BEES STING, HEALTH CARE BITES : A CAUTIONARY TALE
A few weeks ago I was working in my carport, minding my own business, when two very aggressive wild bees attacked me. I managed to fend off one of them, but the other stung me at the back of my neck, right at the hairline. It was a very painful sting, and I managed to stay conscious for only about 4 or 5 minutes before collapsing in my driveway. I could barely breathe, couldn't move and couldn't speak, at least not coherently. I've known for many years that I have allergic reactions to stings and bites, but I've NEVER experienced anything like this. Fortunately, the paramedics arrived in just a few minutes and started loading me up with epinephrine (adrenalin) and who knows what else, trying to get me stabilized. I guess it was touch-and-go for a while, because I could hear them saying "he's not responding" or something to that effect. They finally decided I had to go to the ER, and all the way there they tried to help me with my breathing. Apparently, my blood pressure had also tanked, but the epinephrine did seem to finally help that somewhat. It is important to note here that I had no previous thought that a single bee sting could be a life-threatening experience for me. I've avoided honey for many years because it can make me a little nauseous, but that's about it as far as precautions have gone (not anymore!).
In the ER, I lay on the gurney for maybe a couple of hours and someone would sort of check on me now and then. The whole time while lying there, I was convulsing from all the stimulant drugs they had pumped into me. One of the fellows who worked there finally asked me to stop shaking; I guess it didn't look good to the public within visual range of me.. I told him that if I could stop, I would have already. I was asked if I wanted to stay overnight for observation, and I decided that I would, since I just wasn't sure if my body was done with the anaphylactic shock and other symptoms. Of course, they didn't tell me then that the overnight stay would cost me $2,000. I went home the next afternoon, and have been recovering since then. I think most of the recovery has been from the myriad drugs that I was given, more so than the bee sting itself. Maybe. Who knows?
I'm telling this tale for a few reasons: Partly to warn others who, as I, may not be aware of potentially life-threatening allergic responses they may have to stings or bites, partly to talk a little about my experience, limited as it was, with the modern healthcare establishment, and partly to applaud the work of the paramedics who probably saved my life.
As I mentioned earlier, I've known for many years that I am sensitive to bites and stings, but DAMN, I never dreamed a bee sting could kill me. I've lived in Southern Arizona for about 14 years now, and I have never been concerned about bees before. Every spring, they come to my acre to visit the cactus and ironwood blooms, and I've walked and worked among them with no problems at all. In past years, they have always behaved in a pretty docile manner, never once chasing me or attempting to sting. THIS YEAR, all bets are off. For a couple of weeks before I was stung, I was noticing they seemed rather agitated, flying quickly, more like darting haphazardly, from one flower to another. Frequently, they didn't even stop at a flower, just frenetically flew around almost without purpose. I think this is cause for alarm, since this behavior has not been typical of them in years past. Perhaps they are upset because Monsanto is building a massive multi-acre "greenhouse" just a couple of miles from me here in Pima County. They claim it is for developing and growing GM corn varieties, but the bees probably suspect the same things I do. I recently read that virtually ALL wild bees in Arizona are now the Africanized variety, which are well known for aggressive behavior. In fact, a few people have been killed in this area in recent years by bee swarm attacks. I'm trying to be thankful that only one bee managed to get me, because I am pretty sure I would not have survived any more than that. I now carry a generic "Epi-Pen" everywhere I go, because I'm not quite done living yet. I want to stress that unless you know FOR SURE that you do not have allergic reactions to bites or stings, PLEASE be very careful out there".
Saving my life was a very good thing, even though the paramedic service is costing me about $1,500. I'm not sure how my yearly property taxes that supposedly go to the local fire district factor into that bill, however. I am sure that someone will try to explain it to me, though. I haven't gotten the bills from the ER or the individual doctors yet. That shoe should drop any day, now. When I paid the $2,000 bill for the overnight stay at the hospital, I asked the woman if there was any way that could be discounted, since I don't have insurance or even Part 'B' of Medicare. She very authoritatively informed me that the bill is "normally" $11,000 (!), but they had already applied some mystery discount to bring it down to $6,500 (!), but that my final price would "only" be $2,000, even though the invoice would still say the total was $6,500 (?). She told me to just "ignore" what the bill said. I thanked her for her "compassion" and "understanding" and promptly left by a side door. I've always been a pay-as-you-go person, and haven't had any form of health insurance for decades. I always put money aside for emergencies like this, so I can pay the cash and be done with it. I dare say, if I had any form of insurance, private or Medicare, this would have still cost me about as much because of deductibles, 60-70-80% payments based on the high-end prices ($11,000 overnights, etc.) and other outrageous billing practices, so I'm still ahead of the game. I don't have a "primary" physician, don't need or even want one. When I'm sick, I treat myself because I know my body better than any doctor who's going to spend 10-15 minutes "diagnosing" me and prescribing some pharmaceutical that will likely make me sicker or damage some part of me that was fine to start with because of some horrid side effect. My previous near-death experience with AVELOX is proof enough of that.
Finally, I just wanted to say a few words of thanks to the paramedics who treated me. I live only about 1/2 mile from the local fire station, so they were able to get here in just a few minutes. Even though I was barely conscious, I could tell that they were doing their best to keep me alive and, when I wasn't responding well enough, to get me to the ER as quickly as possible. I don't know if anyone else has noticed this, but for quite a few years now fire stations and police stations are becoming more like fortified citadels, only lacking a moat around them. I tried to contact the paramedic who was the lead guy on the team that treated me; the phone receptionist acted suspicious of me and I was not allowed to speak to him over the phone. I was handed off to an assistant chief so that a written commendation could be entered into the fellow's file. I have no idea if that commendation ever made it to him. You can't just walk up to a fire station anymore and expect to actually talk to anyone. Their doors are generally locked, and there are no windows at eye level. They have become as cloistered and private club-like as the cops these days. That is very sad to me.
So here it is: THANK YOU to ERIC HOUSE for being a true professional, combining technical skill and great compassion. Thank you for working on me all the way to the ER and staying with me there until the doctor was done with me. I wish there were more like you! :