Forty year old men tend to know if they're allergic to something. Rani did. He knew that there are certain spices that if he so much as touches them, he breaks out in a rash. If he eats them, the rash is followed by his mouth swelling, his tongue doubling in size and his airways constricting. He knows to avoid them, but just in case, he also carries an Epipen wherever he goes. This is a self-administered injection of Adrenaline, used in cases of anaphylaxis. This is such a severe allergic reaction that it can kill in minutes.
Rani knew immediately, mid-evening meal, that something was wrong. All the signs of anaphylaxis were starting to show. He took anti-histamine tablets straight away to try and ward off the allergic reaction, but it was getting worse. He didn't think he needed the Epipen yet, but knew that he needed to get medical attention, so he called an ambulance.
When we arrive, Rani's wheeze can be heard from outside. His face had blown up like a balloon, and he was beginning to drool as his throat tightened. We put him on a nebuliser and gave him an injection of adrenaline. By the time we'd arrived at the hospital, lights and sirens blaring, Rani's condition had improved so much, that the staff wouldn't believe how bad he'd been. He even joked about how his wife might have been putting the spices in the food on purpose. By the time I got back to the same hospital a couple of hours later, he was just being discharged. I wished him well and suggested that maybe he should do the cooking next time. "Maybe", he said. "But I think I'll just keep supervising".
My words couldn't have been more prophetic, as exactly one week later we're back at Rani's house. "I should... have done... the cooking..." he wheezes at me. He looked even more ill this time. We were wheeling him out to the ambulance when he vomited all over the pavement. Later I'd thank him for keeping the ambulance clean. He'd obviously developed an allergy to something new, and this time they'd have to investigate properly. We treated him almost identically to the previous week, but this time his improvement was slower, and the staff at the hospital witnessed first hand what we were talking about. As we left Rani in the hospital bed, he whispers with a smile on his face, "I'm going to learn to cook. It's too dangerous otherwise. The wife's clearly got it in for me!"
Forty year old women tend to know that they've got asthma. They know how to deal with it. Sima did. They get short of breath, they use their inhalers. Either they feel better or they don't. If they do, all well and good. If they don't, they go to hospital. Sima wasn't feeling better. Her boss in the office could see she was struggling, so he called an ambulance. Sima is sitting on the 5th floor, head down, shoulders forwards, using all her chest muscles trying to catch her breath. As we approach, she looks up. And smiles. As I'm putting her on oxygen and a nebuliser, I only have one question.
"Rani's learnt to do the cooking then, has he?"