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Pharmacist hailed ‘hero’ after saving woman’s life from ‘near-fatal’ bee sting

A Northern Ireland community pharmacist treated and saved a woman’s life after she experienced a bee sting that caused a near-fatal allergic reaction, Community Pharmacy Northern Ireland (CPNI) has revealed.

A “quick-thinking” pharmacist was “heralded as a life-saving local hero” after a woman he treated survived a “near-fatal” bee sting, CPNI said this week (October 30).

After being stung by a bee on her scalp in the garden, County Down woman Joan Johnston “noticed the first signs of an allergic reaction” - severe itching and redness – travelling “quickly” to affect her neck and ears, it added.

Read more: Northern Ireland launches pharmacy sore throat and expanded UTI services

Her GP advised her to visit her local pharmacy – a Boots branch in Moira - where she was “quickly administered life-saving antihistamine and an adrenaline injection” by pharmacist Stephen Joyce while an ambulance was called, it said.

Ms Johnston said she was “so grateful” for the treatment she received from Mr Joyce and his team and that “their expertise saved [her] life”.

“The treatment I received from [Mr Joyce] and the professionalism of the whole team was nothing other than lifesaving,” she added.


“Really frightening”


Ms Johnston explained that when she arrived at the pharmacy, Mr Joyce “immediately took control of the situation”, giving her “urgent antihistamine”.

When she “quickly started feeling lightheaded and faint”, Mr Joyce’s team “assisted [her] to a chair and called an ambulance”, she said.

Read more: Scotland to roll out national naloxone service as pharmacy saves two lives

She added that she felt “short of breath, dizzy and began to lose consciousness”, so she was “lowered to the floor” and her feet raised to elevate her blood pressure.

“It was really frightening how quickly it got so serious - I was completely in their hands,” she said.

Ms Johnston was treated with intramuscular adrenaline and her GP arrived to give her oxygen and an intravenous steroid, she added.


“Very different outcome”


She said that the “simple bee sting quickly became something very serious” and that she only “realised” just how bad the outcome could have been when her husband relayed the details to her after the incident occurred. 

“I am just glad that we were able to help in what could have been a very different outcome had she not come into the pharmacy to see us,” Mr Joyce added.

Read more: The pharmacy assistant who stepped in to help in a medical emergency

He added that pharmacies treat and advise patients on “a range of health conditions” and that it is  “not unusual” for the situation to “be much more extreme” at times, as in Ms Johnston’s case.

Community pharmacy teams across Northern Ireland are “seeing and treating increasing numbers of often unseen and often life-saving interventions,” he said.


“Swift response”


CPNI chief executive Gerard Greene said that Ms Johnston’s story reflects “how important community pharmacy teams are” for giving patients “access right on their doorstep to highly trained teams of clinical experts in their community pharmacy.”

He added that as “providers of primary care”, they are “acutely aware of the pressures being felt right across the health service at the moment” with “GP appointments in high demand and emergency departments consistently overloaded”.

Read more: Who gets your vote? Meet the pharmacy professionals going the extra mile

“I would like to commend [Mr Joyce] and the team for their professional and swift response.”

Meanwhile, Ms Johnston said she is backing the National Pharmacy Association’s (NPA) awareness campaign, Ask Your Pharmacist Week, following the incident.

“I want to raise awareness of the vital services local pharmacies provide: they are highly trained clinicians and we shouldn’t forget about the role they play,” she added.

Read more: It’s Ask Your Pharmacist Week 2023 and here’s what the sector has been up to…

The NPA’s ‘Ask Your Pharmacist Week’ is a flagship annual public awareness campaign for all community pharmacies across the UK.

This year’s theme centres on the pharmacy teams’ extensive skill set, including not only community pharmacists but also pharmacy technicians, dispensary assistants and delivery drivers.

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