| Sarah Heinonen
LONGMEADOW – Members of the Longmeadow Fire Department (LFD) recently became angels to the Egan family, responding to a medical emergency and later connecting the young patient with his sports hero.
On an afternoon in August, Nolan Egan and his father, Brian Egan, were playing Nolan’s favorite game, baseball, in the backyard when the 9-year-old accidentally disturbed a ground nest of yellow jackets. Nolan was stung once behind the ear. While Nolan had been stung by honeybees before, he said he knew this sting was different.
“It hurt more than usual, and I started to swell and then it was hard to breathe, and my stomach hurt,” Nolan told Reminder Publishing.
Nolan’s mother, Rebeckah Egan, said, “Nolan was screaming a scream of agony that I’d never heard before. I was panicking. He was terrified.”
Brian called 911, and Rebeckah said there were first responders on site before he had even finished talking to the dispatcher. Fire Capt. John Rigney and paramedic TJ Howell responded with the Longmeadow Fire Department.
“He was breathing, but he was in a state that we would consider anaphylaxis,” Howell said. The National Institute of Health’s National Center for Biotechnology Information describes anaphylaxis as “an acute, life-threatening hypersensitivity disorder, defined as a generalized, rapidly evolving, multi-systemic allergic reaction.”
Howell said emergency calls for anaphylaxis are “fairly common in the warmer months,” and are “potentially life-threatening. Luckily, his parents did the right thing and called 911.”
While Howell administered two doses of epinephrine, a medicine that can help combat the histamine reaction that causes anaphylaxis, he calmed the child down by discussing baseball.
“He was the most amazing. He kept him talking,” Rebeckah said of Howell who she said was, “our guardian angel.” Nolan told the paramedic that his favorite player was Shohei Ohtani of the Los Angeles Angels and how he had done a project on the player for school.
“It’s a common practice to play the distraction game, especially with children,” Howell said.
In the ambulance, Rigney took over the conversation about baseball while Howell treated Nolan, who was transported to the hospital and made a full recovery.
“Nolan’s never going to forget that day,” Rigney said, but added. “I wanted to make that day memorable in a positive way.” Rigney said he was reminded of a call about 15 years ago to help a child with autism who happened to love the Boston Red Sox. He said that he had a contact at the Red Sox, and they arranged for the child to walk out on the field.
“I emailed the [Los Angeles Angels] and gave them a brief description of our interactions with Nolan that day,” Rigney said. He received a response from the team, who sent a care package of memorabilia from Ohtani to Nolan, which Howell delivered.
“Never in a million years did we expect that the Fire Department would reach out to the Angels, let alone for them to respond. I mean, [Ohtani’s] a big important baseball player,” Rebeckah said. “It was unbelievable. I was totally blown away.”
Rigney said, “Most of our days are dealt with people’s worst days. This is the fun part of the job – when we can give back to the community.”
This is not the first time that the Egan family has received life-saving care from the LFD. Four years ago, after having minor oral surgery, Brian experienced an infection that became septic and he passed out on the kitchen floor, Rebeckah told Reminder Publishing. Paramedics with the Fire Department responded then, as well, stabilizing Brian and transporting him to the hospital. Rebeckah said the first responders helped keep her focused on what she needed to do.
“The kindness is just above and beyond. You know it’s their job and what they signed up for, but there’s no words for how kind and helpful they are,” she said.
An allergist later confirmed that Nolan is allergic to hornets, yellowjackets and other wasps. He now carries an EpiPen, a tool that allows people to self-inject themselves with epinephrine in emergency situations.
If Nolan has another run in of the stinging variety, he knows just what to do. “I have to take the EpiPen, call my parents and call 911,” he said.