I found something new out about myself last weekend. Wasps can kill me. One bite from one tiny, annoying, asshole (sorry, there’s no better word them at this point in my life) could kill me.
I have been stung by wasps several times in the past twenty years or so, and each time I swelled up more than the average person might, but nothing life threatening or enough to warrant seeking medical help.
As it turns out, though, in a small portion of the population, those stings can make the victim build a worse reaction, a systemic reaction, and I am one of those lucky folks who has hit that benchmark. Thank God, my husband was home last weekend when it happened.
I was mowing behind our house last weekend when I was suddenly stung by a wasp, directly in my temple. I drove away quickly, once I looked around to see what had happened, and grabbed an ice pack in the house. I knew I would start to swell quickly, but expected little else. I walked down to the Andrew, who was working in one of our garages, and helped him get down a piece of siding. In doing so, though, I noticed I felt really dizzy and out of breath. I walked back into the house, and by then could no longer breathe or stand up. The last thing I remember is telling Andrew to go get me some benedryl to see if it would help, and then it all went black. The rest of the story, I know only because he told me.
He called 911, and he and Miss L moved me flat on my back on the floor so I wasn’t all bunched up. I was flopping around and definitely unable to breathe. Other bodily controls turned off then, too. It took nearly 15 minutes for the EMTs to make it to us, and by then I was in bad shape. Our wonderful neighbors saw the ambulance, and came over and took the kids back to their house so they didn’t have to watch everything and Andrew could focus on me. They later brought the kids back over to make sure the dogs and house were okay, put away the supper I had in the crock pot, fed them, and took them up to the hospital much later, once I was stabilized. We are blessed with great people next door.
The EMTs didn’t have easy-to-administer epinephrine, so they fumbled through a syringe to get me my first dose; it would take at least 2 keep me breathing before I got to the hospital. They also put me on oxygen, loaded me into the van, and took me to the nearby town to transfer me to a helicopter to head to the hospital. Andrew drove our car in, and ended up beating me there. We still aren’t sure why the transfer to the helicopter except that it may have been better equipped to deal with my situation. I know that had Andrew not been home or had it been much longer before the EMTs could get there, I would not have survived.
Once at the hospital, they started heavy steroids and monitoring to make sure I was able to start breathing again and my blood pressure would stay up. With my medical history, it seems crazy that I had low bp, but that comes with a severe systemic reaction. The bite happened around 5 p.m. I finally woke up around 9 or 10 p.m. I have no recollection of what happened in between. That’s probably one of the scariest parts of this. I had a CT scan to make sure nothing else was wrong, and then was monitored overnight until I was out of the danger time zone for having a recurrence. The neighbors brought the kdis up for a bit so they could see that I was okay. Andrew took them home later so they could get some rest. My sister came up to visit, and I am pretty sure I had the same conversation with her and asked her the same questions about 5 or 6 times. I just was not all there.
I didn’t really sleep much between the steroids and the pain from two ports in my arm in incredibly awkward spots. I stayed in the ER overnight because the hospital was so full there were no rooms for admittance. The internist sent me home late the next afternoon with a prescription for an epipen set, which will buy us a little time to get to the ER next time, and a renewal of anxiety I haven’t had much trouble with in years, as the realization that being outside is so risky for me now settled in. I am supposed to meet with an allergist to see if immunotherapy will help. I am not sure what to expect there. I used immunotherapy with my ragweed allergy (as well as a few others that were thrown in), and saw no improvement. Many people have a 90% improvement in their venom allergy, though. We’ll see what the doctor thinks.
In the meantime, I feel like an awful mother, sending the kids out of the door first to take a look to make sure there are no wasps waiting for us. It feels so ridiculous to be afraid of one small insect. We have plenty of spray to combat them, and Andrew has been knocking down any nests he can find. Our next step will likely be to use an agricultural insecticide to treat the yard regularly, at least around the house and garages, so I can be outside safely. Otherwise, anything that could be remotely risky, I am avoiding unless another adult is over. Although my older kids can easily take care of calling 911 in an emergency for me or grabbing my epipens, I don’t want that responsibility on them.
So many things are not very safe now. Festivals where there is a lot of outdoor food-wasps are scavengers. All the nooks and crannies and sheds around our yard. Camping. Hiking. There are just so many things that I did all the time and there’s this loss of freedom, so sudden it’s thrown me in a tailspin. I anticipate some selfish sadness for awhile as I come to terms with things. Every time I think about how differently things could have gone Saturday, I end up crying all over again. It’s hard for someone who is so independent to be thrown into a situation where being alone can be so dangerous.