August 22, 2014 2:59 pm

Death of Halifax woman from insect sting a cautionary tale for others

HALIFAX – It has been one year since the passing of a Halifax woman who died from an insect sting without ever knowing she was allergic.

Palmira Boutilier was 31 years old when she got stung while working at Ironwood Farm in Hants County.

Boutilier had been working at the farm for four months and had been pruning raspberries that fateful day.

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“She screamed. I knew she had been stung. I could just tell,” said Heather Johnson, who owns the farm and worked closely with Boutilier during her four months there.

“She laughed and was upset she was stung but then it was fine. As she sat down to take her boots off, she said ‘Do you have any Benadryl? I think I’m having a reaction.'”

Another worker gave her Benadryl, but Johnson said Boutilier started panicking.

“You could tell it was more than a little reaction to some stings. She didn’t have a typical reaction. She didn’t swell up,” she said. “We were not panicking…but she very quickly said ‘I’m scared. I’m scared.'”

Boutilier was taken to nearby hospital before being airlifted to Halifax. She died a few days later.

Her partner Miles Howe said it has been a long and difficult year since then.

“When it initially happened, I guess my world pretty much fell apart,” he said.

“It’s been a year of learning and lessons for me, trying to find ways to deal with what happened and come to some kind of understanding that I’m still here and I still have to do the best that I can.”

Howe said he was in shock at the time from the circumstances of Boutilier’s death.

“We believed we’d just bring her back and when that didn’t happen that was also very shocking,” he said.

“Initially it was total disbelief, right? She had been stung by an insect and had passed away.”

Howe said he hopes others can learn from Boutilier’s death, and if they know they are allergic, to always carry their EpiPen with them.

Johnson said the story of Boutilier’s death helped save the life of another farm worker, who also got stung but did not know he was allergic.

“He didn’t really have much of a reaction but he felt his feet going a little funny. He knew Palmira’s story and that the first thing she said was ‘My feet feel funny’,” she said.

The worker managed to get himself to a nearby farm where someone had an EpiPen.

“He was treated and he started to, very seriously, get ill. They called 911. [Paramedics] gave him more epinephrine  and  it saved his life.”

“He credits that because he knew [Palmira’s] story.”

A memorial to honour Boutilier is being held Sunday, Aug. 24 at Lion and Bright from 5 p.m. to 6:30 p.m.

“It’s basically a commemoration, a celebration of Palmira. We’re story-telling, sharing and just getting together,” said Sean Gallagher, owner of Lion and Bright and Local Source Market, the latter where Boutilier worked before her death.

“We really want to remember her spirit.”

“I just hope people get together and share stories about how the year has gone and share stories about how Palmira touched them,” Howe said.

He said he hopes others remember her qualities and character.

“Caring for your friends, caring for strangers, caring for animals, growing healthy organic food, encouraging that with other people and building community,” he said.

Howe said he has gotten through the year with prayer, contemplation and gardening, many of the things Boutilier liked to do, but said  her death will always linger.

“You wonder why or what was the reason. After a while, you come to the conclusion a lot of these things are bigger than us and will continue to unfold as life goes on.”

© Shaw Media, 2014

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