Fire ants are a perpetual problem in Louisiana, but imagine if your young child were deathly allergic to them.

That’s the ordeal Louisiana novelist M.O. Walsh recently described in a guest op-ed for The New York Times.

Walsh, who hails from Baton Rouge, now lives and works in New Orleans, where he directs the Creative Writing Workshop at the University of New Orleans. “My Sunshine Away,” his critically acclaimed novel that’s set in Louisiana, was released last year.

It’s a nice piece of fiction, though Walsh’s real-life encounters with fire ants are at least as dramatic as anything a novelist might invent. “Six months ago, my wife and I learned that our 3-year-old son has a class III allergy to fire ants,” Walsh told Times readers. “What this meant was that, if bitten, even by a single ant, he had about a 50-50 chance of going into anaphylactic shock.”

Keeping a child away from fire ants is a nightmare in south Louisiana, but luckily, Walsh found some help. After undergoing a clinical desensitization process using controlled amounts of ant venom, Walsh’s son isn’t at high risk of serious harm anymore if he gets bitten. He’ll need monthly shots for five years.

In the meantime, just to be safe, Walsh continues his fire ant patrol, killing as many of the critters as he can.

“I’m a father,” he writes. “So I try.”