Quick-Thinking Pharmacist Saves Woman from Life-Threatening Bee Sting

In a recent incident, a community pharmacist demonstrated the value of their clinical expertise and healthcare advice by saving the life of a woman who suffered a near-fatal bee sting.

Joan Johnston from Moira was stung on her scalp by a honey bee while in her garden. She quickly noticed the first signs of an allergic reaction, including severe itching and redness that quickly spread to her neck and ears.

Her GP advised her to visit her local pharmacy, where the community pharmacist, Stephen Joyce, administered a life-saving antihistamine and an adrenaline injection while an ambulance was called.

Joan now owes her life to the swift actions of her local pharmacist, Stephen.

Joan Johnston with Community Pharmacist Stephen Joyce from Boots, Moira. (Image: Brian Thompson Photography)

The Incident

Joan was enjoying her time in the garden when she was stung by a bee on her scalp. Initially, she experienced severe itching and redness, which soon spread to her neck and ears. Recognizing the signs of an allergic reaction, she consulted her GP, who advised her to visit her local pharmacy.

The swift response of the pharmacy team was lifesaving, according to Ms Johnston. She has backed the ‘Ask Your Pharmacist Week’ campaign to raise awareness of the clinical expertise and healthcare advice available in the heart of every community.

Key Moments

  • Initial Symptoms: Itching and redness on the scalp, neck, and ears.
  • GP’s Advice: Visit the local pharmacy.
  • Pharmacist’s Action: Immediate administration of antihistamine and adrenaline.

The Heroic Response

Upon arriving at the pharmacy, Stephen Joyce wasted no time. He administered a life-saving antihistamine and an adrenaline injection while calling for an ambulance. Joan’s condition had deteriorated rapidly; she felt lightheaded, dizzy, and even began to lose consciousness. Stephen’s prompt actions were nothing short of life-saving.

Community Pharmacy Northern Ireland is highlighting the value and contribution that community pharmacy makes, given the sustained pressure on all parts of the health service.

Gerard Greene, chief executive of Community Pharmacy Northern Ireland, commended Stephen and the team for their professional and swift response, stating that pharmacists are acutely aware of the pressures in the health service at the moment with both GP appointments in high demand and emergency departments consistently overloaded.

The Importance of Community Pharmacies

This incident coincides with “Ask Your Pharmacist Week,” an initiative by Community Pharmacy NI to highlight the invaluable role of community pharmacies.

Joan has become an advocate for this campaign, emphasizing the importance of the clinical expertise available at local pharmacies.

Ms Johnston’s story illustrates how important community pharmacy teams are in providing patients with access right on their doorstep to highly trained teams of clinical experts in their community pharmacy.

Community pharmacy teams across Northern Ireland are seeing and treating increasing numbers of often ‘unseen’ and often life-saving interventions.

Intramuscular adrenaline and intravenous steroids were administered to Ms Johnston, and her GP arrived to give her oxygen. Ms Johnston said that sometimes the situations pharmacists are faced with “can be much more extreme but not unusual.”

She is grateful to the pharmacy team for their prompt and professional response, which saved her life.

Campaign Highlights

  • Theme: Focus on the extensive skill set of pharmacy teams.
  • Objective: Raise public awareness about community pharmacies.
  • Significance: Highlighting the role of pharmacies amidst healthcare pressures.

Joan’s Reflections

Joan described the ordeal as “frightening” and was grateful for the immediate intervention. She was given oxygen and an intravenous steroid by her GP, who arrived shortly after. Joan emphasized that the situation could have had a very different outcome had she not visited the pharmacy.

Final Thoughts

Gerard Greene, the chief executive of Community Pharmacy Northern Ireland, praised Stephen and his team for their professionalism. He also stressed the importance of community pharmacies, especially when healthcare services are under immense pressure.


  1. Prompt Action: The importance of quick thinking in medical emergencies.
  2. Community Support: The invaluable role of local pharmacies.
  3. Public Awareness: The need for campaigns like “Ask Your Pharmacist Week.”

In a world where healthcare systems are stretched thin, this incident serves as a powerful reminder of the critical role community pharmacies play in our lives. Joan’s story is a testament to the difference quick action can make, turning what could have been a tragedy into a tale of community heroism.

Featured Image Credits: “Epi-Pen” by Intropin is licensed under CC BY 3.0.

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