Magazine article Drug Topics

In a Time of Crisis: Pharmacists as Heroes

Magazine article Drug Topics

In a Time of Crisis: Pharmacists as Heroes

Article excerpt

I couldn't see--there were fireworks in front of my eyes!" Mary Brubaker felt she was going to faint. Actually, left untreated, she would die. But thanks to the quick response of pharmacist Kim Graziano, Brubaker is alive and well. The Epi-Pen autoinjector in her purse serves as a constant reminder of how close she came.

Mary Brubaker is a news anchor, reporter, and host of "Straight Talk" on KCCI-TV in Des Moines. She and her husband, Ted, were helping to clear the vacant lot next to their son's house, a dozen blocks from their own home. "I started to move some dead wood," Brubaker said. "Suddenly, a swarm of yellow jackets attacked, stinging my neck and shoulders and one hand....I went into the house and dashed cold water over my back. I had broken out in hives and was itching. I learned later that the hives and generalized itching are signs of a severe allergic reaction to yellow jacket stings.

"I had never had an allergic reaction to wasp or bee stings before--I certainly didn't panic."

Brubaker decided to drive home to take a shower. After only a few blocks, she felt increasingly uncomfortable. Just ahead was Bauder's, the neighborhood pharmacy, and Brubaker thought it wise to stop in and ask what the Grazianos might suggest for her problem.

"When Mary came in," Graziano said, continuing the story, "I knew, before she said anything, that she was not well. In a neighborhood pharmacy, you come to know your customers very well.

You are aware when they don't look just right.

"I told her that nothing over-the-counter would work quickly enough. I had her doctor's phone number on file; I called and made an appointment for as soon as we could get her there. Then I took another look and realized there was not time enough; she needed care right now.

"I called the clinic two doors down the street and said I was sending her immediately. While my intern took her there, I called her doctor so I could! relay any information from her medical history that the clinic might need."

Graziano summoned the fire department medics and an ambulance, too, aware that Brubaker would need all the emergency care possible. She also notified Brubacker's family.

The clinic administered Adrenalin shots immediately. Brubaker was transported to the hospital, where she was hooked up to an IV to receive more Adrenalin. Medrol Dose Pack and antihistamines were later prescribed to combat the itching.

"For the rest of my life, I must carry the Epi-Pen autoinjector with me," Brubaker said, "because a single sting could be fatal if I didn't get treatment fast enough. I am looking into a desensitization program that I just heard about, but for now, I am never without the Epi-Pen."

Brubaker said she is eternally grateful to the quick-thinking pharmacist Kim Graziano. "She was calm, no panic, completely in charge. I owe her my lift."

Sting allergies received media coverage, and not just from Brubaker's television station, which warned viewers that yellow jackets were more than just pests--they could be lethal. Newspapers ran stories with graphics, showing the difference between yellow jackets and bees, and citing the symptoms that signal danger: itching in an area distant from the sting, hives, coughing, tightness in the chest, or dizziness. …

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