough for you. I hope your new little one will bring you some much-needed joy. ((Hugs))

  • Chantell Fenner says:

    Oh Crystal, what a blessing this post was to me! I am in the middle of a crossroads with my family and at best, its simply a minor irritation. A little perspective goes a looooong way. Thank you for sharing your heart and thoughts.

  • Carisa says:

    It is amazing what a bit of perspective can do for all of us…thanks for sharing your story with us. Praying for Laney and also for your face to heal ;-).

  • Emily says:

    Thank you for this story and for changing my perspective today. I’m currently on the couch, unable to move, due to morning sickness (still at 25 weeks), but I still have so much to be thankful for. I have a wonderful husband who is so understanding and only wants me to feel better, I have a comfortable house to rest in, and in July I will have my beautiful baby girl. And those are just a few of the wonderful things I have in my life! Thank you for convicting me about my little pity party. God is so good! I do hope you feel better soon 🙂

  • Summer says:

    Trips out of the country always seem to be a good reminder of how blessed we are (especially little things we take for granted)! Little things like indoor plumbing (and being able to flush toilet paper–we couldn’t do that in DR), air conditioning, and reliable transportation/housing. It certainly offers fresh perspective! Hope you feel better soon!

  • It definitely puts things into perspective! And your trip was very eye-opening.
    Glad you’re alright and had a great trip!

  • Kim says:

    This is probably a dumb question, but how does she power the refrigerator? Thanks for sharing the story!

  • Marcin says:

    Do me a favor and check your body for any kind of insect bites, rashes, or bruises. Ask your husband to help you examine yourself. And if you find something odd, make sure you go to a doctor. And tell them where you’ve been the past week.

    • Crystal says:

      They did a really thorough exam (because of my trip) and we didn’t find anything that could point to something from the DR, but we’re watching stuff really closely and they told me if it gets worse to go into the ER just to be safe. Gratefully, the meds seem to be working and I’m hoping my face is as good as new within a few more days.

      • Marcin says:

        That’s good! 🙂 I’m glad. I hope you get better in a few days. Feel better <3!

        • Joy says:

          That was my first thought, too. That something may have bit her from DR. Or, that she may have inadvertently brought a spider home in her luggage.

  • oh no Crystal! I know exactly what you mean when you said you were worried about your appearance but you are so right compared to others are lives are so easy and we are blessed. So glad you had this perspective! 🙂

  • Amy says:

    I agree with Marcin. Make sure the doctor knows you’ve been out of the country!

  • Dee W says:

    Thanks for sharing your thoughts about your trip to DR, but do be careful with your health. Allergic reactions can actually kill you. Not trying to frighten anyone, but it does happen. I am sure there are others with severe allergies (or mama’s of kids with allergies- holding my hand up), who can relate. We do not leave the house without bedadryl and epi-pen, it has saved my daughter’s life more than once.

    Just becareful!

    • Lana says:

      I second that. That was the first sign of my Mom’s severe food allergies.

      • Crystal says:

        It’s definitely a first for me and I’m hopeful it was just some fluke reaction to something or other (the only thing I can come up with is that I had put this new herbal eye mask on before going to bed and am wondering if perhaps there was some kind of herb in it that I’m allergic to? I threw it out just to be safe!). However, I’m watching it really closely as it was a scary experience (and made me feel so badly for those of you who deal with things like this on an ongoing basis–allergies, etc.).

        • Lana says:

          That was a wise decision. You just never know what is in some cosmetics. Hope you feel better soon 🙂

        • Martha says:

          Thanks for your posting this; glad you’re doing better. May I suggest getting a prescription for an “EpiPen” if you didn’t already? Once I had a reaction like that, my doctor said it would be wise to always carry this in my purse and know where it’s at. They said if I had one reaction like this, I may have a worse one in the future. My other mild allergies (to cats, seasonal, wool) actually DID get worse after that gradually. You may never use it, but if you had to, even your children or neighbor can give you the shot to save your life! God bless

        • Jen says:

          You might consider getting it back out of the trash and making a photocopy of the label and ingredients. Something may turn up later and being able to pinpoint an ingredient back to that product could be useful.

        • Courtney says:

          Several years ago, I had an allergic reaction two days in a row. I got very hot and flushed and broke out in head to toe hives. The first day it happened, I had no clue what could have caused it. The second day it happened, I realized that the reactions had occurred both days shortly after I took my vitamins. I had just gotten a new brand of vitamins and did not realize that they also contained herbal supplements. I threw those vitamins away and have never had another allergic reaction since.

