St. Charles Herald-Guide

Man owes life to co-workers, 911 operator after wasp sting

Kyle Barnett - September 27, 2012

Steve Gennaro knew he was in trouble.

The maintenance worker at Magnolia Companies was working in the back of the company’s campus in St. Rose manning a Bobcat tractor to help pull out a forklift that his co-worker Joel Maurin had gotten stuck in the mud.

As a wasp buzzed around his head, he reacted like most people would.

"A wasp flew right in front of my face," Gennaro said. "I swatted him with my hat and he flew off and then came back and stung me right on my forehead."

Minutes later he was fighting for his life.

Gennaro is allergic to wasps. He knew he only had a short period of time to notify his fellow workers.

The last thing he remembered was getting off the Bobcat.

"I got off and I went down," he said.

Before he passed out, Gennaro was able to tell his co-workers that he had left his Epipen, an injector that would have staved off the allergic reaction, at home.

When workers at Magnolia called 911, Arielle Lege, an employee of the 911 Communication District for over four years, answered their call.

"When they first called it sounded like he had just been stung by a wasp, but after the first three or four minutes it was ‘OK now he’s not breathing.’ It went from ‘OK he got to stung by a wasp’ to ‘I think he is allergic’ and then to ‘he definitely is allergic and is going into anaphylactic shock,’" Lege said. "So that is pretty quickly, but you never think about it, you just do it."

Johnny Bombara, general manager of G. Smith Motorsports, had been working for Magnolia for over six years. He and Maurin laid Gennaro on the concrete in a garage in the back of a building.

"You had a bunch of people standing around like a deer in the headlights and it’s like ‘what do you do?’" Bombarra said. "You just had to direct somebody, I don’t know where it came from, but it just came."

Bombarra has been a CPR trainer for over a decade but had never had to use the skills he had learned. He said Lege’s instructions helped a lot.

"Arielle guided us through and kept us all calm," Bombarra said. "Because she had everyone calmed down and she was communicating with everybody she brought us all together."

Bombarra and Maurin began CPR on Gennaro.

As Lege talked Gennaro’s co-workers through the incident his tongue swelled up, his face turned blue, his chest caved in and he stopped breathing.

Bombarra said even though the incident only lasted a little over eight minutes it felt like much longer.

"I felt like three or four weeks," Bombarra said.

Through Bombarra and Maurin’s efforts, Gennaro was able to hold on long enough for an ambulance to arrive and give him the injection he needed to overcome the allergic reaction.

The Magnolia Companies recently held a luncheon to celebrate the work of Lege, Bombarra and Maurin in saving Gennaro.

Lege said she did not want to be recognized for helping out in the incident.

"We all go through the same training and all of would have been able to handle it the same way," she said. "I am just the one that happened to answer the phone."

Lege said the dispatchers at 911 were as responsible for the result as she was.

"I was very adamant to my supervisor that it wasn’t just me," Lege said. "I could be on the phone with them, but if it wouldn’t have been for you all dispatching, there wouldn’t have been such a fast response time."

Speaking at the event, CEO of Magnolia Companies Gary Smith said they had trained for emergency situations before.

"It is hard to compare plans to the real thing," Smith said. "This man got stung by a wasp and came within minutes of losing his life."

Smith handed out plaques recognizing Lege, Bombarra and Maurin.

"Steve, we would give you something, but we gave you the best thing in the world - your life," Smith said.

Arielle Lege, Steve Gennaro, Johnny Bombarra and Joel Maurin.
Arielle Lege, Steve Gennaro, Johnny Bombarra and Joel Maurin.