My name is Jessica Beilharz. I was a normal kid growing up; I loved sport and hated vegetables.
When I started university I was diagnosed with asthma, hayfever and seasonal allergies by my GP at the time. He prescribed me medication which controlled my symptoms pretty well (it stopped them from being an annoyance) but did nothing for the root cause.
Over time I began to suffer from different allergies, like citrus and dust mites (I know right? Who would have thought it?) – in turn, my medication had to be increased.
This is when my symptoms started to get more annoying than usual; instead of just sniffles and sneezes, I was having wheezing fits (which people would mistake for asthma) and the urge to cough all the time – if I even attempted to eat a lemon, my throat would swell up.
At this point I stopped going out in public as much as possible, because once something like this goes out of control it’s nearly impossible to get back under control.
Over the years I’ve had to deal with my symptoms by myself, as doctors rarely know much more than what is in the pamphlets they are given. At one point I was on over 10 different medications a day for all of my allergies and asthma combined; it wasn’t pretty.
I would constantly have an attack and then immediately take a tablet to counter it. This lead to me being trapped in a vicious cycle, and the medication I was on was far from ideal.
My allergies had begun affecting my everyday life more than ever before; even just going out and enjoying a simple breakfast could result in severe symptoms.
I constantly felt tired because everything I ate or drank would affect me. My desk at work would be overwhelmed with medication, because I’d have to take tablets every few hours – it was exhausting.
I tried changing my diet and cutting out all food where I had allergies, but this only helped for a short while; the more I cut out of my diet, the more restrictive it became and again my symptoms began to gain control of my life.
One day I was in my bedroom, and had just gotten out of bed when suddenly a sharp pain shot through my body – it felt as if someone had stabbed me with an ice pick (more on this later).
I collapsed onto the floor and tried putting myself into the recovery position, but the sharp pain didn’t subside and I couldn’t breathe. My mum called an ambulance, but before it arrived my breathing had started to get less restrictive; this was the only time during this experience that panic set in.
It took a few months for me to start feeling normal again, although I still felt very fatigued all the time. During this time I lost 10 kilograms because it was difficult to eat, my skin became dry and flaky from not eating enough (everything tasted too bitter) and I got sick a lot.
My medication had now reached epic proportions; every day I would have to give myself injections, take tablets, use a nebuliser and wear an oxygen mask for the foreseeable future.
I thought to myself, surely there must be a better way? I was miserable and terrified that one day my body would give out entirely – something had to change.
After doing some research on the internet (which is how I found out about this treatment) I started the first round of allergy injections in December 2013.
Injection number one was a little terrifying; at first I didn’t feel anything, but after about 30 minutes my body started to itch everywhere.
Within 2 hours the itching had become unbearable and I’d broken out in small itchy welts. Once those disappeared (about 3-4 hours later) my face swelled up to twice its size, and the itching had become like thousands of tiny little needles poking into my skin.
This was nothing compared to what happens during a severe allergic reaction and the relief I felt knowing that this would soon be gone and things were going in the right direction was immeasurable.
It took about 3 days for everything to return back to normal, but every time I had an injection my symptoms would get a little worse. This was only for 1 or 2 days though so it wasn’t too bad.
Within 4 weeks I stopped taking medication and was able to eat whatever I wanted without any reaction (even lemon – which is virtually impossible to have because of citric acid). After 3 months I had to have a blood test at the hospital (a normal routine after having allergy injections) and when my results came back they said I had no allergies, not even common ones like dust.
I was absolutely amazed by the results and while it’s been 2 years since I’ve had to take any medication, I am so grateful for what this treatment has done for me.
I’m certainly not cured and I do get sick sometimes, but I don’t have to worry about having a reaction that could kill me anymore – it’s truly life changing.