The Girl Who Kicked the Hornet's Nest

I went on a trail run with my friend Jayme Moye during my last week in Guatemala. We were running a route I'd done more than a dozen times solo. It's a tough run that I usually do as an out and back. It's also the first trail Mickelle and I ran at the lake with Mayan Running Adventure during our first trip to Guatemala in November 2013.

Most people hike down this trail. I always preferred to run up it. You start in Pana at 5,100 feet and run to an elevation of almost 7,000 feet to a scenic spot called Mirador Godinez.

Most people hike down this trail. I always preferred to run up it. You start in Pana at 5,100 feet and run to an elevation of almost 7,000 feet to a scenic spot called Mirador Godinez.

With less than a mile to go I was struck with a sharp pain in my left Achilles tendon. Having run through my share of thorn bushes I figured that's what it had to be and instantly stopped. Jayme was running in front and stopped a few yards ahead. 

I looked down and saw hornets on both of my legs, and more were instantly swarming around me. I yelled to Jayme to run. We both took off and started swatting at anything that moved. After about 200 yards they were all gone. We stopped and checked each other over for any hornets or stingers that might be hanging on.

I later counted 16 stings and likely had more. Jayme had at least 4. Fortunately we were close to the end of our run and we had arranged for our friend Greg to pick us up and drive us back to Pana.

In retrospect I wish I was wearing my heart rate monitor during the run. It would have been off the charts for a few minutes.

The view of Lake Atitlan from Mirador Godinez. This is where our run finished. 

The view of Lake Atitlan from Mirador Godinez. This is where our run finished. 

After enjoying the view for a few minutes we jumped in to Greg's car and headed back to Pana. Initially I was feeling fine. My legs were burning but that was to be expected. I'd been stung by bees and wasps many times in my life and never had any big reactions so I was not worried...man I should have been. 

As we were driving down the mountain I began to notice swelling in one of my cheeks, then around one eye, then my lip and tongue. It was spreading fast. We decided we'd go to a pharmacy and get an antihistamine when we got back into town.

A few minutes later things got worse. I started feeling nauseous, tired, and dizzy. Then my chest started tightening. I could still breathe okay but things just got real! We were skipping the pharmacy and going straight to a clinic. 

We ended up at the Centro de Salud (a public clinic) in Pana. Greg rushed ahead of us and explained the problem. Delirious I stumbled into the clinic. A doctor examined me immediately and recommended two shots. One was a steroid and one was an antihistamine. Each would be injected into a different (butt) cheek. A minute later a nurse appeared with both. She told me to lay down but I couldn't. If I had I would have puked everywhere. I was not doing well. My chest was now really tight and to add to the discomfort rashes had shown up under both armpits. I leaned over a bit for the first shot.

The first shot HURT! It might have been because I was not laying down but I blame it on my MPAL. MPAL is a chronic problem for male distance runners. MPAL = Male Pattern Ass Loss. I've got a serious case. Photo Credit, Greg Jensen. Thanks so much for the memory buddy.

The first shot HURT! It might have been because I was not laying down but I blame it on my MPAL. MPAL is a chronic problem for male distance runners. MPAL = Male Pattern Ass Loss. I've got a serious case. Photo Credit, Greg Jensen. Thanks so much for the memory buddy.

Greg asked in Spanish if the next shot would hurt less. The nurse told him it would hurt about the same. Greg politely lied to me in English telling me that it would not hurt nearly as bad. Even though I was barely lucid my Spanish was still working. I clearly heard what the nurse said. Nice try Greg! I was able to lay down for the second shot and it hurt a little less.

About 45 minutes later I was a new man. I almost felt normal. The swelling was gone and my chest was no longer tight. I was even hungry. The doctor recommended I take a pill antihistamine for the next few days and told me I could leave any time. Cost of this emergency visit and shots...$0. Needless to say I was super impressed and extremely grateful for this care.

That night Jayme's ankle began to swell and she was not feeling well. She ended up going to the same clinic and getting one shot (it was a combination of the two shots I received). Shortly afterwards she began feeling better as well.

We don't know what stirred the hornets up and made them attack us. Since Jayme was in front of me and got stung less it's fun to conclude that she accidentally kicked a nest leaving me to run right into the swarm...hence the title of this post.

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