After forty years on this earth, and dozens of bee stings under my belt, apparently all of a sudden, out of nowhere, I am allergic to bees.
Shortly after I completed my last post, it was getting late, so I began my nightly bedtime rituals. My husband was already asleep with the lights off so I wandered over to the dresser in only the very dim light from the bathroom to grab some pajamas. Instantly I felt a sharp pain in the ball of my foot that made me think I had inadvertently broken a bone. I am not kidding – so sharp, so instant, so jolting, it didn’t even feel like it could possibly be real pain, and it definitely did not occur to me that it was a bee sting. Occasionally I get very brief, very sharp, MS nerve pain. This pain can come on suddenly and cause the same type of confusion I was now having, like, “Why does it feel like I severely injured myself and yet I did no such thing??” For a moment I thought I was having a new type of MS “phantom” like episode. As I yelled, “Ow-ow-ow-ow something’s wrong turn on the lights!” and cupped my foot, hubby awoke, turned on the lights, and discovered I had stepped on a dead bee. Or at least it was dead after I stepped on it. He scraped off the stinger, and crawled back under the covers without a concern.
I’m not one to complain much. I have a pretty high tolerance for discomfort, and I couldn’t believe how badly this bee sting was hurting! Keeping pretty quiet at that point, I attempted to walk it off for about a minute before I laid down. The pain had mostly subsided, and I breathed a sigh of relief. But within minutes, my palms started to itch like crazy. It occurred to me that maybe my brain was just causing this strange itching on my palms as a result of the knowledge I had been stung. But then, the inside of my ears began to itch like mad as well, and the itching on my palms was getting worse. I announced out loud how weird this was and it was driving me insane to be rapidly alternating between itching my palms and then immediately moving to quickly jam my index fingers inside my ears to attempt to relieve that itching as well. Hubby suggested I take some Benadryl. Zero alarm. And honestly, I wasn’t alarmed either. Just irritated by the itching. About this time I think my brain was somehow affected because, also about this time, I should have told him something was seriously wrong. Instead I gritted my teeth and tolerated this strange reaction and kept silent. This is typical me. I’m my own worst enemy. As I made my way downstairs, the weakness I normally have in my legs was suddenly more severe, and walking was more challenging than usual because my legs were doing a sort of shaking-tremoring-wobbly thing. And maybe this was worsened by the fact that my body was growing more itchy by the square inch with every passing second. By the time I reached the cabinet in the kitchen where the Benadryl was, the tremors in my hands were so bad I could hardly get the bottle open and my fingers shook the capsules right out of my hand onto the floor.
I remember thinking that this felt dangerous. That my symptoms were worsening too quickly. That the histamine in my body was out of control and I had never experienced anything like this. That it felt like a panic qualifying situation, yet I just couldn’t get myself to panic. “Get Benadryl in system” is all I could get my thoughts to calculate. “Sit, and wait for Benadryl to dissolve and get in bloodstream.” I told myself. As if I had a choice. I was a wobbly, itchy mess. As I sat, and furiously soothed my upper body with frantic, erratic itching, rapidly moving from one spot to the next as though my itch relieving appendages had a mind of their own, groans from within me were escaping with every breath and I guess I woke my little one. When she asked if I was okay, I knew I wasn’t. All I could say was, “I stepped on a bee, I’m waiting for the Benadryl to kick in.” I also asked her to check and see if it was expired.
“Um, Mom? It expired in 2013.”
It may seem difficult to believe, but I couldn’t even think. I had no idea what to do, except wait for a hopeful relief in the form of an expired antihistamine. The decision to stop waiting went a little like this:
Little one gets big brother because he was downstairs awake with us, but had headphones in and hadn’t yet been disturbed by my itchy growls.
Big brother aka oldest child says get in the car we’re going to urgent care.
Family of three leaves in under ten seconds.
To be fair, this urgent reaction probably had a lot to do with the fact that it was nearly midnight, and mom was fluorescent red from head to toe and the hives were spreading north. And it’s probably important to mention that my upper lip was swollen, along with my nasal passages and eyes. Good thing I wasn’t left to decide for myself whether or not this was an emergency. I told you my brain wasn’t working.
