“Ahhhh,” I yelled, grabbing my hand. Though the bee, wasp, yellow jacket or whatever it was had made off (and I never actually saw my assailant), he’d left the stinger as a souvenir. After pulling it out, I noticed the injection site was right over a vein.
“That doesn’t look good,” I thought to myself.
Putting Parker, our one-year old, on the ground, I pulled out my iPhone and looked up “first aid bee sting.” After doing some reading, I got the idea to go upstairs and take some Benadryl. I was, perhaps, a bit more concerned than most because I’ve had minor reactions (hives, significant swelling at the site) in the past to bee stings.
“Tyler,” I yelled to our three-year old, who was standing against the fence talking to our neighbor’s son of about the same age, “Daddy’s going inside for a minute. I’ll be right back.”
I grabbed Parker and headed inside, then upstairs. By the time I got to the top of the steps, I had a strange, metallic taste in my mouth, and my heart rate had increased significantly.
“Something is wrong,” I said to myself.
I put Parker in his crib and went into the bathroom for the Benadryl. Thanks to the child-proof packaging, I was only able to free one pill before I started to go downhill. I swallowed the pill and, for the first time in my life, knew I had to call 911. At this point, the best way to describe my situation was that my breathing was very rapid, I was sweating, and my vision, balance, etc., were like one suffering from (or enjoying) extreme intoxication.
After calling 911, my next thought was, “Get the kids over to Bill.” Since my wife was away with some girlfriends on a much deserved holiday, I was alone with the little ones. Bill, our neighbor, also has two little ones, so I knew he’d “get it” when it comes to watching them. I also knew Bill was outside.
Mustering all the focus I had, I grabbed Parker and headed to backyard.
“Bill,” I yelled, “take my kids.”
“What?!?” he asked.
“I just got stung by a bee and I’m having a bad reaction. The ambulance is on its way. Take my kids.”
I handed one, then the other, over to Bill, then stumbled around the side of the house, crashed through a couple of bushes and settled on the front steps with head in hands.
First came the police (represented by Dino) who administered oxygen.
“I think I need to lay down,” I said, reclining on my landing.
After about five minutes with the oxygen mask on, I started to feel better, though I now had a massive headache.
Despite this, the paramedics recommended I go to the hospital just for some precautionary observation, which I agreed to do. Before leaving, I passed some diapers and jarred food over the fence to Bill’s wife, Suzy.
As only a mother of young children will know to determine, she asked: “Where are they in their day?”
“They’re ready for lunch now, then naps.”
“Got it,” she said.
The ride to the hospital and my short stay in the ER were uneventful. I received no medications while there and was just told to take the max dose of Benadryl for the next 48 hours. I wound up needing a Prednisone pack after, not surprisingly, the swelling from the injection site near my knuckle, having run out of room on my hand, spread halfway down my forearm.
While there are many takeaways one can pull from this tale, the most striking point to me is that a relatively healthy 38-year-old man who was sitting on a chair in his backyard with his children was suddenly in such a state of physical distress that emergency medical care was summoned. Of course, it’s even more galling that this 190 pound individual was brought to that state by an organism weighing 90 milligrams.
We go through our days with a feeling of invincibility, with the false assumption that refraining from risky behaviors (skydiving, etc) removes just about all the risk life has to offer, but those who’ve been blindsided in car accidents that were no fault of their own, or laid low by allergies they may not have even known about, realize such strength is an illusion. Life is, in fact, quite fragile, and our condition can change dramatically from one moment to the next.
Many trade today for tomorrow, planning to “really enjoy life” after they retire, or when they get a new job, or when things slow down. I’ve never bought into such thinking, and this weekend’s incident — which is how I delivered the news to my wife: “There was an incident …” — confirms the folly of such compromises.
Whether it’s appreciating the beauty of deep green leaves set against the azure blue of a clear sky, or quietly observing a child’s pride at mastering any challenge, life’s treasures must be mined daily, for we never know when our ability to absorb them will be compromised. We never know when one of the arrows that continually graze us will hit home. At that point, we’ll want the solace that only comes from being able to reflect upon a life not bartered, but lived.