        • Nikky says:

          i once woke up to see my lips swollen to about the size of a tennis ball and itching badly. i had to go to work so i did and had to endure uncomfortable stares all day long. eventually it went away. about 2 days later, same thing happened. turns out i was allergic to the lip balm that i had just bought. i threw it out fast!

    • Susan says:

      I haven’t been keeping up with Crystal’s blog every day but the “allergic reaction” title caught my eye. Like Dee W said, please be careful. This from a woman who was told by an ER doc that I could die the next time I accidentally consume even a fragment of a Brazil nut.

      Just so you know – we are having an extra-severe allergy season here in Texas due to the bountiful rains over the past few months – you and your cohorts might want to pack extra allergy meds. I woke up this morning sounding like Demi Moore, always a sure sign of an allergy flare-up.

      • Crystal says:

        Thank you so much for the tip on the allergy meds. I’ll make sure to pack some extras, just in case.

      • Jamie says:

        Susan, I also am allergic to Brazil nuts (and other tree nuts to a much lesser degree). I’ve never met anyone else with this same allergy.
        Crystal – this exact same thing happened to me when I was a little girl. We spent the night at an aunt and uncle’s house. We slept with wool blankets, and they had a couple of cats. In the morning I woke up, face and body swelling. My parents took me to a doctor, who treated me and said that if they had waited I could’ve suffocated because the swelling was starting to constrict my windpipe. Scary, right?! Well, 30+ years later, plenty of cats and wool blankets throughout my life and nothing like that has ever happened again!! (the brazil nut allergy for me is just very rashy and uncomfortable and has never been severe or similar). So, definitely take precautions, but hopefully for you, as for me, this will remain a mystery and scary story that never happens again.
        Best wishes to you and the others who have shared their stories of recent struggles. I love that this is such a supportive and loving community.

    • Debra says:

      I am a mother of a child with multiple food allergies, and so surely this caught my eye. I will also have to share that allergic reactions can kill you and that an epi-pen is a must now that you know you have suffered a severe reaction. Allergies can begin at any age and can be/become severe. An qualified Allergist can help you in making sure that this doesn’t happen again.

      • Leslea Tash says:

        Ditto. Think of how devastated your children would be if you had an allergic reaction in-flight, and had no epi-pen. Please see an allergist without delay. Reactions do not lessen with time. At best, they stay the same. Often, they get worse.

  • Lizzy says:

    oh Crystal–that can be so frightening and you are sounding so brave! Please be careful–praying for you!

  • charity crawford says:

    i just had my second miscarriage in 4 months yesterday both at 9 weeks 5 days and praying for the peace of God along with thinking about worse problems others have is what has helped me cope emotionally. needless to say i already have 4 beautiful blessings. just like u say crystal there is always something to be thankful for.

    • Jess Todd says:

      So so sorry for the loss of your sweet babies! Praying for peace for you!

      • charity crawford says:

        Thanks so much! Good to know there are others out there praying for each other. I will say a prayer for you as well.

    • Crystal says:

      {Hugs!} to you. I am so sorry! 🙁

    • Carrie P. says:

      Charity- I am so sorry for your losses:( I spent the day with a friend who just went through one last week. I had two last year within 5 months and one was very traumatic at 14 weeks- he had severe downs syndrome and complications due to that, while the other was a missed miscarriage- both required me to have surgery, as I did not miscarry naturally on my own. I understand what you are going through so well. I have never felt closer to God than I do now, after experiencing such heartache and I had to deal with the grieving process without my husband the second time because he was deployed to Afghanistan right afterwards and for the holidays. We had a flea infestation during that time (sand fleas are where I live as we live in the great lakes sand dunes area and I swear I have a clean home…we do not even have pets!) then the washer broke…oh it was quite a year and all while taking care of our two beautiful boys who are 2 and 4. God showed me what I have to be thankful- myfriends and family and my optimistic take on life…though it was so hard to find for a while…for and my husband came home safely to this amazing country that we all are so truly blessed to live in and be citizens of. Happy ending is that God also blessed us again…the night my husband returned home just so happens….and I am now 12 weeks pregnant and the baby looks very healthy. God also has allowed me to remain mostly worry free during this pregnancy and I have learned to truly let go and let God. Finally. You are in my prayers and so are Lainey and her family, and of course you as well Crystal.

