Lucie Roussel, mayor of the La Prairie community near Montreal, died after being stung by wasps many times. While gardening, she stepped on a wasp nest and was stung 15 times. At only 51 years old, she leaves behind two teenage children (who already lost their father to a heart attack).
What's so scary about this tragic loss is that Roussel was completely unaware of her allergy. La Prairie spokeswoman, Chantal Charron, said Roussel was never diagnosed with a wasp allergy, despite all signs pointing to anaphylaxis as cause of death. CTV News quoted Dr. Susan Waserman, well-known allergist from McMaster University, as saying that although this phenomenon is possible, it is certainly not common. Waserman also said that those who have no reason to believe they're allergic are often caught off guard without life-saving epinephrine auto-injectors on hand.
When anaphylaxis occurs, airways swell and can close completely, blood pressure drops dramatically, and the heart beats erratically. An epinephrine auto-injector, such as an Allerject or EpiPen, gives the patient a dose of adrenaline, giving them time to get to an emergency room where doctors can tend to them in case of a secondary reaction. Because the allergen (in this case, wasp venom) is still in the victim's system, it is imperative they're seen by doctors immediately.
Deaths like Roussel's are not common, which somehow makes it feel even sadder, doesn't it? Should an epinephrine auto-injector be in everyone's First Aid kit these days? Both Allerject and EpiPens are available at pharmacies in Canada without a prescription, and offer some security in cases like this. Would you purchase one just in case?