Death-Eaters…as in Wasps

Who knew wasps are carnivorous in August? Even hungry enough to locate a mole carcass, left outside the front door by the cat, and from thence scooped up by farmer Greg and dropped into the rolling trash bin? A mole carcass that entered the bin on Thursday afternoon, with expected pick-up the next morning?

Thursday had been a good day as Annie and I finished our evening chores of corralling and feeding animals. Our guests had not yet arrived, but I expected them soon. I stuffed a pile of old feed bags into the trash can, after saving them for months, because it was obvious I wasn’t going to have time to use them for weed control so late in the summer. Time to give up on the idea. I reached for the handle of the trash container without looking, grabbed hold and immediately withdrew from a sting. It only took a nanosecond to connect the sting with the swirl of wasps rising up in the air. Dammit and dammit again. I felt a second sting on my neck before I even started running.

As I swatted at a trailing wasps, I felt for the sting and I felt for the location of my jugular. The spots seemed pretty close. I remembered the reaction I had had last summer to a wasp attack. My hand had stayed swollen for over a week. How could I have not noticed the wasps flying around the bin. Oh, yeah, I wasn’t really thinking of the trash can as a wasp zone or paying that close of attention to anything other than dragging the garbage can out to the road.

With a stinging hand that was already starting to swell, I hurried into the house and popped two Benadryl, then went back out to re-look at the garbage bin. Had I been too careless to notice a nest? There were, maybe, five mad wasps flying about and the hornet spray can was near empty. Someone else could take out the trash, I decided.

On entering the cool house, I noticed my skin was starting to feel prickly. Did I remember where I had put the EpiPen from last year? I hoped it was in with all the other medicines. Funny, but I had just spoken with my health care provider about this pen. Had I had to use it? Did I know they expire? Did I know I should use an expired pen anyway if it was all I had. I looked on the yellow box sitting in the medicine basket. The pen was still good. Except now my vision was going wobbly and things were starting to blur.

Greg suggested I sit down and relax. No need to panic. Just sit back and stay calm. Now I was really starting to feel bad in a bad kind of way. All over. I closed my eyes. We needed to use the pen. Annie broke open the box and started to read the directions. I loosened my pants since the shot goes in the thigh.

Next thing I knew I was lying on the floor with my head on a pillow and Greg was putting a towel full of ice on my forehead. Annie was on the phone to 911. The paramedics were coming through the door. Could I respond? Yeah, I don’t feel good but I can talk. My neighbor, part of Alsea’s volunteer fire department was at my head speaking. He was being told by radio to start an IV with some more Benadryl.

More people. The dogs kept pushing open the door and getting under foot. The cat was alarmed and attentive. The Corvallis paramedics showed up, adding more people to a very small room. I was still on my back. They checked my signs. They canceled the helicopter. They loaded me into the back of the ambulance and as we drove down the dirt road from our farm passed our guests coming the other way. Annie told me they waved. The rest of the ride was rather surreal since I was facing backwards through the curves to the local hospital. I was informed people often don’t do well riding backwards in ambulances. Add a mountain pass and the effect doubles.

I didn’t actually start throwing up until an hour into my hospital stay. Everyone kept speaking about a second reaction that often takes place, but I don’t think they mean throwing up. That would be the Epinephrine. Thankfully, I exhibited no other signs of anaphylactic shock. The hives that had turned my body red went away; my air passages were clear. I think we got home somewhere around midnight and fell into bed, although I remember Annie saying something about taking the trash can out to the road…uneventfully. The wasps were sleeping, or dead. Had she said something about spraying wasp killer on them?

The next day we greeted our guests with a short explanation. I found out a note had been left for them. Something about a family emergency. I think they had put two and two together with the ambulance and all. I heard a recount of the previous evening. Seems after the shot I had passed out for about five minutes but everything Greg and Annie did had been correct. The EpiPen had saved my life. Next time we were told don’t sit around and think about using it, just use it right away. No time to waste.

Next time. Now there’s a thought. There really can’t be a next time, she says, as the honey bees and bumble bees buzz through the gardens. And how about the yellow jacket nests in the soil? Like the one our guest family found several days later when one of the boys stepped on it and was stung several times?! Worse still, this was a place I had walked by a million times.

We now have a new can of wasp killer spray and have located several hives and taken them out. I have three EpiPens I was sent home with: one for my purse and two in the medicine basket, although the nurse says we should put them in separate places and make sure everyone knows where they are. I may speak with the doctor about doing something to desensitize my body so I don’t have such a life-and-death reaction in the event I am again stung. Sounds like a good idea.

Life and death. Now there’s a funny thing. I never saw a light. I never flashed back over my life. It could have all just been over and I wouldn’t have known. Dammit again. While I don’t think it was that close, I never realized I could die and not know it. Too many loose ends. Too many pieces of knowledge that only I have that would make things difficult for those I left behind. Starting with passwords! Too much information to be explained, clarified, written down, detailed. And all this recognition just from being stung by a wasp on a warm summer’s day when the trash needed to be taken out.

Photo: Henry and me on my birthday, three days before the wasp “attack”. Couldn’t resist showing a photo of the baby!

All Rights Reserved. Copyright 2009 Scottie Jones


  1. Reply
    aimee 9 August, 2009

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  2. Reply
    aimee 9 August, 2009

    You were SO lucky someone was home to perform the proper First Aid! Thank goodness all turned out OK; the wasps and all seem more agressive this year–a friend also was stung recently. Would a wasp/yellow jackey trap help? That’s what she bought in addition to wasp killer; apparently the wasps love her son’s car which has not been driven for quite awhile.
    Little Henry is a cutie!!
    Blessings & stay safe,
    PS: Bigtime kudos to Annie & Greg for their great job! Oh–Happy Birthday — a bit late — to you:)

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