The Bee Sting

Image description: the author’s hand, with a cannula in the back, resting on a sheet of handwritten notes. A black bic biro on top of the notes. The author is wearing a hospital gown.

This happened a month ago and I’m just about recovered. For a month I have felt as though gravity were twice as strong, as all my bones were lead. It’s taken a while for me to get the wherewithal to post this publicly, instead of just on my private page.

That Saturday was a strange day. I was feeding the chickens and ducks, collecting the eggs, as I do every lunchtime. One of the hens had been laying in the potatoes my parents had planted in the back garden. I had to pass the little goat shed to get there. It hasn’t had goats in it in years, but that’s what we call it. I’d like to have goats in there again. The little goat shed is where the bee things were stored. Most are in a shed further away, but a few are in there. I think dad thought the honey smelling things were all out of there, but they obviously weren’t. So, the bees would still hang around that shed. He’d been doing something with them that morning.

Image description: a photo of the author’s father in white bee suit and veil, standing with a smoker in the yard in front of the shed.

It didn’t even seem like an angry bee. I was just aware of buzzing near my arm. I looked and saw a little bee, a sweet, fuzzy thing, kind of curled up on my arm, just above my elbow. And it stung me, very obliquely, almost, quietly, in a casual kind of way.

I tried not to panic, because it wouldn’t help. I went inside. I went to the toilet because I thought it would be a pain to be in hospital needing to pee. I put my phone charger and earphones in my bag – note; next time, to make sure I have a battery pack. Then I sat down in the recliner chair. We dithered. Next time we won’t dither. I took an antihistamine after K. had run around looking for one. I’d known exactly where they were, but when K. had hayfever the other day my nine year old had ‘helpfully’ brought them to him.

Then I started feeling weird. That’s when K. gave me the epipen. Worse than being stung, in the moment, at least. Being thumped hard in the thigh with a stabby thing which he had to hold pressed against the place where he hit. I owwwed quite loudly. I went out to the car while K. was running around, reclined the passenger seat right back, strapped myself in. I was only wearing t-shirt and underwear, as usual. K. came out to the car with my trousers. No shoes. I can never find my shoes at the best of times.

He started driving me to hospital. We weren’t sure if it would be better to call an ambulance. I phoned 999 on my phone, put it on speaker phone, and K. spoke to the ambulance people. We decided because of where we were it would be faster for him to just drive me to hospital. It’s about 35 minutes normally. K. used his police driver training, batting along the Expressway at 90mph. He was talking to me all the way, making sure I was still with him. My feet itched terribly. The epipen, I think. It made my feet and then my hands itch. But I could feel myself coming back. Before that it had all been fading away.

We got there, and K. ran in for help. Two people came out to get me. They were consternated at my lack of shoes. It puzzled me. I didn’t realise until a good few hours later that they probably didn’t want me to walk on the ground outside. I’m used to being barefoot. It seemed so funny, though, to get there as an emergency, and to have a lack of shoes throw them out. I don’t think I could have walked anyway. All along I think they underestimated my condition, until later. They brought a chair. Because of the Covid issues I had to go in through a side door with no ramp, so I got out and sat on the kerb while they got the chair up.

They had me in a room triaging me. They tried to put a cannula in my arm, and failed – they can never find my veins – so they put it in my hand. Then I could feel myself going. I told them I needed to lie down. I started trying to get onto the floor. They surprised me again, telling me, no, I couldn’t lie down there. So I said pretty plainly, through the haze, that, no, I needed to lie down and I was going to lie on the floor. So I did. I could feel I was going to be sick. They got me a disposable bowl. I was very neat that time. All I’d eaten that day, mushy peas and coffee, straight in the bowl. I hadn’t eaten long before I was stung.

So, I ended up in a recliner chair in a funny little room, on a drip. I’m not sure what happened between my being sick and me ending up there, but I did. Three big squashy pink recliners in an alcove room painted leaf green halfway up the wall. I think, again, this was to do with Covid precautions. I was being kept in a ‘green zone,’ Covid free. (The paint was nothing to do with that, just a coincidence.) The red zones were Covid zones. There was a woman in one of the chairs, maybe in her 60s or 70s, diabetic, on warfarin (however one spells it), who apparently faints when she lies down. She was in pain for some reason. It was good to have company. She kept talking and talking. How she lived alone, how it was a worry. Complaining mildly about the pain where they’d tried to get a line in, complaining about how strong the Hungarian nurse made the tea. I had some sugary tea.

I was fluctuating, feeling fine, then getting shaky and faint, off and on. Still, I think they were underestimating how I was. A doctor came to talk to me, needed to talk to me in private, so I was taken off in a chair to answer his questions. I noticed the paper on the door said that room was in the red zone. Sitting in that chair, trying to talk to him, I felt myself fainting again. Again I was saying I needed to lie down. Again, there was the argument that I couldn’t lie down. Then I was fainting sitting up, vomiting over myself. Then I was on a trolley, everything faded away. When it came back I realised I was in another place. It was weird. I’d had no sensation of moving. I heard them talking about taking me to resus. It was because that was where they had space, basically, because everything was turned around because of Covid. They put me on oxygen, put me on a monitor.

I was there for the rest of my time in the hospital, on the monitor, getting more fluids, various stuff, something to settle my stomach, trying to bring my blood pressure up. My blood pressure is low anyway. People came and went. A nice Arabic doctor. Nurses of various nationalities, Asian, African. I was struck by how much our health service needs these people, how crazy the uproar about immigrants is. There were a lot of male nurses, a guy who was just finishing his studies at Bangor university, another with a Welsh flag head covering. All very nice people.

I amused myself by listening to the other patients. A woman that I couldn’t see in the bay next to me, being talked to about her condition. Later there was a man there. At one point a doctor came in to ask another doctor about how to give and ocular pressure test. The other doctor, both women, didn’t really know. It’s not something they do there much – she should ask ophthalmology. She had a patient with a banging headache and two bulging, red eyes. She had no idea what could be causing it.

At one point someone said it might get a bit noisy. It didn’t get noisy. They brought someone in, a man I didn’t see. I heard a lot of very calm talk, the words ‘charging, clear.’ They shocked him once, which brought him back, I think. At no point was there any fuss, anything but absolute calm.

On the CCTV screen opposite me I could see the ambulance bay. I grew to connect the people coming through the door there with the corresponding sounds just outside the doors of the resus ward, so it must have been just outside. Sometimes there were flashing lights from police cars. Sometimes I saw people being wheeled out of ambulances. Also what I realised later must be people setting up a light show. They lit up the outside of the hospital to celebrate forty years of the place, with some kind of Covid celebration tacked on. The nurse there thought it was all a bit silly, that 40 was an arbitrary number.

An image of the author’s legs in black trousers and feet in blue socks, as she lies on a hospital bed with hospital storage units on the other side of the room.

When I started to feel better they gave me some paper so I could write. I got a good amount of writing done. I was anxious about my phone decharging but it wasn’t the kind of place you could plug things in. I didn’t ask. I got some food at one point, since I was very hungry after being sick. Then I got to the point where I could actually walk without fainting. I got all the way to the toilet and back – triumph! Then a lovely male nurse, after I’d said I had no shoes, brought me a selection – some slip on sandal type things, and two pairs of socks with grips on them. Nurse gave Dobby socks! Not long after I had my socks I had my freedom. I finally got checked out by the doctor – they’d been halfway through doing it when the doctor was called away, so I had to wait again for another to come back. K. came to pick me up, and I came home.

The aftermath has been six days so far. I still feel steamrollered. One day I will feel in tune with gravity again. The bees are going to live in another home.

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