Making sure your medication is not expired could save your life. Experts say you need to keep medications up to date, something Judith Shepherd of Sands Township learned when she was stung by a bee and did not have a current EpiPen.
"To be alive and talking about it, it's almost like what happened was surreal," said Judith in her Sands Township home.
Judith finished her work day as a caregiver and went home to her garden in early August. She was looking for blueberries when stepped on a bee's nest and was stung.
"Within 30 seconds I could feel this feeling of my body imploding from the inside," Judith said.
It was anaphylaxis, a severe allergic reaction. This was her fourth and worst bee sting.
Just weeks prior, she threw away her EpiPen after realizing it expired in 2005 and never got it replaced.
"I knew I was in really serious trouble...and I knew no ambulance was going to get to me in time," Judith said.
She immediately ran inside, swallowed four Benadryl, and used meat tenderizer to slow down the wound's effects. She considered calling an ambulance but knew it would not arrive in time with construction on the highway. Judith went to her next door neighbor's house, who she says also has a bee allergy and would have had an EpiPen, but he was away on vacation.
She stayed calm and got in the car, but she was getting worse.
"At this point, I could barely breathe. I was choking from the swelling in my throat," Judith said.
Judith drove to her doctor about a mile away in Harvey, but he was gone for the day, so she went to the adjacent Snyder Drug in Harvey and ran to the pharmacy where she collapsed, covered in hives. It had been eight minutes after the bee sting.
"I said, 'Jason, help. Anaphylactic,' and he knew right away what to do," Judith said.
Head pharmacist Jason Thill saved her with two EpiPen injections. A nurse at the pharmacy immediately called an ambulance, which arrived about 25 minutes later.
Thill says expired medications lose their potency and become useless. When it comes to EpiPens, keep them current. He adds that even if Judith kept her expired EpiPen and tried using it, it would have had little, if any, effect.
"If it comes down to life or death, you're going to want to make sure that if you need that EpiPen, that when you inject it that it's got the potency it needs to be to save your life," said Thill.
Looking back, Judith says she has no idea how she kept such a level head over those critical eight minutes. She believes a guardian angel helped her get to that pharmacy in time.
"Would I have been that way without my angel? Hmmm. Only God knows," Judith pondered.
Now, she carries two EpiPens at all times in her purse, as well as two in her car and two in her home.