|BEES: friends or enemies?|
I'm Hans Jurgen Otto Frank, orchidophile (for whom are not familiarized, "orchidophile" is someone who grows orchids) and, thus, used to make excursions in woods, to find out and to know habitats of those so fascinating plants!
This account is the consequence of one of those excursions, a dramatic experience which would be fatal, if the imponderable would not exist.
I will take care of not romanticizing, not exaggerating, not letting myself be dominated by the emotion that those remembrances still bring to me, in order to be absolute faithful to the facts. The aim here is pure and simple to offer the experience to allow other people used it in a good way. If just one life could be save due to this learnt lesson with the mistakes made, all would be worth.
In 1986, October, in a Friday, I was coming back from Campos dos Goytacazes (North of the state of Rio de Janeiro), in a work travel with an employee called Manfrede.
At about two o'clock in the afternoon, I stopped the car between the towns, Silva Jardim and Casimiro de Abreu and I told Manfrede that I would do a "little visit" in the wood, which started 80/100m far from the road, in order to see if I found some orchids different from Cattleya harrisoniae, Oncidium bauerii and Rodriguezia decora, which grown, by this time, in this region (I say "by this time" because nowadays all is pasturage).
I changed my clothes right there, inside the car. I put pants and shirt with long sleeves, a sort of "jeans" tissue and rubber boots. As stuff, I brought a bag and a machete besides the inseparable sharpen pocketknife, so common to those, like me, love a " small harvest".
The heat was blazing and we had had a great lunch, watered with some draft beer, thus my companion stayed in the car, taking a nap.
After going beyond the barbed wire which bordered the property, I started my expected visit to this wood. The ground was humid but it was not swampy. The wood was dense and with many small palm-trees.
Soon I found the first orchid, a Catasetum, which went straight to the bag (only the front of the plant) the rest stayed there, with nine pseudobulbs.
At about one hour after a slowly and meticulous search and just with some small plants, I was seven meters far from a leafy and big tree, which trunk should have about sixty centimeters across. I went my eyes through each span of its branches and trunk, deep in my thoughts and dreams. I noticed that six or seven meters higher, in the middle of the main trunk, there was a hole with twenty centimeters. Immediately I saw a big movement of bees around: a continuous coming and going of bees. I went on observing, immobile, for more some seconds and talked to myself: "The guy who collected this honey will be a lucky man!"
Slowly I turned my back decided to go on my search, when I heard this " turbine " sound all around of me: the attack started!
Since young child, I have ever heard: "Bees do not attack if you lay down on the ground". Taking this statement for granted I threw myself on the ground, putting the bag with a few plants on my back and head.
Unfortunately, this "truth" of my childhood was a big and terrifying lie. The attack happened for all flanks, indefensible! The pain was and still is indescribable.
I knew exactly the risk that my life took.
"Easy, Hans! You always prepared yourself to live, if necessary, dramatic moments, mainly by the time of the great works such as Transamazônica, Tucuruí, Radial Norte, Jarí and many others where, for many years, you were always there with your equipment and your inseparable small survival kit in jungle". I thought. "Water, we do not have... Fire is the solution. That's it! I just need to do a bonfire and they will go away! Let do it!
With which hands? With the face between the leaves and twigs of the ground, the bag hold in my left hand and threw over my body, I started to gather, with the right arm, the leaves around my head. My purpose was to get the lighter fire which was in the shirt and put fire on what I had gathered and in this moment, I was really awaken about my situation.
When I stand my body up to take the pocket lighter, I saw my hand or, to tell in better way, I saw the ball of bees in what my hand had been transformed.
In possession of the lighter, a great disappointment: My fingers were so swollen that I could not articulate them! Certainly, my other hand, the left, also was in the same condition.
All those things happened in a short time (I do not say exactly how long it took, in a minute, I guess, time enough to do an edema like that!
I felt as I was in flame, all my body burnt.
I use to say that, now, I know exactly how feel a cookery fry snacks when they are put into boiled oil.
Well... I should get out there. I should find a help, if there was any help against that!
Lying prone, bending my face as much low as I could, I went on crawling to the road that should be not far from there if I guided myself by the engines' roar of the vehicles that passed through. The attack was infernal, they did not even stop for a moment.
