- Karen Brammer is allergic to kiwi fruit, wasps, latex and many medications
- She risks going into anaphylactic shock if she comes into contact with any of these allergens and has to carry EpiPens, antihistamine and inhalers
- She had to give up her job as a nurse because of her latex allergy
- She then lost her gardening business due to her wasp allergy
- She says she tries to live life to the full despite her allergies
A 40-year-old woman says she has nearly died 80 times and risks her life every time she goes out because she has so many severe allergies.
Karen Brammer, from Shefford, Bedfordshire, has 23 allergies and lives in fear of dying every day as even a stroll to the shops could kill her.
She has gone into anaphylactic shock 80 times and also had to give up her dream job as a nurse because she has an extreme latex allergy.
Karen Brammer, 40, has so many severe allergies that she risks death every time she leaves her house
Her allergies also mean that she rarely goes on holiday and doesn’t step outdoors during the summer months.
Ms Brammer said: ‘Last year I was fighting for my life within minutes of being stung by a wasp.
‘I had to stay calm otherwise I knew I’d die.’
Ms Brammer’s allergic reactions have got progressively worse over the years – she has developed more allergies and also now goes into anaphylactic shock more quickly.
Ms Brammer’s allergies include kiwi fruit, latex, wasps and penicillin.
Latex is found in balloons, pens, bath plugs, cameras, television equipment, cars, chewing gum, escalator handrails, plastic bags, stamps and shoes and many other places.
Ms Brammer (pictured in hospital) is allergic to wasps, latex, kiwi fruit and numerous medications
Her allergies also mean that she rarely goes on holiday and doesn’t step outdoors during the summer months
She said: ‘I had the worst pain in my chest and expected to see blood over my shirt when I looked down as I felt as though a large piece of wood had been driven into my chest.
‘But then I realised a wasp had stung me and I needed help.
‘My throat is one of the first things to close and within three minutes of being stung, mine was closing, making speaking and breathing very difficult and frightening, especially when you need to get help fast.
WHAT IS SHE ALLERGIC TO?
Products containing latex including: Adhesives, asphalt, baby dummies, balloons, pens, bath mats, bath plugs, books, cameras, binoculars, TV and video equipment, cars, carpets and underlay, champagne corks, chewing gum, computers, confectionery wrappers, contraceptives, conveyor belts, cosmetics and make up, disposable nappies, DIY and decorating products, escalator handrails, envelopes, erasers, food storage bags, garden hoses, hot water bottles, inflatable dinghies, mobile phones, stamps,rubber bands, footwear, swimsuits, toothbrush and pen grips and tyres.
Medications: Pethidine, Cyclizine, Aciclovir, mefenamic acid, tranexamic acid, tramadol, penicillin, Venofer, atorvastatin, CosmoFer, simvastatin, Bezafibrate, ciprofloxacin, Trimethoprim, Voltarol, ibuprofen.
‘Thankfully I carry a medical kit with EpiPens, inhalers, antihistamines, list of my allergies and my emergency contacts as well as cards I can use to get help if my throat closes and I can no longer speak.
‘I had to use my second EpiPen as the first one had failed to work due to a faulty mechanism, they have since been recalled. This was frightening as the effects of adrenaline work for about five minutes before another dose is needed.
‘I also took my inhalers and antihistamines.’
But, while most people can have drugs to help them at hospital, Ms Brammer is restricted as she is also allergic to 16 different medications.
When she was a teenager she found out she has an autoimmune disorder which affects her immune system and causes her body to attacks certain organs, such as her kidneys, bladder, bowel, nervous system, and blood.
She said: ‘It took me four and a half months to recover from the one wasp sting due to multiple reactions and impact on other chronic conditions.
‘I was confined indoors during the four months from the day I was stung, to prevent me being stung again. I couldn’t take my dogs for a walk, couldn’t go to work, suffered majorly financially as I am self-employed and don’t get sick pay.
‘It impacted on all areas of my life, from going outside to having the windows and doors open in the house, as another wasp sting would have been fatal. It now means that for four months of the year, I can’t go outside when wasps are prevalent.’
Ms Brammer (pictured training for a fundraising bike ride) had to give up her dream job as a nurse because her latex allergy became so severe. She also lost her gardening business due to her wasp allergy
Ms Brammer has to carry a medical kit (left) with her everywhere she goes. This contains EpiPens (right), antihistamines, inhalers and a list of all of her allergies
Eventually Ms Brammer lost her gardening business due to her wasp allergy.
This was something she had built up after having to leave her dream job as a nurse.
She said: ‘My life could be made a lot easier if attitudes towards allergies changed. An increased awareness of people’s allergies, what triggers allergies and research into helping those with allergies cope and live.
‘Small changes to labelling of products could save me and others from having a life threatening allergic reaction, as this is what sometimes happens when product contents are poorly labelled.
‘I’ve fought so hard to survive that it’s not easy for me to feel that I now can’t live it to the full because I have so many allergies.’
Ms Brammer’s medical kit contains cards which she can use if her throat closes so she can’t speak
Last year, Ms Brammer almost died when she was stung by a wasp and went into anaphylactic shock
Ms Brammer often feels isolated and restricted because of her allergies – if she’s invited to a restaurant, party, or any other social gathering she has to ask if there will be balloons, kiwi fruit, or elastic bands – anything containing latex – or the time of year before accepting.
She said: ‘Life is difficult with one allergy, but multiple allergies and other chronic problems are even harder.’
Ms Brammer has also modified her car, with non-latex tyres, airbags and mats – when her car goes in to have an MOT the mechanics can’t use latex gloves either.
However, she is determined not to let her allergies ruin her life.
She said: ‘I am a survivor, I have been forced to change my life in so many ways, but remain positive (mostly).
Ms Brammer says despite her allergies she tries to live her life to the full. Image shows a rash on her chest
‘What’s the point in me fighting to stay alive, if I don’t live life to the full.’
Lynne Regent, CEO of the Anaphylaxis Campaign said: ‘Karen’s case highlights how severe allergy can impact people’s lives. We provide support and information to patients like Karen and their families who live with this condition every day.’
Ms Brammer is now undertaking a fundraising bike ride to raise money for the Anaphylaxis Campaign.