Almond shows signs of improvement, now breathing on his own, after wasp sting

After suffering a severe allergic reaction from a wasp sting over the weekend, June Almond said her husband Terry opened his eyes for the first time Monday, after spending the previous two days in a medically-induced coma.

Terry, who has been a Richfield commissioner for around 30 years, is currently at Atrium Health’s Carolinas Medical Center in Charlotte.

Though he had been on a ventilator, he was taken off of it Wednesday and Almond said Terry, 71, is now breathing on his own. He’s also been able to follow simple commands such as blinking and sticking his tongue out when asked.

“Those are all very, very hopeful signs,” said Almond, a former nurse.

Richfield Town Commissioner Terry Almond is at Atrium Health’s Carolina Medical Center in Charlotte after suffering a severe allergic reaction from a wasp sting over the weekend.

How it happened

The first time Almond recalls her husband getting seriously stung was about three years ago when he was attacked by roughly 20 fire ants while inside the family’s barn. He had bites all around his arms and chest.

Once he got home, she said he was “very sweaty and very pale,” though he wasn’t having trouble breathing. She gave him Benadryl. He initially started to feel better, but soon complained of chest pains, she said, adding that she was concerned he was having a heart attack.

Even though EMS arrived, Terry’s chest pain quickly improved and Almond said that epinephrine — which is used to treat severe asthma attacks and allergic reactions — was not needed. Shortly after the episode though, she asked Terry’s doctor for an EpiPen, in case a similar incident were to occur.

“He had never had an allergic reaction before,” she said. “Everything was new.”

Though he has always enjoyed spending time outside and has been stung, he had never before had a problem, she said.

Terry was working in his shop around 6 p.m. Saturday when he got stung, presumably by some kind of wasp. He came inside the house and sat on the recliner. He was so “weak and shaky” he needed his wife’s help opening his Benadryl, she said. He was also having problems breathing, but was able to let his wife know he had been stung.

She transitioned into nurse mode. After she gave him Benadryl and administered the EpiPen, Terry immediately collapsed and she called 911. She began performing CPR on him after noticing his throat had closed and he was gasping for breath. He was blue within seconds, she said.

Sheriff deputies arrived within five minutes and quickly took over. Several EMS and first responders were on the scene.

The emotions overtook her once the first responders took over.

“God was there with us all,” she said. “I’ve seen a lot of things happen, but I’ve never seen things happen that severe that fast.”

EMS performed CPR on Terry for at least 30 minutes before he was taken to Atrium Health Stanly. June and her son Kevin arrived at the hospital in time to see Terry being airlifted to CMC in Charlotte.

Within 90 minutes after collapsing at home, Terry was in an ICU bed in Charlotte.

Once at the hospital

Once at CMC, she said doctors stabilized Terry and intubated him by inserting a breathing tube into his trachea. Due to coronavirus restrictions, she was not allowed inside CMC. The last time she saw him that day was when he was being whisked away in the helicopter. Their daughter Tara lives in Charlotte and was able to see him that night.

Terry was sedated and put into a medically-induced coma. Doctors also placed on him a cooling blanket to lower his body temperature. The blanket was lifted Monday morning and his body was rewarmed.

June was at the hospital when Terry awakened and opened his eyes. Though he couldn’t talk with the tube still in his throat, he responded to a host of commands.

“He knew who we were,” Almond said.

A doctor turned off the ventilation machine for 10 minutes Monday afternoon to allow Terry a chance to breathe on his own, which was a good sign, June said. He is still attached to the ventilator, but doctors told her that Terry is at the lowest settings and that he could possibly be taken off the machine in a few days.

Terry has been off the ventilator since Wednesday and has been breathing on his own, though his throat is still really sore, June said.

June plans to stay with Tara, who is also a nurse, while Terry recovers.

Due to the restrictions set in place because of the coronavirus, only one family member is permitted inside the hospital room each day, which has been hard on the family. June was at CMC on Sunday and Monday while Tara is there Tuesday.

“This COVID stuff is too hard on families who can’t be with their loved ones,” June said. “It is a very tough situation.”

She is grateful to the first responders who helped to save her husband’s life, along with the many people in the community who have been praying for her family.

Despite the trauma of the last few days, she remains optimistic Terry will continue to improve, saying that “hopefully he’s going to walk out of this hospital soon.”

“God brought him through this for a reason,” Almond said. “He’s a strong man.”

Contact reporter Chris Miller at 704-982-2122.