Many times I should change the direction, sometimes I hit my head in a tree, to a denser thicket or faced myself to those thorny palm trees which I do not know the name. Often, I was forced to arise the body to cross over some obstacle when I was crawling, and, at those moments, the attack intensified: They stung my face, my neck, my scalp, inside my mouth, when I opened it looking for air. I did not care anymore to take away the bees which clung in my head and in my face, every time I was compelled to get up looking for a direction.
During one of those moments a very strong pain and an intense flash of light took my brain. Only later on I could understand what had happened: I had been stung inside my eye.
I almost only employed the strength of my legs to crawl through the wood as I used my arms as an unsuccessful attempt to protect my face. Such effort with my legs completely ruined my energies so I barely had forces to push me up. The air was also lacking me, I hardly breathed, due to, who knows? exhaustion, allergic reaction, glottis edema, stress or all those things. The exhaustion was total.
Here, I want to open a short parenthesis for, in a few words, saying to you what is my thought concerning God. I am not talking about religion but how I see Him.
I have always been extremely grateful to Him, all my entirely life. I have never complained about the obstacles I should face. Quite the contrary, when the pain is enormous, I kneel and thank because I know He is just and does not give a trouble or pain that I can not bear.
Well...come back to my report.
During my crawling to the road, time and distance were endless, a million of thoughts flied at my mind.
My parents, brothers, sons, friends, my first wife. And Sandra, my present wife.
I thanked every one and asked for forgiving my mistakes.
However I was still alive and, until I could, I would not give my life so cheap.
All time I maintained more or less this monologue with God :
"Well, Buddy! What a situation, hem? You know I suffer from claustrophobia and you will let me die asphyxiated? As You wish but I will fight because You always give me strength".
I thanked for a wonderful life He provided until then. I asked for forgiving my mistakes, for not being a good son and all those things.
And in this intimate chat, with painful cramps in both legs, I left the wood and saw myself in the shrubbery separating me from the car, which was 80m away. The bees went on with me but with not so much intensity. Kneel down and with the arms stand up, cried with all forces lasted:
"Help me, Manfrede".
Thank God, he was awaked and heard me. When he saw me, he run to me without understanding what was happening. He just understood when he was about 2 meters from me and had been also stung. He went ways for about 15 meters, without knowing what to do. I cried to him to get the fire extinguisher inside the car. The lack of air was suffocating! I could not breath but I remained cleared-head and suddenly I realized that if he returned with the fire extinguisher, he would cover myself with the chemical product and I would lost the little air that lasted me.
So I supplicated God for making the fire extinguisher to fail.
And it failed!
Meanwhile Manfrede tried, as a fool man, to stop cars for helping me, I crept until near the road which was 2m high. I could not go up.
Two vehicles stopped: a truck and a Brasilia (Volkswagen van) .
What surprise I had when the two drivers started to discuss about my appearance, without helping me!
Actually, I was not a handsome creature. Covered with mud dirt since the foots until the head, hands and face deformed and full of bees mainly into the hairs. I stopped that useless discussion shouting that if they would not take me to hospital immediately, I would die there. That was the last straw that made them getting into reality. The truck's driver took a towel and shaking it in all directions, went down the small steep bank where I was, followed by two others. All of them took their "small souvenirs" (some stings). They put me in the back seat of the Brasilia, and then I realized that the buddy was with his wife and his son. I could see the fright in kid's eyes (he was at about 10 years). The fright materialized in screams when he has been stung for the bees which got out from my body and my hair.
Arriving at Casimiro de Abreu, the next town, I went to the local emergency hospital.
It is amazing how some people stay without action in front of some situations, even the experienced professional as the nurses are. I do not know why on earth my rubber boots did not get out my foots. I just know that they insisted in taking them out and, I whispered between the teeth to cut them out. Only so I could get rid of the shoves.
I can not say if I had been medicated or got some sedative but I slept like a dog. I woke at 10 hours and 20 minutes in the afternoon, there was a clock in front of me, in the wall.
So I realized that they had washed and dressed me with my pajamas.
In a corner, Manfrede slept completely curved in a chair. My physical breakdown was such that any movement caused me cramps in both legs, at any moment. I fell asleep again and woke at 10 minutes past three in the morning having two nurses with tweezers besides me. As they took out the stings of the bees and put it in a small bowl, they counted aloud the quantity removed: 426, ...428,...430,...432,...
