On Saturday, I was in my father-in-law’s backyard with my father-in-law and my 2 year old son. My boy was busy pulling small slate-like pieces of rock off of a landscaped wall one by one, dewalling it, if you will. So, I set about putting the pieces back in place while telling my father-in-law about how the value of a bachelor’s degree nowadays doesn’t come close to matching the price charged for it by private colleges. Just then a bee came out of the wall and stung the %#&# out of me. (I would later learn that I essentially stuck my hand into a beehive…adding more evidence for my argument that a private college education isn’t all that). Man it hurt and man was I angry.
You see, I’m allergic to bees – and I absolutely hate them. I’ve been stung three times before, once on my lip (face swelled up like Martin Short in the movie Pure Luck), once on my chest and another time on the hand. Each time I had allergic reactions. Whenever a bee is near, I’m that guy who stands still nervously until the bee gets too close (within 5-10 feet typically) and then I’m that guy running away wildly swatting at the air and yelling incoherently. And it wouldn’t matter if I were in the middle of a profoundly important moment (like Brother Steve’s wedding years ago for example). If it’s too close, I will assume the role of massive, flailing coward instantly.
For me, whenever I get stung, a whole process is set in motion. First, I panic. I am good at panicking. On Saturday, I yelped when the actual sting happened and then immediately turned my focus to “awfulizing” and “worst-case-scenarioing” as much as possible. “What if I start having breathing problems?”; “what should I tell my father-in-law now about how long I’d want to remain in a coma etc?”; “what if Aaron Rodgers gets hurt tomorrow?”. I went into the house to get some ice and follow my father-in-law’s suggestion to sit and try to relax. Then, I started thinking about where I put my epi-pen which I’d been told to take with me pretty much everywhere. Then I started thinking about how I’d rather not use the epi-pen considering the needle is huge and I’d have to inject myself. Only after worrying about having to self-inject did I realize that I didn’t have my epi-pen.
So, I decided to panic some more figuring that perhaps if I panicked more, my natural adrenaline flow would increase and function like the adrenaline (epinephrine) in the epi-pen, relieving all symptoms. I tried this for a while but it didn’t seem to be working as I started to notice the next phase of the process was kicking in – hives. Sure enough, my right forearm was swelling like Popeye with 2 hives and I also watched a hive develop on my chest giving me an asymmetrical and frightful triple man-boob look. Not pretty. One thing I’d like to know is how hives themselves settle on where to locate. Seems very random. Fortunately, I did not experience any difficulty breathing despite being so conscious and panicked about the whole thing and so aware that breathing difficulty was likely the next symptom – in fact, in a weird way it almost seemed like I was trying to have trouble breathing.
I knew the symptoms were getting more serious when I also noticed that I was beginning to develop a redness on my face and neck. So I figured it was time to go to Urgent Care. My father-in-law took me there right away along with my 2 year old son (whose facial expressions throughout told of a new level of curiosity – and this for a child I thought may have already maxed out on curiosity). When we got there, the nurses were being very casual and I was not being very casual. Eventually, a nurse actually looked up (nurses at front desks spend so much time looking down it’s strange) and saw my face and made the sensible decision to postpone the petty paperwork process.
I’m pretty sure that it was the first day for the nurse who came and got me. The first thing she did was weigh me – because that’s apparently a critical piece of info when treating a bee sting with rapidly progressing and obvious symptoms. (Look, there may have been a medical reason for weighing me at some point, but I think that it could have been done after getting a shot – I had more pressing concerns at that time than confirming that my lack of exercise and poor diet weren’t paying off.)
Once in the consult room, the nurse was clearly focused on the “talk slowly and overly-deliberately with patients who are anxious” part of her recent training. Or, she may have just been related to Paul Harvey or Elaine from Airplane!. I told her about having been prescribed an epi-pen for years, the growing outbreak of hives and the fact that with every other bee sting, I was given a shot of epinephrine, which has always worked well. She wasn’t sure this was needed because you see, I didn’t have hives, I had just been stung in multiple places. She was thinking just some ice and maybe, just maybe benadryl would work. I disagreed strongly because I knew that I’d been stung just one time and that my allergic reaction was progressing. And, I’d experienced this before. So I asked her to get the doctor, neglecting the impact this almost immediate “let me talk to your boss” plea might have on her budding nursing career. Of course, the doctor came in and recommended an epinephrine shot immediately. (In hindsight, I guess I wouldn’t be surprised if upon interviewing this nurse now, she revealed that she was reluctant to give me the epinephrine right away simply because I presented like a crazed drug addict desperate for a fix – especially considering my over-the-top push for the shot). Anyway, things didn’t end there.
Once the adrenaline from the shot kicked in, I sat there shaking considerably while waiting for the symptoms to subside. Meanwhile my son, again, was just so curious about the whole thing: watching the doctor look at daddy, seeing daddy’s strangely massive hand, and of course watching daddy unable to sit still, just like him. The symptoms did start to very gradually subside and we were all relieved (including the nurse). Upon being discharged, I was told to sign and fill out a bunch of paperwork. Asking a patient to sign and fill out forms after having a shot of adrenaline is ridiculous – not one word/signature was legible and the forms had to be re-written by the nurse after I gave the answers verbally. It was odd, standing there, involuntarily fidgeting and unable to keep my head still no matter my effort, I felt like a bird (ever notice, by the way, that all birds have ADD).
So finally, I had to go to Walgreens to pick up another epi-pen and some benadryl. As I was standing in line at the pharmacy behind people who seemed to be there for mostly unimportant things, I caught a glimpse of myself in a mirror and had a quiet chuckle to myself. Here I was, shaking uncontrollably, still flush in the face from lingering panic with weird red bumps on my arm, chuckling audibly for no apparent reason and perhaps most frighteningly, holding out a hand so swollen that that it looked like one of those inflated clown-balloon hands. Let’s just say skipping ahead to the front of the line has never been so easy.