It Stings Like a B

Friday, October 10, 2014

Like so many of the non movie-like events in my life, I was stung by a bee last week while driving my car.  I wasn’t running in slow motion, while in a nature preserve, disrupting a bee’s daily activities with my right hand (like the first time I was stung).  I wasn’t playing on my swing set, as a child, dismounting the swing in slow motion and landing on a bee with my left foot (like the second time I was stung).  I was merely picking up my daughter from her cheerleading practice.  My trusty, emotionally misguided dog was at my side looking out the window.  He had been strangely preoccupied with my left knee, where I felt something cool and possibly wet.  I reached down with my right hand and was met with an incredible pain in my bird flipping finger.

I’ve had my share of bodily injuries along the arc of my life, so I’m no stranger to pain.  However this event made me scream out in agony.  I didn’t have the presence of mind to filter my emotions, so I inadvertently freaked out my daughter (who, I don’t believe, had ever heard me scream out loud before in her entire life).  I had no idea what had happened, but knew that I had to pull the car over to safely assess the situation.  I recall seeing some yellowish mass attached to the fingertip of my middle finger.  I remembered that you’re not supposed to squeeze the stinger; but I was in a rush to remove it as quickly as humanly possible.  With thumb and index fingers of my left hand, I did my best to extract the still throbbing stinger from my body.

As luck would have it, I was successful on the first attempt.  The poisonous needle was out of my finger, but the pain persisted with no change in intensity.  I was really trying to deal with the tortuous pain, when I noticed that my daughter was still at DEFCON 2 because the bee was continuing to circle around in the front cabin of my motor vehicle.  I told her that the bee was going to die, since it had already stung me, but an agitated Dad does little to reassure a panicky cheerleader when there are bees involved.  She finally waved it out the window and immediately offered to drive us home.  I should mention that she doesn’t have a driver’s license.  And even if I have let her drive a few times in an empty parking lot (which, for the record, I haven’t done – because that would be illegal), I wasn’t about to relinquish the wheel to her in the evening darkness.

Through the unflagging signals from the nerve endings in my finger, we made it home.  My oldest daughter began to Google treatments for bee stings while I recounted my previous bee encounters, decades ago, and the severe reactions I had from them.  The best course seemed to be ice water, and that recommended treatment seemed to work for a while.  I must say that while my finger was soaking in the water, I kept thinking that the ice water didn’t feel cold enough to be fully effective.  When the intensity began to subside, even though it had been a small eternity since my last stings, I instantly recognized the dull, deep sensation of pain that follows a bee attack.  Magically, in about 36 hours, my finger returned to normal and I could once again play the guitar or passive/aggressively point the finger at troublesome individuals. 
Fast forward to one week from the bee sting…  My finger began to itch and blow up in size.  I’m well versed in horror films, and know that realistically a finger can’t explode; but it felt as if my finger were headed in that direction.  So, at the recommendation of my wife and dentist (yes, I happened to have a dentist appointment that morning) I drove over to our local urgent care center.  The doctor squeezed my fingertip in all possible directions, and this time I was pretty sure that it would pop open – but it didn’t.  He suspected that the remaining scab on my finger might still contain a remnant of the stinger, and proceeded to pull out a rather large needle as his medical instrument of choice.  Like my previous ice bath, the liquid cold spray that he used to ‘numb’ my finger didn’t help hide the sensation of the excavation process to my satisfaction.  There was blood.  There was pain.  And, yes, there were even two prescriptions – not for pain, just for antibiotics and the swelling. 

Is there a moral to this pointed tale?  If there is, it might be: try not to freak out when a bee is flying nearby.  I’m still convinced that they don’t want to sting you; they’ve got better things to do.  I keep telling my daughters this, but they are still irrationally afraid of bees and bee stings.  If you are stung, please err on the side of safety and have yourself checked out by a professional.  And finally, I might suggest that you keep a safe distance from doctors carrying around large needles.  

*I could have used a more graphic photo for this post, but it was withheld at the bee's request.


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