Later on I came to know that this procedure (take out the stings) is completely wrong because when we pull it from the swollen part, we pressure the small vesicles filled with the toxins as we squeeze them. As a result all toxin stay in the body where as, if the stings are not pulled, part of the toxin will be assimilated but part will evaporate.
By the morning, I was discharged without medicine or orientation. They just told me that on Monday I would be able to work.
I looked like a pre-historical monster, an ET, what I say.... My head and body were huge, the arms, the hands and the fingers did not articulate, such swollen they were. My ears seemed to be two enormous beans. My eyes were two horizontal line because every thing was just only one mass which joined a ball with two small holes that, in normal conditions, we call nose. The mouth, the lips, I am not able to describe, they turn down and up. The color of this deformed mass which should be a face was bluish, passing through purple until reached brown.
With this appearance, hardly seeing and breathing, walking with legs and arms opened that I got home on Saturday, at 11 o'clock in the morning.
Sandra, my wife, up until then, did not know any thing. I also do not know how to describe this first meeting, it went on from dramatic to pathetic.
I can say that if there was not the devotion of Sandra taking caring of everything and me, probably, I would passed away.
She also got tweezers and pulled out the rest of the stings, presuming (as almost everyone) that that was the right thing to do.
Between the ailment and the pain which razed me, the worth of all was my left eye that bored me and scratched the ocular globe every time I moved it, causing, besides the pain, photophobia, nausea and an unceasing watering.
On Sunday, we decided to ask Edward Kilpatrick ( First President and associated of OrquidaRio, our orchid association, where I was, by time, the treasurer) to help me.
We went to Salgado Filho hospital (Public hospital) and was not received. There was no ophthalmologist. Then, we went to Souza Aguiar hospital (another public hospital) and the doctor on duty did not find any thing but he did a bandage and immobilized the eye giving me a certain comfort.
What impressed me more was the absolute indifference of doctors and nurses: I crossed through rooms and galleries (alone because they did not allowed the entrance of any one to keep company), asking for information, until to get ophthalmologist's room. People kept away from me. Nobody, even for curiosity, asked me what I had, if I was well, if a doctor have seen me or if I have had been medicated, etc.
On Monday, my father-in-law and mother-in-law, Jaldete e Arnaldo, arrived coming from Petrópolis, to take care of me while Sandra was working.
We noticed that, since Friday, the day of the accident, I was hardly urinating.
On Tuesday, Sandra took me, against my will, to her doctor, a gynecologist (Dr. Garrido), but he was a professional, a friend and in Sandra's opinion, he enjoyed a good reputation. "Before being a gynecologist, he is a physician " she said. Dr. Garrido listened the story and asked for blood count and urine.
On Wednesday, I got the urine early and brought it to the laboratory where the blood was also collected.
Sandra went to work but, as I still went on without urinating , she called Doctor Garrido to inform it. He advised her to go home and inject me Lasix (medicine to provoke urine). If I did not urine within two hours, she should inform him. He also recommended to take the results of the analyses and report them, by phone, to a certain urologist who he would be informed about.
When the urologist heard the numbers of the blood count, he immediately sent me to the best hospital, in his opinion, for this kind of problem.
So, in the afternoon, I was already hospitalized nevertheless without any specific treatment because the specialists (nephrologists) were attended to a congress in Belo Horizonte, in the state of Minas Gerais.
It happened that, without urinating practically for five days, the content of urea and creatinine were very high and I smelt as a poultry-guard. Even me could feel the strong smell I gave off. And thus one more day spent without treatment, drink liquids, feeling pains, throwing up and stinking.
On Thursday, with a strong uremia, I frequently felt that I could lose consciousness. I thought that if it happened and I became delirious, I would die. I asked Sandra not to let it happen. However I did not know that she knew about this possibility, Doctor Garrido visited me at hospital and warned her about it.
I do not know exactly when but, in a certain moment, my mind started to wander through the constructions where, for many years, I put my equipment for moving earth. Suddenly I was changed into a truck out of road, loading with earth by a mechanical shovel. The freight was too much, I could not withstand and said: "Stop! I can not withstand!"