      • charity crawford says:

        What a happy ending indeed! I was just in total shock when i miscarried again so fast the first time was an experience enough then to even think that it was going to happen again and so fast was not even a thought to me so I took it much harder. I am really praying God blesses us with another baby soon so please keep me in your prayers and i will pray you have a healthy pregnancy as well.

  • Sid Dunn says:

    Thanks for sharing this story. Unfortuantely stories like this exist in every corner of the world and our own backyards. Its a process of just looking and seeing it and trying to help alleviate it. Hopefully with more people seeing and recording incidents like this, these realities will become no more.

    • Crystal says:

      My heart breaks for so many who are dealing with extreme poverty, abuse, and so many horrific things as an everyday reality. And it’s everywhere–not just in second and third world countries, sadly.

      I left the DR very inspired to do what I can to impact those struggling in America and around the world.

  • Jessica says:

    Thank you so much for your posts on the Dominican Republic. It has been such a blessing to me! It is easy to forget how blessed I am. I have so much to be thankful for! I hope you continue to feel better!

  • I hope you are feeling better today. Did you figure out what caused the allergic reaction? Thanks for sharing about Laney and her precious little kids. The children are just beautiful!!! Love and hugs from the ocean shores of California, Heather 🙂 🙂 🙂

  • Elizabeth says:

    Speaking from experiences of myself and family, with lots of allergies, you would be very wise to get a perscription from the doc for an inhaler and an epipen. Then carry benedryl with you at all times. Having benydryl and an inhaler has saved my life 2 times in a restaurant!! My worst allergies are things I have eaten too. Be careful dear…your 3 children need their mommy!!

    Elizabeth in NC

  • Jessica says:

    You might consider having allergy testing done. It’s uncomfortable to say the least, but it could save your life.

  • Thanks, Crystal. I’ve been dealing with some pretty heavy fatigue today and yesterday and my son has been struggling with severe anxiety. Neither of these things are enjoyable -and are very tough indeed. But I need to keep perspective.

    Thanks for the reminder. We need to give thanks in everything.

    Blessings and I do hope you sort out your allergy situation soon.

  • Jennifer says:

    Yikes that is scary! I have been waking up with eyes swollen shut for the past 3 months – happens every week or 2 and I can’t pin point anything. It hurts and takes a few days for my eyes to get back to normal. Just when I think I have it figured out, I have a flare up again. It has got to be an allergic reaction but I can’t determine to what yet. It probably was the eye mask for you, glad you already threw it out just to be safe. Although keeping a copy of the ingredients might help you in the future if something like this ever happens again. Good luck with your texas trip, I hope your eyes get better soon.

  • Sylvia says:

    I used to have allergic reactions like that. The swelling subsides in 3 days. My face would be so swollen that I would hide from the world in shame. Yeah, that’s how vain I am. I hope you feel better soon!

  • Robyn says:

    This JUST happened to me! If you had or touched mango- don’t rule it out. I’m severely allergic to mango sap (related to the poison ivy family) and it took me a while to figure it out. 1/2 of my face has been completely altered for a couple of weeks – rashes, swelling, redness… horrible. Hope it’s not, but just in case – the info could be useful to you.

    • Lynn D says:

      I didn’t know that Mango was related to the Poison Ivy family. Will the mango fruit cause an allergic reaction?

  • Christine says:

    What can we do for this beautiful momma named Laney???

    • Crystal says:

      If you want to do something, definitely email me. She’s in our CSP, so we’re helping her out with food and basic supplies, medical help, vocational training, etc. We also brought her a box of staple foods, but she has many more needs, so if you’re feeling led to help her in specific ways, let me know and I can try to hook you up with the appropriate person who is over the CSP.

      Thank you for your generous heart!

  • I know you’re not seeking medical advice with this post…but I just wanted to chime in that not all allergies require an epi-pen. I have severe environmental allergies but I certainly don’t need an epi. Epi-pens are needed for life threatening reactions – where an allergen could literally kill you.

    I struggle with the swollen eyes for much of the summer (sometimes worse than other times). I take Zyrtec daily and use antihistamine eye drops (Visine makes an A.C. drop that works wonders!).

    And you’re so right with the point of this point – my allergies are nothing when i think about the poverty that much of the world lives in.

  • Grace Houle says:

    It is amazing how perspective def. changes how we view the world. Thank you for sharing. i love your blog.

