Belfast Telegraph

My little guardian angels: How Belfast man's children saved him from potentially fatal wasp sting

By Deborah McAleese

Proud dad John Funston is alive today thanks to the bravery of his two little heroes.

The Belfast man fell unconscious at the wheel of his car after suffering a severe allergic reaction to a wasp sting while driving his young son and daughter home from school.

Moments before he collapsed, John was stung in the neck outside his children's primary school as he tried to swat away a swarm of wasps attacking his six-year-old son Jake, who was stung five times. Driving home, the father-of-two went into anaphylactic shock and fell unconscious at a set of traffic lights.

Realising something was seriously wrong with their dad, who was unaware of his allergy to wasp stings, little Ruby Funston (9) and her brother Jake grabbed his mobile phone and flagged down a passerby to help them call an ambulance.

Ambulance crew, medics and police responded within minutes and were able to stabilise John, who was struggling to breathe, with adrenaline shots. After a night in hospital under observation, he has since made a full recovery.

"They saved their dad's life. We are so proud of them. I cannot bear to think about what might have happened. It must have been very traumatic for Ruby and Jake. John had no idea he could be allergic to a wasp sting," the children's mum Catherine said.

The swarm attacked John and Jake as he collected his son and daughter from Gilnahirk Primary School in east Belfast last Friday afternoon.

They hurried into the car to escape the swarm, but as John drove home he began to feel unwell.

While stopped at a set of traffic lights on the Upper Newtownards Road, he fell unconscious at the wheel.

"Ruby realised John wasn't well. She got his phone and got Jake out of the car and stopped a woman to ask for help.

"The woman took the mobile phone and dialled 999. It is really powerful how calmly they reacted.

"Ruby realised she had to stay calm and get help. We are so proud that they didn't panic or completely freak out," Catherine said.

She added: "John can't remember very much about it.

"It is horrendous to think that if they had made it home they would have thought that John was just asleep.

"Or what would have happened had the car crashed? I get upset thinking about what could have happened.

"My husband and I are so grateful to the lady who stopped and helped the children.

"I've already spoken to her to thank her and we're delighted that she will be calling to the house next week to see Ruby and Jake."

Gilnahirk Primary School principal Stephen Harrison said the school was very proud of the P3 and P6 pupils.

"The kids saved his life. They just seem to have taken a commonsense approach.

"For kids that age to react the way they did is very impressive. We are all very proud of them," Mr Harrison said.

A severe allergic reaction to wasp stings is very rare.

Less than 0.5% of the UK population may experience a severe, generalised allergic reaction known as anaphylaxis.

Anaphylaxis occurs when the body goes into shock in response to the wasp venom.

Most people who go into shock after a wasp sting do so very quickly. Symptoms can include swelling of the throat and mouth, difficulty in swallowing or speaking, difficulty in breathing, sudden feeling of weakness, collapse and unconsciousness.

The treatment for a generalised allergic reaction is adrenaline.

This must be administered without delay, so people known to be at risk often carry their own adrenaline injection kits, such as an EpiPen, for use in an emergency.

Factfile

A severe allergic reaction to wasp stings is very rare. Less than 0.5% of the UK population may experience a severe, allergic reaction known as anaphylaxis. Symptoms can include swelling of throat and mouth, difficulty in swallowing or speaking, difficulty in breathing, sudden feeling of weakness, collapse and unconsciousness. For most of the year, wasps remain the most aggressive stinging insects likely to cause anaphylaxis. Because wasps have smooth, non-barbed stings that can be withdrawn, a wasp can sting many times.

(Source: Anaphylaxis Campaign UK)

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