Charlotte Theobald from Helmsley began suffering from idiopathic anaphylaxis (severe, spontaneous allergic reactions) after being stung by a wasp in 2017. Her condition hugely impacts her life as the cause of her allergies is unknown and everyday items can trigger a life-threatening reaction, causing chronic spontaneous hives, rapid swelling, anaphylaxis, narrowing of her airways causing breathing difficulties, asthma and vocal cord dysfunction.
“When I was stung by the wasp, I experienced swelling and when I was taken to hospital they put my reaction down to the sting. The following year, I then had my first anaphylaxis at work and it has carried on ever since”, said Charlotte.
In July 2020, Charlotte was sat in her bedroom speaking to her mum when she suddenly began to feel unwell.
“I don’t remember much as it was the third time that month that I had suffered anaphylaxis and I hadn’t been home long since I was discharged from the hospital. I just remember sitting on my bed and talking to my mum and saying that I didn’t feel right, because sometimes before I have my anaphylaxis I get a sense that something is about to happen. My mum said shortly afterwards I fell unconscious. I vaguely remember climbing into the air ambulance, but everything else is a blur”, she said.
Speaking of her symptoms, Charlotte explained: “My symptoms can vary, but usually I get itchy, hives on the upper half of the body, itchy eyes, facial and neck swelling. I also experience wheezing and my mouth tingles and I can feel my throat and tongue swelling.”
Her mother Katrina quickly administered adrenaline and called the emergency services. As Charlotte’s allergic reactions can potentially be life-threatening, Yorkshire Air Ambulance (YAA) dispatched their Topcliffe aircraft.
Yorkshire Air Ambulance Critical Care Team assessed Charlotte and a decision was made to fly her to York Hospital for emergency treatment. The journey by land ambulance would have taken 45 minutes by blue light, but YAA flew Charlotte to the hospital in less than 10 minutes.
Charlotte recovered from her anaphylaxis but has to be prepared for any known triggers on a daily basis. She is regularly in and out of the hospital and under specialist care at Leeds St James Hospital.
“It really takes it out of your body and I always feel emotional after I have a reaction and it takes a good few days to recover each time. It just hits you what has happened, what I’ve been through and what could happen. Perfumes, aftershaves and cleaning products are around all the time and it can be difficult managing this daily and protecting myself”, she said.
“I carry a medical pack with me everywhere I go that has my EpiPens in, an inhaler, antihistamines, a list of medication and allergies and a life-line card in case anyone finds me and they are unsure of how to administer an EpiPen. It goes everywhere with me because my anaphylaxis can happen at any time.
At work, I have to wear a mask that filters out all perfumes and chemicals because someone walking past me who has a strong perfume or aftershave can trigger me and I can’t go in certain shops and my friends can’t wear perfume around me”
Speaking of the air ambulance, she continued: “The times that the air ambulance has come out to me, I know that I have been really poorly. It’s comforting knowing that they are coming because even with blue lights we are quite far away from York. It’s a comfort knowing that they are there and can get to the hospital quicker and save my life.”
Charlotte’s incident is set to appear on the reality TV series Helicopter ER on Channel Really at 10 PM on 30th March 2021. The episode also features a couple trampled by cows in the Yorkshire Dales and a mountain bike incident in Scarborough.