Tea and Halibut

allergyI don’t know if this is even a story, but it somehow represents my life in a small way. I’ve struggled with a stuffy nose since college. Medicines help a little. Nose sprays, over-the-counter pills, saline snorting–yeah, I could do all that. The stuffiness would be no big deal except that it does affect my singing voice which is important to me.  Depending on the style of music, I sometimes have to go on Sudafed for a few days before singing to get everything in tip-top condition. If I need a lot of resonance, a stuffy nose can hold me back. It can also drip down on my vocal cords and give me a little laryngitis.  It’s a whole big thing.

A few summers ago, I took the Wilson-Burns family to Orlando for a week of Universal and Disney fun. Read all about at Wally World or Bust. As the week progressed in balmy Florida, my nose cleared up. I noticed while singing in the shower one morning. Everything was just easier. I had the kind of control and ease I had lost over the last few years.  Ah HA!  There must be something in Oklahoma that is causing this!

Logical assumption, right? WRONG.

So earlier this year, I decided to see an allergist and get tested, both for things that I breathe and things I eat and drink. My first visit was for testing my response to stuff in the air. I filled out a lot of forms about my medical history and symptoms then they had me take off my shirt and lie face down on the exam table.

“Ok, Mr. Wilson-Burns, get comfortable because you’re going to be in this position for a while.”

“Can I grab my phone?” I said.

“Sure, not a problem. Expecting an important call?”

“Nope. Just planning to stir shit up on Facebook,” I said, deadpan.

The young lady laughed and repeated “Stir up shit on Facebook.  That’s funny!” She revisited my remark every time I saw her after that.

It’s not a comfortable process. She poked me with some sharp plastic implements which exposed me to the allergens. Any illusions that getting a tattoo would be no big deal vanished from my mind.  If just a little bit of poking with plastic was this uncomfortable I couldn’t imagine what a needle drilling into me for an hour might be like.

I had to lay like that for fifteen minutes to give my skin a chance to react. Then she came back in an examined me, looking for angry responses and then cleaned me up. After I’d put my shirt back on and waited a little while, the doctor entered the exam room and presented the results of the test.

“Well, this might not be what you were hoping to hear, Mr. Wilson-Burns,  but you are not allergic to ANYTHING in the air.”

“Not even mold or pollen?”

“Not really. The next step would be to test you for food and beverage allergies. Would you like to schedule an appointment to do that?” she said.

“Yes! Yes, I do. I’ve got to be allergic to something! I can’t just have a thirty-year stuffy nose that went away for a week in Florida without being allergic to something.”

She chuckled and said, “Ok, we’ll see what we can do. I’ll have Sarah come back in and schedule you.”

A few weeks later, I came in for the exact same procedure, but with different substances.  Why they didn’t do all of it in one visit I do not know. When the doctor came back in, I expected her to say that they didn’t find anything, but I wrong.

She showed me the chart of all the things they tested me for. They were measuring my allergies by the size of the welp it left. A five or higher indicated an allergy (millimeters?).

“Look here,” she said, pointing to the one “five” on the chart. “You are mildly allergic to tea. Have you ever noticed that?”

“No,” I said. “And I rarely drink it, so…”

Then I took a closer look at the chart to see what else I had a response to.  There were mostly ones and a few twos. It was such a random assortment of foods.  But right next to tea, was halibut, and next to it was a FOUR. Halibut. I had a slightly allergic response to a single kind of fish.

“This is it? Tea and halibut?”

“Well, technically, just tea.”

“Then what is causing this problem?

“Whatever it is, it is not an allergy.”

“Tea and halibut?” said my wife when I told her the news. “Only you, babe.”

If it were as simple as giving up those two substances, I’d be breathing just as clear as a…as a…Floridian?

It just seems typical to me. Am I the only person in the world who is allergic to tea and halibut? I’m guessing we’re a very small group…and probably not large enough to book a Tea and Halibut Florida Cruise to have a week’s respite.


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