Sometime in 1991, my family and I were at the annual church picnic at the Civic Center. It was a fun-filled afternoon of hot dogs, soda, and wholesome family fun in the shady park near the river.
Some kids were rolling hula hoops down the hill, and trying to jump through them without knocking them over. They weren’t having much luck, and I devided to try. I ran and dove through one, successfully making it through without touching the hoop. The kids were excited to see that it could indeed be done, and begged me to do it again.
I got into position as one of them brought the hoop back up of the top of the incline. As he rolled it, I ran and dove – making it through again. The kids cheered behind me as I noticed a sharp stinging pain in my hand. I looked down, and realized that it had landed on top of someone’s recently-discarded sandwich. It was covered with yellowjackets, and I had disturbed their feast. The best part, though, was that one of them had its butt firmly implanted into the palm of my hand — and was doing its best to pump as much poison into me as possible.
I quickly got up and went back up the hill to where my parents were sitting.

“Hey, I just got stung by a yellowjacket.” I said.
“Is it bad?” My mom asked, somewhat less concerned than I thought she’d be.
“I dunno… it hurts pretty bad.”
My whole arm was throbbing with pain, which I thought was kind of weird. I’d been stung by bees before, but this felt a lot different.
“Well, put some ice on it or something.”

Fortunately, our ice chest was full of ice and soda. I dunked my arm in the frigid water and waited to get numb. After 45 minutes or so, I was numb – but even than didn’t completely kill the pain. I noticed that my hand had started swelling up, too.
Fortunately, it was time to leave. We went home, and I kept ice on my arm until it was time to go to bed. I was a little creeped out by the fact that my arm seemed to be gradually getting larger as the swelling increased.

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The next morning, I woke up with a forearm that looked like Popeye’s. It looked like someone had inflated my arm as a practical joke or something. I asked my mom if I could stay home from school, and got the standard “no” for an aswer. I went off to school, hoping that nobody would notice my freakishly disproportionate arm.
Once there, I got the expected amount of teasing from the other Amigos Locos about it, but overall it wasn’t too bad. I figured that I’d been through the worst of it, and that the swelling would surely start going down soon.

I was wrong.

When I awoke the next morning, my arm was twice as big as the day before. I now looked like someone who needed medical attention, which I pointed out to my parents. It was swollen so badly that I couldn’t even bend my arm, and I had to let it swing limply at my side. The grossest part was that I could feel the pus oozing up and down my arm whenever I raised and lowered it. Something had to be done, as I’d obviously had some kind of reaction to that sting.
After examining it more closely, my mom decided to call the doctor. My appointment was to be the next day, which meant that I had at least another day and a half of school to endure while dragging my giant arm around.

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The doctor said that he hadn’t seen too many cases of people who’d reacted to yellowjacket stings the way I apparently had. Some people swell up really bad to the point of it being life-threatening, but it usually happens more rapidly. Those people usually have to keep special pills with them in case they’re stung. My reaction was allergic as well, but the result was different.

“It’s good that you saw me before it got much worse,” he said. “It could have spread and affected your lungs, which would have been really bad.”

He prescribed some antibiotics and steroids, and said that my arm should be fine in a few days. I was relieved that I didn’t need to have it amputated, which I had secretly feared before seeing him.

The drugs worked magnificently, and within three days my arm was back to normal. I have since made it a point to avoid yellowjackets (and bees & wasps in general) since this happened, because I definitely do not want to go through that again.