As I picked up a notebook to write this blog post (I usually hand write my blog posts before typing) I grabbed this notebook, opened it up to this page. The title was already written. I assume from another writing I never wrote. How fitting. How "meant to bee" as this blog post is about an anaphylactic episode I had the night before last.
Yep, from a bee sting. The same bee stings I've endured countless times before. In hindsight, the greatest teacher of all, maybe the signs were there that this was going to happen. I get what is called "moderate localized reactions" but not every time. Most bee stings I get are just the same little to no reaction as most people have. I never ever thought this would happen to me. Until it did. It feels like a typical dream I would have, incorporating various aspects of my life in some traumatic fashion.
Wednesday July 10th, 2019
A typical summer evening around 8pm. I had just set Oliver's pool up earlier that day. He was swimming. I was tending to my sunflowers, Mike had just left to work a bee hive we have down the road.
As I was pulling weeds and dead foliage from the sunflowers, I was stung. I am well aware of the bees, wasps and bumble bees always in the sunflowers and in the garden. Aware yes. Super cautious, no. I don't mind getting stung. It may be a fluke, but since we have been keeping bees and I get stung fairly often, my knee and elbow pain has diminished, pretty much non existent. Ironic. The cure being worse than the disease. As this very same venom caused what I am about the explain.
Beekeeping 101. Remove the stinger when you get stung. So I did. No big deal. Bee stings don't hurt any less when you get stung often, so there was a bit of a "damn it" moment. Also, it makes me a little sad that this girl gave her life for defending a sunflower. Honey bees die when they sting.
Here's a picture I took last year as Mike got stung. It's such a little bit they leave behind. But it is after all, venom.
I remember saying if only in my head "ugh, sorry girl, I wasn't aware you were right there." I then went over and sat by Oliver at his pool, just enjoying the evening.
All of the sudden, I started itching. Then I started to INSANELY ITCH.
I am embarrassed to admit that at this point I still had not connected the itching with the sting. Then my lips went numb. Now I knew I was in trouble. Now I knew this was due to the sting. I told Oliver to get out of the pool. Not understanding what was happening, he reluctantly did so.
I immediately called Mike, who was already in the driveway at this time. I told him to call 911. He also not quite grasping the severity, said he would drive me to the hospital. I told him I would have already called 911 but my phone was low on battery and I was having a hard time forming words at this point, so I wanted him to call and that all this clawing at myself was not helping the itching. I knew I needed help and I knew I needed it fast. I only know this from reading about other people's experiences with this type of situation.
As he talked to 911 dispatch I sat down and felt myself fading, like the life force energy was leaving me. I would really like to say that I am being dramatic here to keep your attention, but I am not.
I know Mike really wanted to drive me there but I knew I needed help faster than a 30 minute drive to the hospital could get me. I also think he was dealing with a total disbelief, as I was, that this was even happening. After all, we are beekeepers.
The 911 dispatcher stayed on the phone as she and Mike continued to ask me questions. I could still answer, but it was getting harder. I felt like a wilting flower.
The ambulance arrived pretty quickly.
Upon arrival, they were initially thinking this was heat stroke. I was sweating a lot and it was hot. I kept saying "my lips are numb.. my tongue feels weird.. my lips are numb my...." as my speech slowed. During this whole time I stayed pretty calm. Partly because I literally had no energy and partly because I knew going into a panic would make matters worse.
As I sat on the steps of our front porch, paramedics to my left and Mike to my right, I thought for a moment, "wow, this is how I go? This is how I leave this physical plane? A sting from a teeny tiny honey bee? I have taken plenty of risks with large animals, but a teeny tiny bee?"
As I was thinking about the risks I have taken with a thousand pound animals and here I was being treated for a sting from a bee that weighs one tenth of a gram... I vomited. Now I really knew I was in trouble.
I heard them say my blood pressure was 80/39 and my heart rate was 40. Suddenly the gurney was right in front of me and I was placed upon it.
Then I was in the ambulance. This was the most bittersweet part of this ordeal. I knew now I was going to get the help I so desperately needed; but as I saw Mike and Oliver at the open doors of the ambulance, I just couldn't get the words out. I wanted to say "I love you guys I hope you always know that." Reliving this moment as I type it makes me tear up.
Then the ambulance doors were closed.
