Retired teacher dies after yellow jacket stings
By Sarah Campbell
SALISBURY — Family and friends are mourning the loss of a retired teacher who died Wednesday after being stung by yellow jackets.
Keith Vaughan said his wife, Patricia, was doing some yard work when she disturbed a ground nest that contained the insects.
“One bit her on her big toe because she was wearing sandals and two more got her before she got back to the house,” he said.
Keith said Patricia, 61, applied some topical Benadryl to the stings and took a Benadryl pill before proceeding with her normal activities.
“She was preparing for an overnight outing by gathering snacks and board games to play,” he said. “She also had started a stack of magazines to give to Meals on Wheels recipients.”
Keith said he left his wife alone for a few minutes to go outside and when he came back he found her collapsed on the floor unconscious.
He said she was taken to the Rowan Regional Medical Center where they administered numerous EpiPens.
“By that time, it was too late. She did not respond positively to any treatment,” he said.
Keith said the doctors did not give him any idea what they could have done to prevent the fatal reaction, but he heard from a friend whose daughter is a pediatrician that Patricia should have taken liquid Benadryl because it “absorbs a lot quicker than the pill.”
“We did not know her extent of allergy,” he said. “She’s been stung before and, of course, it swelled up, but topical Benadryl has taken care of the symptoms with hardly any side effects.”
A Post reporter made several attempts Thursday to reach local medical facilities to receive advice from a doctor on how to treat such stings, but was unsuccessful.
“I was very lax about it. I thought it was just a lowly yellow jacket,” Keith said. “But if a person is allergic, it seems like the size doesn’t matter.”
Keith said Patricia was a great mother and wife.
“She’s been enjoying her 6-month- old grandson who’ll never get to see her again,” he said. “Her grandson will not experience that joy that she has brought to the rest of us.”
Patricia, a Salisbury native, will also be remembered as a great educator. She spent most of her career at Farmington Woods Elementary in Cary before returning to Rowan County to teach fourth grade at Cleveland Elementary. She retired in February 2011.
“She was an outstanding teacher. She was always well prepared and the kids loved her,” Cleveland Principal Becky Kepley-Lee said. “She was very quiet and didn’t want a lot of recognition. She was a behind-the- scenes kind of person. “
Kepley-Lee described Patricia as a “real team player.”
“She was just a big supporter of everyone,” she said. “If there was a new teacher needing help, she was right there offering ideas and willing to give out anything that she had that they may want to borrow.”
Patricia was always smiling, Kepley-Lee said.
“She truly had the children’s best interest at heart,” she said. “Everything she did was for the children.”
Keith said his wife loved the children just as much as they loved her.
“She loved to see how they changed from the beginning of the year to the end,” he said.
Patricia delivered Meals on Wheels in western Rowan County twice a month.
“She’s been quite active in the local Rowan organization,” Keith said. “They put together birthday bags for the recipients and she solicited contributions for things they had suggested, magazines being one of them. She didn’t just get any magazines, she got Our State magazines, things she knew people would enjoy reading.”
During retirement, Patricia spent time reading, traveling and taking in new adventures. “She wasn’t one to stay the same course day after day,” Keith said. “She was always up for trying new restaurants and going new places. She was just a fun person to be around.
“You’re never guaranteed tomorrow. She’s been living her life knowing that.”
Patricia’s funeral will be at 4 p.m. Saturday at Thyatira Presbyterian Church.
Contact reporter Sarah Campbell at 704-797-7683.
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