SEQUIM — Scott Rappleye, a retired Bremerton fire marshal building a home in Carlsborg, was joyously emotional as he gave his heartfelt thanks to the Clallam County Fire District No. 3 paramedics he credits with saving his life.
“I truly appreciate everything you guys did,” Rappleye, 57, said Thursday, his voice breaking with emotion.
“I’m here because of you guys.
Rappleye dropped by the North Fifth Avenue Fire District 3 station with his longtime Kitsap County fire services buddies to express his thanks to the life savers.
He was working on his future Spath Road home at about 5 p.m. Oct. 15 when he took a swig from a can of Dr Pepper.
He didn’t realize that a yellowjacket wasp had crawled into the can.
Stung inside the mouth, Rappleye, who is highly allergic to such stings, lapsed into anaphylactic shock so severely that he almost suffocated when his windpipe closed.
Then he puffed up like a balloon from the allergic reaction and fell into a coma.
Paramedics revived him and got him to Olympic Medical Center.
He was transferred to Swedish Medical Center in Seattle, where he remained until about three weeks ago.
Doctors thought at one point he was brain-dead, he said, and taking him off life-support was discussed before his wife, Becky, put an end to it.
Paramedics saved life
“If the crew here hadn’t done what it had done, I wouldn’t be here,” he told the District 3 paramedics led by Lt. Ryan Tillman, formerly with East Jefferson Fire-Rescue and today a Chimacum resident.
“I can’t believe you are sitting here!” said Tillman, who first witnessed Rappleye’s grave condition.
The small group of Kitsap and Clallam first responders gathered with Fire District 3 Chief Steve Vogel in the Sequim fire station and talked about what happened, with Rappleye embracing and thanking the District 3 paramedic who came to his aid.
It was an emotional reunion.
Paramedics who helped Rappleye — in addition to Tillman, who has been with Fire District 3 in Sequim for five years and in the fire service since 1989 — were Joel McKeen, Troy Tenneson and Larry Parker for the fire district and Jack Hueter and Jordan Hersh of Olympic Ambulance.
“The last thing I remember is making a conscious effort to breath in and out,” said Rappleye, who was Bremerton’s fire marshal for 19 years before retiring in 2009.
Tillman said Rappleye’s heart stopped twice after the paramedics found him on the ground gasping for breath.
“He had collapsed and went into cardiac arrest,” Tillman recalled.
The paramedics initiated cardiopulmonary resuscitation on Rappleye.
“They got him breathing and got his heart started again and he was taken to Olympic Medical Center,” Tillman said.
Rappleye, who said his chest still hurts from the trauma, had tried to inject himself with epinephrine but it did not help.
The paramedics again injected him and gave him two intravenous doses on the way to the hospital.
That was a large dose, Tillman said.
Also known as adrenaline, epinephrine is a hormone and a neurotransmitter that increases heart rate, constricts blood vessels and dilates air passages.
The Kitsap first responders said they were impressed by the work of the Clallam paramedics.
“I guess you saw the firefighter plates on the car and worked a little harder,” Rappleye joked, with those in the room exploding into laughter.
“Thank you all,” he said, holding back tears.
“What I’ve gained from this is, I think I’m the luckiest guy in the world.”
His body remaining bloated after he was transferred to Swedish Medical Center, he was unconscious for 10 days.
He said he stayed at Swedish for 2½ months recovering, was released about three weeks ago and wanted to come up to Sequim to thank his paramedic brothers.
Randy Billick, public safety chief for Central Kitsap Fire District and a longtime friend of Rappleye, joined him to thank the paramedics.
Rappleye worked 39 years in the fire service, starting as a volunteer firefighter in 1970, becoming a paid firefighter in 1977 at South Kitsap Fire.
He moved in 1978 to Bremerton, where he became a paramedic, finally entering the fire marshal’s office in 1990.
Rappleye said he and others with him Thursday from Kitsap County have taught Sequim fire investigation courses.
His reaction to the bee sting surprised even some of his closest friends.
“I’ve known him for 30 years and didn’t know he was allergic to bees,” Bremerton Assistant Fire Chief Mick McKinley said.
________Sequim-Dungeness Valley Editor Jeff Chew can be reached at 360-681-2391 or at [email protected]