Most of my childhood was full of memories of bad cat allergies, bad dust allergies, bad pollen allergies – ask my Grandma Cutie Pie (yes, that’s what we call her, because she’s seriously that cute). As a child I suffered at her house on a regular basis, and good over-the-counter allergy medicine just didn’t exist, so on bad days I looked like I got punched in the face, took Benadryl, and slept a lot. And then about the time I found out I had MS, my allergies almost entirely disappeared, except for a few seasonal allergies common to most people. However, I am still an experienced allergy sufferer, but I honestly have never experienced this type of itchy allergic reaction in my life. Someone needs to invent a new word, because “itch” does not qualify to explain what was happening to my skin. There was no relief, just obsessive itching, all from the waste up, most severely on my arms and scalp. I knew I would be itching myself raw but I didn’t care, I couldn’t care. Counting down the two miles to the Urgent Care, I continued trying to appease the itch, only to discover that this Urgent Care was closed. Immediately we headed to the only other Urgent Care in town and I imagined the giant needle that would bring relief as we burst through the doors. But that Urgent Care was closed too.
That’s when Mom of the year decided it was totally okay for her son to drive 90 + miles per hour to the nearest emergency room.
Second to driving to the hospital having contractions when pregnant, this was possibly the longest and most miserable drive of my life. I’m not sure I’ve ever been quite as uncomfortable as I was this night.
When we arrived at the hospital, and my son helped me to walk since my legs were just not working right, I was disappointed to find there was no magic needle waiting for me at the door and I would have to answer the litany of questions like a regular person. I’m pretty sure the lady at the desk wasn’t a nurse, and she had the nerve to tell me I should try to stop itching because I was making my skin raw. These minor details do not matter when one is miserable. She was probably distracted by my drug addict mannerisms and twitching. Oh yeah, that was fun trying to find the energy to explain to someone who likely knows nothing about MS why I’m twitching, thanks to the muscle spasms that come with MS. Feeling like I had to say something, I simply said that the bee sting was making my MS “freak out”.
The doctor in triage B was young, adorable, and probably better skilled than I, but I wasn’t so sure when he looked at me and asked if I was sunburned. And I tried to give him the benefit of the doubt that he doesn’t know what I normally look like, but the swelling in my lip was making my words come out funny. He kindly said the Benadryl must have kept me from going into anaphylactic shock and I did not need an epinephrine shot, but that I did need intravenous steroids and another type of antihistamine and then he said he’d be “right back”.
Don’t tell people that. Especially people in pain and uncomfortable. Because “right back” to me means moments, and I’m counting down the seconds to the magic IV. And because he wasn’t “right back”, my son walked into the hallway to alert them that his mom’s hands and feet were turning purple. They moved pretty quickly after that, although they seemed about as concerned with my discomfort as I was with their business.
In time, the itching began to subside, and the steroids and antihistamine seemed to make my brain work again. The doctor declared I am officially allergic to bees and gave me a prescription for an epipen and sent me on my way at 3:00 am. Just a regular Saturday night 🙂
Suddenly, I am having to rethink things. Like the beehive in one of our irrigation boxes that we have lived with for who knows how long, and likely had something to do with the bee on my bedroom floor. Schedule professional Beekeeper “Sterling” to perform live bee removal – check. Ask to watch the process and happened to mention I was in the ER over the weekend from a bee sting, then subsequently request to watch bee removal turned down – check. Pick up epipen prescription and non-expired bottle of life saving Benadryl – check. Have talk with hubby about my tendency to make light of serious situations and his tendency to sleep through emergencies – check.
Although I assumed that after I came home from the ER and received my magic IV, I would go right back to normal physically, that hasn’t been the case. With MS there is always risk when any inflammatory situation is involved and I think the bee sting might have extremely taxed my body. All week I’ve felt off, over-the-top-tired, but it’s more than that. I’ve felt silent symptoms flaring just a tad and ordinary fatigue being much more bothersome. I forget my body is fragile and compromised, and this could have ended up a lot worse as my bee sting reaction could have led to some critical MS issues. I’m not worried, just dipping my toes in reality for a moment, and staying clear of bees because I never want to experience that again. Although, I am quite fond of bees and the work they do. I think the most important question is, can I still have raw honey? Because I’m quite fond of that too! Seriously bees….I thought we were friends.