Even though my husband told me he’d find them, I went to the shed to get the lawn chairs. I had seen them several weeks earlier, so I knew where to look. As I headed back to the house, I disturbed a couple of wasps and two of them stung me on the arm.
We live on a small farm and I’ve been stung numerous times; in fact, I’d been stung just 10 days earlier. But this time I hadn’t taken more than a couple steps when I felt sick to my stomach. I thought, Wow, that’s strong venom.
I set the chairs by the back door and went into the kitchen to wash the dust and cobwebs off my hands which had begun itching. As I did that, I started getting lightheaded. Then I noticed my stomach was covered with a faint, almost invisible layer of hives.
Realizing that something was wrong, my husband said, “I’m taking you to the hospital” and hurried into the bedroom to grab his wallet from the dresser.
By the time he had walked the 20 or so steps back into the living room, I was losing consciousness. I remember him calling 9-1-1 and telling me, “Keep talking. Keep talking to me, Nancy.”
I mumbled a few words but couldn’t form coherent thoughts. So I prayed aloud . . . and as I prayed, I remember being amazed that I was able to form words. And then, nothing.
My next memory is a hazy impression of men surrounding me, and a calm voice saying, “Hi Nancy. Do you know who I am?”
I opened my eyes to see a paramedic squatted beside me.
Off to the Hospital
My husband tells me they came in two teams, four minutes apart: the first responders arrived three minutes after he called 9-1-1, and the paramedics rushed into the house four minutes later.
The paramedic gave me a shot of adrenaline, and while they waited for me to become alert, he told me the first call he received was that I was conscious, but less than a minute later, another call came through saying I was unresponsive. He said his unit reached me in seven minutes, a drive from the station to our house that would have taken a car 15 minutes. When they arrived, my heart rate was 40 and dropping.
They loaded me into the ambulance, started an IV and sped off to the hospital, leaving their equipment scattered around our living room. Once I was in the hospital emergency room, they went back to retrieve their equipment.
Close to Cardiac Arrest
The doctor explained that rather than the throat swelling and breathing difficulties many people associate with anaphylactic shock, I’d had a cardiovascular event where my blood pressure and heart rate plummeted – similar to what happens when someone cuts themselves severely and is bleeding out. Without medical treatment, in a few more minutes, I would have gone into cardiac arrest.
The doctor gave me an anti-venom shot, then kept me in the hospital emergency room most of the night, as it took hours for my vital signs to stabilize.
Until I get to heaven I won’t know why I went into anaphylactic shock or, for that matter, why I survived. We also don’t know how people at the brink of death will react. I prayed. God is the most powerful force in our world, and I called on him in my hour of need, and I know He heard my prayer because, “This is the confidence we have in approaching God: that if we ask anything according to his will, he hears us” (1 John 5:14, NIV).
Nancy Lou Semotiuk writes from the Pacific Northwest.
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