ANNANDALE, Va. — On a Saturday afternoon earlier this month, Melodye Creason decided to trim back the azaleas in front of her family’s Annandale home before running an errand.
It was a life changing decision, says her husband of 24 years, Rich Creason.
As she was trimming the azaleas the evening of Aug. 2, Melodye Creason, 44, didn’t realize her clippers were in reach of a nest of white-faced hornets — a type of hornet known for its aggression. Rich says his wife came screaming in the house saying she’d been stung.
“Within just a few minutes of her coming in the house, she started to have a taste in the back of her throat. As I tried to fend the bees off, she goes back into the bedroom probably within three to four minutes she was going into anaphylactic shock,” Rich says.
He found his wife sitting in the bathroom, an unopened Benadryl tablet on the counter, struggling to breathe.
“She was seizing very hard so I couldn’t do any kind of CPR. I didn’t know what to do so I immediately called 911 … She was turning purple and it was just very traumatic. I was rubbing her back and talking to her. They said that’s all I could do,” Rich says.
When paramedics reached the house, they tried to revive her for more than 30 minutes and rushed her to the hospital. Meanwhile her eldest son, Cory, was arriving at the house after receiving a desperate call from his father.
He had walked past his mom trimming the azaleas on his way to work.
“She said, ‘Just remember to be the sweet charmer you always are.’ I kind of laughed it off and walked to the car and drove away. It ended up being the last thing she said to me,” he says.
Doctors determined that Melodye had been stung previously by a white-faced hornet and her body had mounted an allergic response. By the time hospital staff stabilized his wife, Rich says, she’d been without air for more than 40 minutes.
“I just couldn’t believe this tiny little bee was taking my wife away from me. I was heartbroken. I couldn’t wrap my head around it,” Rich says.
Doctors told Rich his wife had massive brain damage and while they could wait for improvement, the prognosis was not good.
“They say hearing is the last thing to go. So we talked to her, sang to her, cried to her all day every day. We all did.”
Melodye was in a coma for eight days before her family took her off life support.
Rich says he’s sharing his story because he wants to raise awareness that people can develop an allergy to white-faced hornets after being stung once and not realize they have it.
“Half my neighbors didn’t even know and they work in the yard all the time. I guarantee you people are going to be much more careful,” he says.
In addition to Cory, 22, he and Melodye have a second son, Chad, 18.
Melodye, who was a triplet, had recently earned her master’s degree at George Mason University and was working from home as an IT consultant.
Rich doesn’t know what kind of medical bills to expect but found out the life insurance policy for his family ran out recently and he can’t depend on it for assistance. His family has set up a GiveForward website to cover the cost of his wife’s medical expenses.