At that very moment, when they closed the ambulance doors, I do not recall my physical symptoms. I was all in my head and in my heart. I was thinking " Do my loved ones know I love them? Have I done a good job in life? I recalled the words of my step-dad when he was battling cancer, he said " Well, Aim, if this is it for me, I have to say, I have had a pretty damn good life." Those words have never left me. They have inspired me. And now, I was thinking the same thing. Yet, there was this feeling of "Wait! I am not done, despite all my faults in life, I do think I have done a good job, but I have so many more memories to make." But there was also, that feeling of knowing I have had a pretty damn good life. I just knew I wanted more time to learn to teach.
Then all emotions were taken over by excruciating pelvis, yes pelvis, pain. Like contractions. I had one of my three children without any drugs, this felt like that. Via the IV I was given Benadryl, Zofran and Fentanyl. I tried to refuse the Fentanyl, but I could hardly speak, not because I couldn't breathe, because I could, but rather because I just didn't have the energy to physically talk. The paramedic understood my semi objection and gave me one forth of what they normally give. I have no idea what this contraction business was all about other than being told it's part of a histamine reaction.
It felt like we got to the hospital pretty quickly and the drugs were kicking in. By the time we rolled up at the ER, I was fine. Like 100% fine. In fact, I just wanted to hop from the gurney to the truck. But I didn't get that option. I also knew I needed to see if the symptoms were going to return once the drugs wore off. They did not.
As expected, I got an EpiPen RX and a talk about continuing beekeeping.
On the way back home I just wanted to pretend the whole thing never happened. Watering the garden and flowers the next morning, I could not pretend it didn't happen. My brain had to re-live the whole thing over and over.
After some googling (yes,I googled the hell out of this) I learned a couple of things, At first I thought, "well, it wasn't that bad. I could breathe." Well, it turns out, as this was hitting all my body systems, the respiratory system was next. That is why FAST emergency help is vital. I never did find out why my heart rate was so low, that usually goes up.
What does this mean for me? For my life? For my lifestyle? I'm still not sure. I know moments like this are in the past. I was just in jeans and a t shirt when I took this picture. I can't ever be that uncovered again that close to the bees; and even though this happened to me and not any of the grand kids (thankfully) I won't ever let them get this close this exposed again. I am glad to have the moment frozen in time as the fearlessness is heart warming, but I won't do it again.
This morning while picking cucumbers from the garden, I was a bit on edge as I heard buzzing around me. This makes me so sad. I am hoping time will help with that feeling. Do I handle this in the "get back up on the horse" manner? I don't know. Do I get out there and do beekeeping as usual? Not sure. I am not putting any pressure on myself to make this decision. Can I keep walking outside barefoot, as I have already done, yes.. but with this new awareness and unfortunately, a tinge of fear. I also now have an emergency action plan.
Fear. F*&^&%G fear. Something I have worked on for the past ten years to dissipate. Prior to the last ten years my life was fear based. Some therapy and SEVERAL audio book later, fear does not rule my life. But this incident has it creeping it's way back in.
I really can not explain how it feels to be perfectly fine, then absolutely not ok, back to 100% in such a short period of time.
If you know me, you know I seem to apply a lesson to every obstacle. I am still processing this one. Maybe it's Mercury Retrograde. Who knows. On a scientific level, I get it. As a beekeeper my odds are greater that this could happen. On an emotional and intellectual level, the lesson(s) aren't quite clear, but there are some that are coming to me:
The super obvious one. We never know when it's our time.
We are living our legacy every day. What's your legacy?
Overall, I am truly feeling grateful. Not the obligatory kind for merely being alive today. I am truly grateful for my body overcoming this. I am grateful for the paramedics that made this happen. I am truly grateful, no matter what I decide to do about bee keeping, I am ever so grateful for the wonderful life I have. Even before this I have been living a life that leaves a legacy my family and loved ones would be proud of, and after this, well now I am going to do more in some areas, less in others and continue to always do my best.
I do not wish this experience on anyone. I didn't write this for sympathy. In fact, I am the type of person that wants to crawl in a hole when I am hurt. I don't want anyone's attention. But this time, I needed it and I am choosing to share it for a couple reasons. One, because it helps me to write, helps all these feelings flow so that I may process and let go easier. Secondly, because there is a message here for everyone.
If they closed the ambulance door with your family on the other side, will they know how much you love them?
Will you think you have done a pretty good job at life? If not to either, time to make some changes. Time to open your heart and mind and live the legacy you want to leave behind.
I bee-lieve in my ability to work through this
I bee-lieve I will use this experience to better my life
I bee-lieve that sharing this will help at least one person
I bee-lieve that the magic is in bee-lieving.
To my family and friends, I hope you know how much I love you all.