News

Near-death on the ninth hole

By ERICA HALL

Staff writer

Bill Feldt never imagined he would nearly die on a sunny, August afternoon at Twin Lakes Golf and Country Club. But if it hadn’t been for a quick dose of epinephrine, he would have expired after the ninth hole from anaphylactic shock.

He and his wife Karin and some friends were taking a short break from their golf game last month — Karin had brought homemade chocolate chip and walnut cookies — when Bill was stung on the tongue by a yellowjacket that landed on his cookie and found its way into his mouth.

His tongue immediately started to swell and he had to sit down because he started to get lightheaded and dizzy, he said from their Marine Hills home Aug. 29.

He didn’t think he was allergic to bees, but he was slipping into anaphylactic shock, an extreme allergic reaction to the venom bees inject through their stingers. In those who are allergic, it causes a widespread histamine reaction throughout the body that causes swelling, constriction of the lungs similar to an asthma attack, heart failure, circulatory collapse and, if not treated, death.

“And that’s where he was,” Federal Way Fire Department spokeswoman Debbie Goetz said.

Feldt had been stung just a few weeks before and his arm had become swollen, but he didn’t think it was a big deal. Now he knows he should have gone to an allergist, who could have tested him for bee stings and written him an EpiPen prescription.

As his condition worsened on the golf course, Karin had him lie down with his head lower than his chest — standard first aid for someone poisoned or stung by an insect to keep the affected area lower than the heart — but Bill said he felt himself deteriorating. He told someone they’d better call 9-1-1.

Firefighters and a medic showed up right away, but they couldn’t find his pulse or blood pressure.

“The signs were not good,” Feldt said. “They couldn’t find a vein.”

Fire Lt. Pat Stoper stabbed Bill in the leg with an EpiPen, which improved his condition enough that medics could get him on IV treatment. Still, it took 45 minutes out on the golf course before medics had him stable enough to take him to St. Francis Hospital.

An EpiPen looks like a marker and contains a retracted needle and a dose of epinephrine. When an allergic person is stung, he or she can strike the pen against the thigh and the needle shoots out and delivers the epinephrine to counter the allergic reaction.

Federal Way firefighters have been carrying EpiPens for four years, but Feldt’s emergency was only the second time they’ve used one to bring around a bee sting victim.

Last year, a woman in her 20s was stung at home and began sliding into shock, Goetz said. Her friends were going to take her to the hospital, but she passed out on the porch. They called 9-1-1 instead and firefighters gave her the shot of epinephrine. She, too, needed about 45 minutes of care before she was stable enough to go to the hospital.

Feldt stayed the night at St. Francis for observation, but the emergency was over by the time he got there –– thanks, he said, to the firefighters and medics who saved his life.

He carries EpiPens and a cell phone at all times now, just in case he gets stung again. He said if it hadn’t been for the firefighters’ quick action at Twin Lakes, he would have died.

“You just never know when something’s going to happen,” his wife said. “We were very lucky for a number of reasons.”

“It does bring home how one event can change your life. Or end it,” Feldt said.

Staff writer Erica Hall: 9255565, ehall@fedwaymirror.com

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