Wasp horror! I was stung 200 times

Vivienne unwittingly woke a sleeping killer lurking in her backyard

Here, Vivienne tells the story in her own words…

Wiping the sweat off my brow, I was satisfied with a job well done.

I had almost finished clearing a path in an area of native bush on my property.

Nearly time for a break, I thought to myself.

My daughter Terraine, 36, had been in Australia and was visiting me on her way back to Wellington.

She had planned to leave that morning, but decided 
to stay another night so we could spend some more time catching up.

As I worked, Terraine was inside the house, 200 metres away, listening to a documentary through headphones.

I’ll just clear this last bit, I thought, dragging a clump of half-dried vegetation, which had fallen down from an 
overhanging tree.

(Credit: Supplied)

Suddenly, a huge swarm of wasps appeared – coming directly at me.

I was only wearing shorts and a T-shirt.

And in an instant, they covered my head and body, stinging relentlessly.

I instinctively tried to cover my face and ran, half-stumbling, to a small sheep trough.

There, I dunked my head in to try and drown the wasps that were matted in my hair.

‘Help, help!’ I screamed, as I tried to splash the stinging creatures off my body and legs.

I hoped Terraine would hear but as my groans of pain and calls for help grew weaker she didn’t come.

As the stinging continued I slumped to the ground.

Just then, a shocked Terraine was by my side, trying to flick the wasps from my body.

My face, mouth and tongue were swelling, making it hard to breathe.

She tried to help me up, but it was impossible.

I couldn’t even sit up and  my words were slurring.

Black spots clouded my vision too, and I fought to stay awake.

I begged Terraine not to leave me, terrified I’d fall unconscious and never  wake up, but she had to call for help.

‘Mum, promise me you’ll stay in the recovery position,’ she said. ‘Count out loud to 100.’

(Credit: Supplied)

In agonising pain, I willed myself to do as she said, fighting the overwhelming desire to just fade into sleep.

Then Terraine was back, shaking me and yelling out updates to the operator.

‘Conscious! Unconscious!’ she cried.

When the paramedics arrived, I heard one say my blood pressure was just 50 over 25.

A normal reading should be more than 120 over 80 and less than 140 over 90.

‘Get the adrenaline in now,’ they said, as they called for a helicopter.

It was only then I realised how serious it actually was.

At Whangarei Hospital, I was still in torturous pain from all the puncture wounds and welts that peppered my entire body.

There, I was given anti-histamines, steroids, anti-nausea medication, more pain relief and topical applications.

I was told I’d gone into anaphylactic shock and in future I would need to carry an EpiPen with me in case of a similar reaction.

(Credit: Supplied)

As I recovered in hospital, Terraine and I counted the sting sites.

Horrifyingly, there were around 200, with about 40 on my head, 50 on each leg and the rest on my tummy, back, face and arms.

Terraine also found 16 wasps still on my head and three live ones in my socks!

‘I’m so thankful you were there Terraine,’ I kept saying to her.

She told me that because she’d been wearing headphones, she hadn’t realised I was in trouble until she heard a strange sound like a crow squawking.

Tracing the noise, she spotted me half slumped over the sheep trough.

With no reception, she’d had to put her phone halfway up a tree to call an ambo!

The following day, I was allowed to leave hospital, but I was still drowsy and in pain.

‘This could get worse before it gets better,’ the doctor warned. ‘And I would advise you to wear tights and long sleeves.’

(Credit: Supplied)

I soon understood why, as the intense itch and pain were almost unbearable.

Sometimes I wanted to gouge out my skin right down to the bone.

Cold gel-packs helped dull the pain – but for the most part, I just had to grit my teeth and bear it.

Three weeks later, the itch had gone but the spots were still visible and looked like chicken pox.

Two months on, they now look like mozzie bites.

I had no idea of the hidden dangers lurking just outside my own doorstep.

Even though I’d been stung by wasps before, I’d never had an anaphylactic reaction.

Thinking back, I’m unbelievably thankful Terraine was there.

I shudder to think what would’ve happened if she’d left earlier as planned.

Research says that a human can often only cope with 30-40 stings before their body gives out.

And many people die from an anaphylactic event.

I count myself extremely fortunate to have survived this attack and am mindful of dangers that could be lurking so close to home.

Take caution – there could be danger hiding in your backyard too!

Related stories