I was about 10, and my best friend Mandy and I were in the backyard, playing with Molly, my new puppy. It was a fantastic summer day, and we were taking photos; I still have one of Mandy with six-month-old Molly fitted into her lap.
I was running around without my shoes on, because it was one of those things I wasnít supposed to do; thus Iíd spend every night peeling a layer of sappy cottonwood pods and dirt off the bottoms of my feet. On this day, though, I stepped on something, and felt a tiny sting. On the end of my right big toe I found the mysterious stinger ó from what I still donít know exactly ó and proceeded to make a baking soda (powder?) paste and slather it on.
Mandy and I went back to playing. I tried to keep the white muddy cast on that toe while I hobbled around. It kept falling off. I tried to put more goop on it. I got hot; I got angry, and then my neck started to itch.
I remember rubbing clear a section of the humid bathroom mirror and seeing that my ears were red as cherries. My dad was in the bathtub reading, and I was standing there scratching my neck, noticing it was swelling. Great, I thought. I didnít even eat a whole bag of chips, yet Iím growing a new chin over here.
I was asking my dad why my neck and face looked so funny when my mom ó whom we might tease for having a touch of hypochondria, but who will always be the hero ó poked her head in the door. ďSheís having an allergic reaction!Ē She really did kind of scream, and my dad probably never got out of the bathtub that fast. (He didnít even finish his chapter.)
On the way to the hospital, I swelled up like the Stay Puft Marshmallow Man. My shoe didnít fit, and I think they had to cut my pants off. It was the only time I ever walked into an emergency room and they didnít even ask who I was, just swept me onto a gurney and began injecting me with drugs before my dad could even park the car. My breathing wasnít good; my heart was even worse, so they decided to put me into a coma of sorts to reduce the stress. ďThis is going to make you sleepy,Ē the doctor told me, and I thought, ďYeah right. I got a Tylenol PM once when I broke my toe and was awake the entire night.Ē And then my eyes immediately closed.
Whatís funny is that I couldnít move or speak or open my eyes, but I could hear. My dad was really scared, and I wanted so much to reassure him. Then he was on the phone with my mom, and he started to cry, and he told her he didnít think I was going to die, but he wasnít sure. And then I was really terrified.
Itís been almost 25 years, and Iíve only been stung twice since that day, Sunday being the second time. Because the last two times I immediately went to the ER, Iím not entirely certain my reaction, if left untended, would have been fatal, but thatís not the sort of experiment Iím willing to take. Thus, when I felt that tiny little sting walking out of the laundromat and pulled up my pant leg to find a feisty yellow jacket, I boogied.
Three injections later, and after some time with Dr. Whyte, I was home free. My leg, which hadnít swelled too badly in the 12 minutes it took to get to the hospital, just looked like a bruise by the time we left. But it made for an interesting Easter, one of those days when you have the chance to see how fragile life really is, how wonderful and precious, and how lucky you are.
The moral to this story? GET AN EPIPEN! TAKE IT WITH YOU! And seriously, kids, put your shoes on.