Asheville Citizen-Times 3/22/2015 – Ted Alexander, Columnist –
Last summer I had just returned from picking up the newspaper when I heard a crash in the shower. “You all right?” I called to my wife.
No worries, I thought, she dropped something and it’s difficult to hear me with the door closed.
I knocked. Still no answer. I went inside and could see the shower running, but no one behind the glass door. The bathroom appeared empty.
I took a closer look at the lower, foggier half of the shower door and saw my wife collapsed and unconscious. Her face was directly in the stream of water. I rushed to shut it off, then checked to make sure she was breathing.
Her eyes opened briefly and she whispered, “I don’t feel well,” then fell back into unconsciousness.
I carried her into the bedroom and managed to get her into a sitting position against the side of the mattress. She briefly regained consciousness and whispered, “I don’t feel well,” before fading out again.
I dialed 911 and described the emergency as I knelt next to her, continually checking her breathing.
She came to and mumbled the word, “Bees.”
I had been so preoccupied that for the first time I noticed the stings on her neck and back. I knew I needed to get some form of Benadryl into her system, but she was having trouble swallowing as well as remaining conscious.
I was aware how serious the situation was, that it was potentially life-threatening, and she could be in anaphylactic shock. I wasn’t sure what else to do except try to keep her awake and breathing. I did manage to get her into a bathrobe.
She became nauseous and repeated, “I don’t feel well.”
I heard a siren growing louder and ran to the front door, waving the fire truck down. An EMT carrying an emergency medical kit raced up the steps into the house. He quickly established that her breathing was not severely compromised — her throat was not so constricted her life was in immediate danger, at least from suffocation.
She was placed in an ambulance headed for Mission Hospital. It was suggested I bring along some clothes for her to wear once she was discharged. I viewed that as a positive sign and grabbed whatever I saw, then closely followed the ambulance in my car. An emergency room had already been assigned and was awaiting her arrival.
It was early Sunday morning and I got pulled over by a police officer on Merrimon Avenue — something about my driver’s license not being in the computer database. I showed him the license, explained the situation, and to his credit, he quickly let me go. He was just doing his job and had been unaware that I was teamed with the ambulance.
“Don’t worry,” the emergency-room nurse said minutes later, “your wife is in a safe place.”
The statement was comforting.
The doctor quickly completed an examination and initiated an IV. He watched for a minute, then nodded to the nurse. “Keep your eye on her. Call me if there’s any change.”
There was. And it happened quickly. At first she was shivering, then she began to shake uncontrollably. It was downright scary to watch. I grabbed her hand. It was ice. The nurse immediately sent for the doctor.
Within seconds he was back, adding another miracle medicine to the concoction that was already seeping into her body. I watched as the new med took control — the shaking receding to shivers before totally disappearing.
“What was that you just pumped into her?” I asked the physician. He told me, but I forgot the name as soon as it escaped his lips. It didn’t matter. He clearly knew what he was doing.
Yellow jackets had done all the damage. My wife had been working in the garden and unknowingly dug into an underground nest.
I subsequently learned those pests become aggressive when they perceive an attack on their home. They swarm and each can sting more than once. One of their specialties is infiltrating the victim’s clothes to continue the onslaught.
My wife suffered more than 40 stings and was in serious trouble. Stepping into the shower had been a mistake — the heat dilated capillaries and rushed the venom into her system. She could have drowned, or died from the extreme allergic reaction, anaphylaxis.
But that didn’t happen. And she wasn’t even unhappy leaving the hospital wearing the clothes I had grabbed for her on the way out of the house: leather boots, shorts, a ZZ Top T-shirt (mine) and a red ski jacket.
Not exactly a Ralph Lauren winning look, but nonetheless, part of a triumphant victory march: Alexander 1, Yellow jackets 0.
Ted Alexander lives in Asheville. His first novel, “The Fall of Summer,” a 1960s coming-of-age story, is now on sale at Malaprop’s Bookstore/Cafe and other online and local retailers. Contact him at TedMAlexander.com/contact.
Learn more about the author and the novel online at http://tedmalexander.com/Books.html.