After about three months with me in Lusaka, Zambia, early in 1994,when it became apparent that she was unhappy with her home sitters, Sheila returned to Maun. I moved back into the single quarters in the suburb of Makeni.
At home in Maun, our friend, Steve Empson, needing accommodation, moved into the spare room as company and security. One of our more memorable Okavango Delta outings had been the previous year when we had joined him and his parents, Marjorie and Leo Empson, for a couple of days in the wilds. Leo had been perched on the thunder box enjoying a morning constitutional when an unsuspecting jumbo had come within a dozen metres of him before realising he was there. With a trumpet, the elephant swivelled and lumbered away. Leo’s own alarm was encapsulated in his subsequent remark that the loo was the ideal place to be in the circumstances.
As was her habit, Sheila took the dogs on a daily walk, up the Thamalakane River or down, on the flood plain. The river was very low; the annual floodwaters from Angola were yet to arrive.
A swarm of bees attacked her, seemingly without warning, after she waved away what she assumed was a bothersome fly. The dogs scattered. Sheila ran for the river, which was not much more than a mud puddle at the time, and tried to find a hollow deep enough to immerse herself. Maybe crocodiles, as opposed to definitely bees, was the choice. They attacked again as soon as she stood up, thinking that they had gone. Eventually, after a lengthy wait, she was able to escape and stagger back home.
Badly stung, she knew she had to get to the hospital immediately. She shouted to Steve as she arrived, realising that she could not drive herself, fearing that anaphylactic shock would probably set in before she got there.
Steve had been fast asleep, so was shocked to find Sheila, wet and smeared with mud, her face swollen. He thought that she had been molested. Finally, the urgency sinking in, he rushed her to hospital.
The nurses there gaped at her in fascination, laughing at her swollen face. The Sister-on-duty asked such pertinent questions as, “How many bees did sting you?”
When it was apparent that nobody was going to do anything decisive, Sheila, with the last reserves of her lucidity, went into nurse mode, snapping at them to get her so-many cc’s of epinephrine, intravenous antihistamines and cortisone, or some such, STAT!
That stirred them into action before she passed out. And, of course, in no time the drugs kicked in. The Sister tried to set up a drip, but missed the vein. The site swelled up to golf ball size; the Sister claiming it to be another bee sting. Sheila ripped out the canula and hurled it across the room. Because she was stabilising now, she refused to stay in for observation, and asked Steve to take her home again.
I shudder to think what would have happened if Steve had not been there. Thanks again, Steve.