  • Arienne says:

    I sometimes get depressed because of the chronic pain I have day in and day out. However, God reminds me of others that are much less fortunante then I am. My oldest daughter has a half sister who was beaten and left for dead, while her 2 beautiful children were murdered. They were 14 & 18 years-old. They were loving and caring young poeple. Kiesha (the half-sister) is my hero!

    She lives everyday without her babies! I do not know if I could be so very strong! Life without “my babies” would be unliveable! The thought of living in physical pain the rest of my life is much more bearable then living with her mental pain and distress!

    God has blessed me with 3 beautiful kids and I can still walk & move! God is good! So, every morning I put on a smile and go greet the world!

  • Janet says:

    I am so glad you are okay Crystal. We all need to pay attention even in America many are hurting more than some of us can imagine.
    I have been homeless. I have been abused and I can tell you first hand many things that many take for granted are not givens in life even here in America.

    So the next time,any find themselves thinking they know it all, try to realize what we know is a raindrop , what we do not is greater than an ocean.

  • Terry says:

    When I read about your swollen face, I immediately thought of another blogger named Kelly who had a very similar reaction a couple of weeks ago. It was on one side of her face and required hospitalization. She had also been in a 3rd world country on a mission trip a few months ago. You might want to check out her blog for any similarities (Kelly’s Korner). You’ll enjoy her! She’s a wonderful Christian gal.

  • Lezlie says:

    Thanks for sharing your positive perspective on a miserable fate! I suffer from seasonal allergies myself but not that type of swelling up as such.
    Thanks for the reminder that we are SO blessed here.
    Hope your trip goes well!

  • Dana says:

    When I went to Mexico recently, I got a severe rash on my face from a tree called Black Poisonwood. They also have it in the Dominican Republic. From research I have done, some people are so allergic, if they even get within 20 feet of it, they will have a reaction. I actually got the black sap on my skin. Anyway, it quickly spread everywhere and I felt like my body was burning all over and occasionally itched as well. It can cause 1st and 2nd degree burns so it isn’t something to mess with. Not sure if that is similar to what you are experiencing or not. My dermatologist gave me a 12 day treatment of oral steroids as well as topical steroids. It can linger for months if not treated voraciously. Mine took a few weeks to go away but thankfully it’s all gone now. Here is a link to someone’s blog with info and photos:

  • holly says:

    Thanks for the perspective. Though I’m not always successful, I try to remember my blessings when I have a “rough day.” For example, I have a young cousin with a malignant brain tumor. If one of my kids has a stomach bug and I’m spending my day wishing the kids didn’t have to go through this, I know that he/she will be better in a few days. My cousin’s parents don’t know if their child will recover.

  • Lydia says:

    Can I just say, that little girl has the biggest, most beautiful eyes I think I have ever seen!

  • Whitney says:

    Crystal, LOVED the story. SO true! I have severe topical allergies and I’ve been to the ER for the same thing! Eyes swollen shut and I am so embarassed. I went to church all puffy one day and I came to realize that there was more to me than a pretty face… and more to life to! FYI- my tip would be steer clear of anything that has “fragrance” in it. After countless trips I finally went to ALL organic and natural skincare. Although you can still be allergic to organic/natural ingredients; for example I am allergic to coconut oil! Good luck and thanks for the good reminder.

  • Marlana says:

    The test to a house like that is does it flood, and does the roof keep out rain? By the outside, it doesn’t look that bad, and the refrigerator is nice to have. But the abuse? so sorry. Will pray for her. that’s the hardest part of third world living for me….the lack of accountability to abusers.

  • Suzanne says:

    I didn’t read any comments in this chain about stress affecting allergies, but I can attest to the fact that stress can cause some serious physical symptoms. I have had my face swell up almost to the point of my eyes closing almost twice, and the best I can pin point its cause to is stress. I never could determine an ingredient of anything that was new to me. I was drawn in by your description of the swelling happening at night because that is how it happened to me too. Well, I thought I’d throw that comment out there, though I’m sure you are in very capable hands with your doctor. I hope you can find the cause and not have to go through it again.

  • Aminda says:

    Crystal, I hope the swelling goes down soon. I had the same thing happen to me in Hawaii. I woke up with the left side of my face swollen. I could barley open my eye. I found out it was an allergic reaction to the plants and volcano dust. Who knew this would cause such a reaction. I used Benadryl and medicine from the doctor. It took mine over a week to completely go down. Hope yours goes away much sooner. What an amazing trip and perspective on this.

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