Addyman's CornerColumnists

My September Visit to the Allergy Doctor

By John Addyman

I sat in the allergy doctor’s office in early September, thinking of my old friend Dr. Davies.

When I was just a wee little lad, Dr. Davies and I had a very special relationship. My mom would drive me to his office in Scranton to get shots to help with my asthma.

While we were waiting and watching, he would fill his hypodermic needle (I think he only had one, because he kept re-using it and the needle got more and more blunt, as I recall).

The stuff that went into that needle was bright red, like Kool-Aid.

Then he turned and started looking for me.

Every time I look at that old Norman Rockwell painting of the kid waiting to get a shot from his doctor, I think of Dr. Davies. He was a nice man. Very gentle and patient.

Anyway, he was looking for me, as he always did when I visited him with my mom to get a shot, because as soon as he took that hypodermic needle out of the little stainless steel tray, I was off. I ran around his office. I climbed his bookcase, which went all the way to the ceiling. He chased me around his desk. I jumped over chairs. I weaved around my mom and the nurse. This only lasted for a few minutes because, well, I had asthma and I ran out of air. I stopped to catch my breath…

Then he’d nail me with that needle.

I had that image in mind in September for my first visit to the allergy doctor. This spring, which we all agree was strange and cold, I got a cough I couldn’t shake and my wife ended up with one, too. My family doctor got everything stopped, finally, but then suggested I see an allergist.

And that’s where I was in early September, with a nice nurse named Mary.

She explained the initial testing to me, and told me I was going to get 30 sticks.

“WHAT?” I asked, looking for a bookshelf to climb.

She further explained that these little sticks were child’s play, and it would happen all at once.

“You were a nurse, weren’t you?” she asked.

Indeed I was… am. I still have my license.

“Then this is really nothing.”

Nurse-to-nurse, I figured I could trust her. She put the little needle blocks on me, the size of a hotel soap bar, and pressed down. Piece of cake, I thought.

“Now what?”

“Now we wait,” she said.

“For what?”

“To see what blows up.”

“Blows up!!?” I looked at my arms. I had little bumps. Little bumps.

Mary and I talked for a few minutes while she filled out papers and tapped on her computer.

“Let’s see what you have,” she finally said, looking at my arms.

“Oh, my goodness.”

“Your goodness!!??”

“You’re really allergic to Timothy grass,” she said, pointing to a bump the size of a quarter. “And animals. And a lot of other things.” She was pointing to all the little dots that had now become bumps.

“So now what? Do we schedule me to come in for allergy shots?”

“No, we do some more testing,” the nurse said, and she brought out 26 — count’ em, 26 — bigger needles on a tray.

“What are you going to do with those?” I asked. Not a bookshelf in sight.

She explained that this was a bigger dose. She was making sure she knew what I was really allergic to. So far she’d checked off four items, including Timothy grass (which we have all over our yard — good call) and cats and dogs and some kind of mold. Now she was making sure she didn’t miss anything with a bigger dose.

She drew lines on my upper arms, which looked a lot like the marks on a submarine periscope, and for each line, she gave me a subcutaneous shot of stuff.

Twenty-six shots later, I was missing Dr. Davies and his singularly blunt needle.

“Now we wait?” I asked.

She was shaking her head. “Not for long,” she said, pointing at new bumps that were already popping on my arms. It looked like she needed a second sheet to list all the things I was allergic to.

After 10 more minutes, she felt she’d gotten a complete list. She handed me a bunch of information, including numbers to call if my head exploded or my tongue turned fuschia or birds flew out of my butt. At least I think that’s what she said, my arms were beginning to itch like crazy.

We stopped for a few pleasantries before I left the office. Mary told me I couldn’t get allergy shots right away because they had to make the serum up especially for me, and they didn’t have any 55-gallon drums in the office at the moment.

I looked her in the eye.

“Nurse to nurse,” I asked her, “what do I tell my wife when I get home?”

She didn’t skip a beat.

“Tell her you’re allergic to everything,” she said.

Editor’s Note: Because of a production problem, the ending of John Addyman’s column last issue was left out. To read the complete column, go to and look for Addyman’s column in the search menu.