Community mourns after Halifax woman dies from insect sting

HALIFAX – Friends, colleagues and loved ones are gathering to remember a Halifax woman who died this week after being stung by an insect.

Last week, Palmira Boutillier, 31, was working on a farm when friends say she was stung by a hornet. Boutillier was taken to hospital but died a few days later.

“She was picking raspberries. She passed away very quickly. She was never allergic as far as anyone knew. It was a very sudden and strange thing to happen,” said childhood friend Kristen Wald.

Wald was best friends with Boutillier for 22 years when both were growing up in Nanaimo, B.C.

“Palmira was probably the best person you would ever meet,” she said. “She was amazing. Really creative, really generous, really smart and always up for any sort of adventure you might want to do.”

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Dr. Lori Connors, an allergist clinical immunologist, says that insect stings oftentimes cause mild reactions but in rare cases, they can be very severe.

“Dying of a bee sting is quite rare, but unfortunately it does happen,” she said.

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Connors says there is no screening for stinging insect allergies because of the high rate of false positives. She notes that testing is usually diagnostic for those who have symptoms of stings, such as a history of hives, difficulty breathing and throat closing.

Connors says that preventing a sting from happening is the best defence.

“Not to wear brightly coloured clothing, wearing scents that smell floral and perfume scents would be potentially more risky for stings,” she said.

If you are allergic and are stung, Connors says a shot of epinephrine is the only thing that could technically save your life. She says it reverses the process of an allergic reaction.

Her foremost recommendation is to call a doctor, visit an allergy specialist or go to the hospital if you feel like you are having an allergic reaction to an insect sting.

Boutillier moved to Halifax a few years ago to pursue a journalism degree at the University of King’s College.

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Dick Miller taught Boutillier in his advanced radio documentary workshop. He describes her as one of a kind.

“Every year when I have a class here at King’s, there’s always one student who stands out. Palmira was above and beyond everyone else,” Miller said.

“There are so few reporters these days who are really digging into social justice issues and carry it with the kind of passion Palmira did.”

Boutillier was an advocate for the local food movement. She worked at Local Source Market for about one year.

“It’s a devastating blow,” said owner Sean Gallagher, who says he was fortunate enough to chat with Boutillier earlier last week.

“She was one of those beacons of hope. She was definitely a vibrant character in the local food movement. One of those few aspiring farmers who was actually really intelligent and actually able to work really hard.”

Wald hopes Boutillier inspires others to live vicariously.

“Really just live everyday as if it was your last … love each other and to keep in touch with people you care about,” she said.

“I don’t doubt that even though she’s gone from this world, her presence will continue forever.”

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Boutillier would have turned 32 in September.

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