Wasp attack victim cheats death a third time

03:09, Mar 18 2014
 Janet Kelland
NINE LIVES: Taumarunui farmer Janet Kelland recovers in hospital after being stung a swarm of wasps.

A Taumarunui sheep farmer who was attacked by hundreds of angry wasps in a remote valley has dodged death for the third time.

The attack by hundreds of angry wasps yesterday could have killed Janet Kelland, but she's bouncing back, just as she did on two earlier near-death experiences.

Kelland, 54, was climbing Mt Everest in the 1996 storm that took the life of New Zealand mountaineer Rob Hall and says she had been extremely lucky to survive.

"I really had no right to make it out of that storm", she said.

Her second escape from death happened five years ago while riding a horse on her property, when she was thrown off, breaking her neck and several bones in her back.

"The doctors really didn't think I would survive that – but I did."

She was airlifted to Waikato Hospital by the same pilot, Dan Harcourt, who transported her to Taumarunui Hospital yesterday. He flew her to Waikato Hospital after she was involved in another riding accident about two years ago, from which she also fully recovered.

"I think I've extended those nine lives, by about 20," she told Fairfax.

Speaking of yesterday's ordeal, Kelland said she didn't think she was going to make it out. The only thing that saved her was a determination to see "the love of her life" again.

She referred to the area in which she had been working as "no-man's land". She had left her quad bike in the bush and set off alone for an hour's walk along the fenceline. If she had not got out on her own, no-one would have discovered her.

Kelland was checking the electric fenceline of her farm, bordering Department of Conservation land in Opotiki Rd, about 30 minutes northwest of Taumarunui.

Then she stepped in a wasps' nest.

For almost an hour she battled hundreds of wasp stings, clambering down a massive steep slope to a creek to dislodge them.

She then staggered back up the slope and walked a further 40 minutes through bush to her quad bike and drove another 15 minutes to raise help.

"I was lucky, very very lucky – I shouldn't have survived that ordeal."

She had been wearing only a blue T-shirt and shorts when she disturbed the wasps. Within seconds she suffered more than 50 stings to her head and twice as many more all over her body.

Kelland thought the wasps were attracted to the colour of her clothing so whipped off her T-shirt and rolled on the ground in the bush to dislodge the insects.

"I've never, ever seen so many wasps before. They just covered my clothing and my body – layers of them, stinging constantly.

"I was pulling handfuls of wasps from my hair, it was incredible – they just went on, and on, and on."

The pain made it difficult for her to walk, but she knew if she stopped, that would have been it.

"It was like being stabbed a thousand times by sharp knives, the pain was really intense – there was no letup.

"I actually didn't think that I could have made it out yesterday, but then I knew if I didn't get out, no-one would have been able to find me."

She tried calling 111 on her cellphone, but couldn't get any reception. After reaching the top of the ridge, Kelland painfully and slowly made her way back to the quad bike where she was finally able to contact St John Ambulance by cellphone.

Told she must have the strength of an Amazon to have survived, Kelland said she had met "the love of her life" – a Te Awamutu dairy farmer named Mike in October – and the thought of him kept her going.

While being flown to hospital, she kept saying, over and over, again, "I love you, Mike, I love you, Mike."


Waikato Times