Monday, June 28, 2010

No, Not That Kind of Wasp

Some three summers ago, I was out working on the motorbike on a sultry evening. Done with my tasks and whistling tunelessly, I gathered up my tools and prepared to head inside.

Something stung me on the calf. A yellowjacket must have alighted on the hem of my shorts, and was irritated and acted out in the only way it knew how.

A yellowjacket sting is really no big deal, painwise, and I shrugged it off and went on with my evening.

Some five minutes later, I noticed I was coming out in hives on my upper chest.

Hmmmm, I thought. That's unusual....

Took a Benadryl. The hives went away.

I mentioned this to my doctor on a routine visit, and she told me sternly that I must now consider myself allergic to wasp stings. I must carry an Epi-pen with me at all times, and should another yellowjacket take it into its head to attack me, I must hit myself with it and call 911. Immediately. Without delay.

Some months after that, I took a course of therapy: micro-doses of wasp venin, increasing in size until I redeveloped my resistance. Trouble was, life doesn't always cooperate, and I necessarily had to miss the last three doses out of about twelve. So no allergist ever shook me by the hand and congratulated me for being allergy-free.

This was the state of affairs last night. I have been living in a sort of limbo, not knowing whether the therapy completely blew the allergy out of me. And I still have the Epi-pen and I renew the prescription every year.

Last night, the proposition was tested.

Once again walking out of the garage -- doinnnng! Yellowjacket sting on the bare ankle. Well. I guess we're going to find out about that therapy, aren't we.

A few minutes later, here come the hives.

And I panic.

"911, what is your emergency?"


(The Epi-pen has a tendency, I now find, to goose the adrenaline levels astronomically. In fact, that's what it is meant to do.)

Wonder Woman, meanwhile, was doing a little eye-rolling. Real easy for you to be nonchalant about this, sweetie, but if my throat swells shut in the next five minutes, you're the one who's gonna have to find something to use to intubate me. I'm thinking you should go cut a length of garden hose....

She did press a couple of Benadryls on me. Funny thing: As I listened to the siren approaching from far, far away, I could feel the pills soothing my hives. I also began to realize that my throat wasn't constricting, my breathing was normal (if a trifle adrenalated), and about the worst thing I was experiencing was minor discomfort on the stung ankle.

I met the ambulance at the driveway, feeling more than a bit sheepish. I told them I was the guy who'd called, that the therapy I'd taken had indeed had its intended effect, and that I was sorry to have disturbed their Sunday ease. They very kindly told me I had done exactly the right thing, no sense in taking any chances with something potentially so deadly, took me into the vehicle and checked my vital signs. Everything was well within parameters.

I still have one remaining Epi-pen. I'm thinking of ways it could be abused....


Roger D. Parish said...

So, was it the anti-sensitivity therapy or was it the epi-pen? Or perhaps both?

The Viscount LaCarte said...

No joke here. I lost a very dear friend (and ex-bandmate and excellent musician) to a bee sting in 1999. He didn't know he was allergic as he was never stung before. Died in less than 30 minutes.

Anonymous said...

Yikes Eddie!! Something you really don't want to fool around with. Refill the Epipen so you have extas on hand.

The only upside of that is that you can get a deferment from the draft- oh, that's right- we don't have that any more.

Neddie said...

Roger: It may remain a mystery. But the fact that I was already improving when the ambulance arrived leads me to think it was the therapy.

Viscount: That's why I panicked. I've heard way too many horror stories like that -- especially since I found out I was allergic.

Anon: I would think the fact that I'm about to enter my fiftieth year might earn me the deferment!

XTCfan said...

I vote that you try to smoke the epi-pen.

Roger D. Parish said...

And how long did it take for our fine volunteers to respond? I've often wondered: if an emergency occurred, would I be better off just driving myself (or having the wife drive me), or should I wait for the ambulance.

Dr Dave said...

where did you get that great wasp photo?

Bobby Lightfoot said...

I think you should use yer epipen first thing in th' morning, Eddie!

Anonymous said...

Thanks Neddie. I went out today and got several bottles of Benadryl (generic) for the house and the cars.

Does anybody know which gets in your system faster, the pills or the capsules?

I wouldn't have done it rashly but at 45 a few years back I got a mean dose of poison ivy. So if that one got me after all these years of walking through it, another one like bee stings could too.

J. Beaufort said...

I had exactly the same experience with a large red wasp this week. I started to flushed and itchy, so I got in the car to drive to the hospital. I didn't make it 1 mile. I lost my eyesight, stopped the car, tried to get out of the car (felt nauseous), and stumbled out flat on the pavement. Spent the rest of the day in the ER (via ambulance). If my throat had swelled, I probably would have died.
I will now wear a medical alert tag and carry an epi-pen and benedryl EVERYWHERE.