There, deep in my unconscious, I have heard Sandra's voice complying with my request. It has been enough to take me back from the state of lethargy and delirium I had dropped in. Screaming and even being rude, I asked her to call for medical help because I was dying. During this dawn, from Thursday to Friday, Sandra was there, putting pressure on everything and on everyone in this hospital, demanding a specialist. Precisely; a solution should be found.
On Friday, at 7 o'clock in the morning, someone who we have never seen, came to the bedroom: Doctor Antônio Carlos who, as soon as he examined me, he asked: "How long is he in this condition?"
When he knew that it lasted for a week, he immediately got out the bedroom without saying anything and came back minutes later with a wheelchair. He put me in and got out pushing the wheelchair, hardly running. He took me to Dialysis Center. There, he told me: "I ought to do a peritoneal dialysis. It is painful but hold out."
I hardly understood and I did not know what those "coarse words " means but I said:: "OK. Go ahead".
Having an instrument which seemed to be made by glass (I do not know, I can be wrong), like a pencil but longer, he recommended: "Go, breath deeply. Puff up the belly...as much as you can" .
Vupt! He pierced me the instrument into the belly, in the middle or a little left.
After putting the catheter, a new character followed me for a long time: The nurse Alex, responsible for dialysis sections in the "Chamber of horrors".
Peritoneal dialysis can be resumed in the words of a non-expert in medicine like: as my kidneys had already stop to function due to enormous quantity of bees toxin, my blood was not being filtrated an the toxins accumulated in my body. Very well, in order to assuage this, they introduced a tube (catheter) between my inner organs until the peritonious. By this tube, Alex injected liters of water, that by osmosis, and then, they were taken off.
On Saturday, when the staff returned, Dr. William, the main nephrologist undertook my case.
Certainly, one of the best, if not the best nephrologist of Rio de Janeiro.
After examining me, he prescribed several sections of peritoneal dialysis, diet and drinking was strictly limited, almost nothing. The emergency catheter should be replaced by a fixed one.
The surgery to introduce this new catheter would be realized by surgeon from Air Force. So, I was there, physical and psychologically prepared to "one more". At about 4 o'clock in the afternoon, lying down in the surgical table, seeing the lights, following all preparations around me and listening very careful to the conversations the nurses, anesthetist and surgeon were having about the rain about to drop, The doctor said: "I think that the streets will be flooded! It will be hard to get home!"
I hardly believed when he canceled the surgery as he was at risk of getting a traffic jam due to the rain.
And there I was, back to the bedroom, without catheter, letting Sandra astonished when I told her what had happened. Fortunately not all doctors act in that cynical, mercenary and inhuman way, not caring about someone else pain.
The catheter set up (the surgery has been done the day after) the dialysis sections started, every other day. Sometimes, the section took 12 hours... uninterrupted!
Each section (I did twelve) was a martyrdom because as the water flowed into the abdomen, the pain and ailment increased. The abdomen goes on expanding, the water presses stomach, the heart, the intestine and every thing else. The lungs seem to want to get out through the mouth and we hardly breath.
And so, days and nights went on passing. At about 30 days. There was nothing to do except to do the dialysis and wished that the part reached of the kidneys could be regenerated, said Doctor William.
Calm and self-control that what I should have.
During 24 hours a day, Sandra kept company to me (Sandra asked for vacation in order to take care of me) and so her parents. Sandra took care of me, controlled my diet, massaged my legs (the cramps went on), she controlled and annotated millimeter by millimeter, how much I urinated and how much I drink (the quantities should be the same)
Every 24 hours, she closed this hydro-balance sheet and gave it to the nurse in order to make notes in the medical-card. This control was extremely important to Doctor William.
Brief, she has been a tireless giant of 1,58m. I also owe to her that I am still alive
For four times I asked for a ophthalmologist who has never found the stung which bored me so much. The left ocular globe was completely striped as a cobweb or an honeycomb. The doctor told that there was nothing, just a reaction against the poison..
Poor unhappy thing! Months later the stung has been found and pulled of by another doctor. However, to tell the truth, helped by a more sophisticated equipment.
He never believed when I said that there was something in my eye. I just felt more comfortable when I had the eyelid immobilized with tampon and adhesive tape.
Instinctively I moved my head instead of my eyes when I need to see something that was not in front of me. I moved as a robot. The sting was in the eyelid with the tip turn inwards: that is why it scratched all the ocular globe.
