Charlie and Julie Geach from Exminster often watch television programmes about hospitals, ambulances and emergency helicopter services. Until summer 2020, however, they had never imagined they would find themselves grateful for the knowledge they’d learned.

On Saturday 25 July, Charlie was happily feeding the chickens in his garden when he felt he had been stung. He wasn’t unduly alarmed at the time but decided to head indoors to take an antihistamine tablet.

His wife, Julie, takes recounted what happened next... 

“Charlie came indoors and asked me to grab him a Piriton tablet as he’d been stung by hornets, but wasn’t aware how many. But almost immediately after he’d taken it, he explained that he really didn’t feel right. With that, he collapsed to his knees with his head in his hands, before passing out and hitting his head as he fell.

"I could see that he was sweating profusely, and his face was swelling – I phoned 999. At that time, Charlie was still breathing, although it was laboured and I was struggling to feel a pulse.

“I got through to the ambulance service, I listened to the call-taker who insisted I follow her instructions, which included turning my husband onto his back and giving him CPR. By this point Charlie’s pulse was so low, he was almost unconscious. Every minute felt like an hour and I was so relieved when the emergency services arrived. First a land ambulance crew, then a first responder team, then the Devon Air Ambulance landed in our field – our hallway was filled with professional medics – and only then did I have the confidence to leave Charlie while I telephoned our daughters, Emma and Katie.”

With a huge sense of relief that expert help was now on hand, Julie got through to the girls, who rushed to be with their parents. As Devon Air Ambulance aircrew treated Charlie for the severe anaphylactic reaction he had suffered, other paramedics explained things to Julie and their daughters, advising that they should head straight to the hospital. Charlie duly followed in the land ambulance, along with a Devon Air Ambulance paramedic, to Royal Devon & Exeter Hospital where he was taken to resus within the A&E.

The first memory Charlie has is waking up in the Acute Medical Unit later that afternoon. He was then moved to ICU as his blood pressure was low and taking its time to improve.

I can vaguely remember parts of what happened, but it is all quite vague.  It was quite a shock to realise that I’d been so unwell and in need of such emergency care.

"Thank goodness I went back indoors after I’d been stung and I’m so grateful that Julie was there when I collapsed. I really can’t begin to imagine what might have happened otherwise. Coincidentally, our daughter Emma had a severe anaphylactic reaction to an insect sting when she was very small, so we’ve always been aware of the dangers. But I hadn’t realised just how quickly things can escalate. I don’t want to become an obsessive worrier about insect bites, but I’ll certainly carry an epi-pen with me from now on.”

The family has nothing but praise for the help they received that day; from the first responders, the land crew, and the Devon Air Ambulance team, as well as all the NHS staff at RD&E, who were all incredible. Amazingly, just 24 hours later, with his blood pressure and heart rate were back to normal, Charlie was discharged from hospital and has since made a complete recovery.

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