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

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‘It was really frightening how quickly it got so serious’

A community pharmacist was applauded for his “quick-thinking” action in treating a County Down woman with a fatal bee sting.

Joan Johnson, from Moira area, was stung on her scalp in her garden. After the incident, she noticed allergic reactions on her neck and ears with severe itching and redness.

She was advised to visit her local pharmacy by the GP where the pharmacist, Stephen Joyce, quickly administered a life-saving antihistamine and an adrenaline injection while an ambulance was called.

Joan hailed the treatment and the “professionalism” of the whole team for saving her life.

“What was just a simple bee-sting, quickly became something very serious. On arrival at the pharmacy on the advice from my GP, I was dealt with very promptly and Stephen was summoned and immediately took control of the situation.

“I was given an urgent antihistamine, but quickly started feeling lightheaded and faint. The pharmacy team assisted me to a chair and called an ambulance,” she said.

“I felt short of breath, dizzy, and began to lose consciousness, at which point, I was lowered to the floor and raised my feet to elevate my blood pressure.

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

Pharmacist, Stephen Joyce’s quick-thinking action saved the patient, Joan Johnston’s life. Credit: CPNI

Joan further added: “Stephen administered intramuscular adrenaline, and my GP arrived to give me oxygen and an intravenous steroid.

“It was only after the incident when the details were relayed to me by my husband that I realised the outcome could have been very different for me.”

Moreover, Joan highlighted the importance of ‘Ask Your Pharmacist Week’, where she wants “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 said: “I am so grateful for the treatment that I received from Stephen and his team. Their expertise saved my life.”

This year, the campaign’s theme revolves around highlighting the skill sets of the pharmacy team, encompassing not only community pharmacists but also technicians, dispensary assistants, and delivery drivers.

Stephen Joyce, Community Pharmacist at Boots in Moira, said: “With community pharmacy’s accessibility, we treat and advise patients on a range of health conditions.

“At times, as in Joan’s case, the situation can be much more extreme but not unusual. Community pharmacy teams across Northern Ireland are seeing and treating increasing numbers of often ‘unseen’ and often life-saving interventions.

“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.”

Given the sustained pressure on all parts of the health service, Community Pharmacy Northern Ireland is also highlighting the value and contribution the community pharmacy makes.

Gerard Greene, Chief Executive, of Community Pharmacy Northern Ireland, added: “As providers of primary care, we are acutely aware of the pressures being felt right across the health service at the moment with both GP appointments in high demand and Emergency Departments consistently overloaded.”

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