During my permanence in hospital, many friends visited me and it helped me. Some fellows from OrquidaRio, from my work and directors of Nicamaqui, in Rio de Janeiro, the company where I worked as a manager and I am very grateful for the moral and financial support, they gave to me and Sandra until my completely recovery. All of them, directors and fellows from the companies I worked: Montesa, Wisema, Sotrec, Monroe, Bendix and Demag .
During a dialysis I received a visit from two friends of Montesa and the chock the had with my appearance (in a wheelchair, replete of tubes, tampon over the eye, purplish face and still deformed) was so strong that the poor little Miguel, a huge man of 1,80m. should be helped because he felt dizzy. Luís Otávio, leaving the room (five minutes later) trying to back me up, shouted from the door: "Courage, Frank! We have to settle a society together, haven't we?"
At this moment, I talked to myself: "Well, well, I never had this conversation " with him... "
So I realized that it was trying to back me up. "Well! I must be dying. Thank you!" >
As the days went on, weaker I became.
And the necrosis kidneys did not regenerate! The foods were nearly always refused, the thirst was enormous as I only could drink the same quantity I could eliminate by the urine and hardly urinated! The lips cracked. Breathing was more difficult and I should have an oxygen-tent to supply me.
I was entirely conscious of my conditions ( I do not know that I was about to become " chronic renal ") and I did every thing to maintain body and mind active.
It was time to elections and there was a jingle to Moreira Franco which refrain said: "His name is Moreira". I spend all time to hum this a"little song", in order to be "connected". Many days and nights, while Sandra slept, exhausted, in the small couch, I furtively stood up and and crawled some meters into the gallery, always singing that refrain.
During those "little walk" I saw many who "passed away".
After 21 days hardly urinating, with the kidneys blocked, the anemia was so deep that I did not succeeded in lifting up a comb. So, Doctor William decided that it was time to do a biopsy to know exactly, the conditions of my kidneys.
Sandra went to get the kit at Fundão hospital (Public College hospital).
The surgery would take place the next day.
However it was not my day!
This night I urinated 900ml!
By 6 o'clock in the morning, when the surgeon came, Sandra showed him the hydro balance closed at midnight. They called Doctor William and every thing was canceled.
My kidneys were "opened". The regeneration of the injury part started!
Five days later I was discharged from 25 kg.
The weakness and discouragement were enormous.
By this time, something happened with my body and until today I do not have any answer to explain it: a terrible intolerance to common salt. A simple slice of bread was ill-flavored, I had the sensation of eating a ball of salt.
Three days at home, I got fever and I came back to hospital to do a series of analysis.
Another "bomb": I was with pneumonia. The pneumatologist of the hospital took my case and, hardly walking due to my weakness, for many days I went to hospital. The pneumonia did not recede letting the doctor in despair although I had taken the most up-to-date antibiotics of this time.
Meanwhile, at the suggestion of my friend Álvaro Pessoa, I succeeded in having a consulting of his renown father-in-law, Doctor Piquet Carneiro, in order to take care of the anemia. The diagnosis was a deep anemia and may be a blood transfusion should be necessary.
We decide to take advice of another specialist in pneumatology, suggested by Dr. Garrido and thus, I was there, under the responsibility of Dr. Lobianco who send me to public hospital, where he was the responsible for pneumatology section (He wanted to have me 24 hours under his eyes).
During the days I stayed there, I was attentively observed and followed by his staff (six professionals). The antibiotics did not take effect because my pneumonia was allergic.
Every day more debilitated, they decided to do a blood transfusion.
Another "fight": my blood is A negative, a rarity.
In searching for blood-donors, Sandra succeeded in getting five in Rio and my brother, four in Goiânia.
Before initialing the complicated blood transfusions, I have been submitted to a very painful examination, which meant a puncture in medulla, in order to know the quantity of red globes I produced.
Surprise! I was producing them in a such quantity that all staff were amazed. No transfusions at all!
December, 22nd: all staff met together around me and allowed me to spend Christmas at home provided that I would be back 26th.
The day after, l986, December, the 23rd, at 9 o'clock, daddy took me at hospital. So I got to know, as a few people, what means that so worn sentence:
Back to home! Christmas with family!
In the middle of January, I left hospital, going on my recovering at home.
In March, I came back to my social and professional activities.
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