Daughter helps save father after allergic reaction

OKEECHOBEE — As the public health preparedness planner of the Okeechobee County Health Department, Brian Sell has plenty of experience in preparing others for unexpected emergencies. But on the night of May 17 he found himself in an unexpected emergency of his own and some quick thinking by his 19-year-old daughter, Brilyn Sell, may have saved his life.

From left to right Okeechobee County public health preparedness planner Brian Sell, Brilyn Sell and Okeechobee County Health Department Safety Coordinator Tod Hardacre. Brilyn holds a certificate of achievement from the Community Emergency Response Team volunteer program. Photo by R. Marion.

The Sell family had just gotten back from the Purple and White game at Okeechobee High School, and Brian went back outside to grab something from his vehicle when he felt some kind of insect bite him. He wasn’t sure what kind of insect it was but according to Mr. Sell the bite was very painful and began itching. For all his life he hasn’t been allergic to anything, so he decided to take a Benedryl and hope the itching would recede after his shower.

After his shower, however, things took a turn for the worse.

“When he came out of the bathroom, I noticed his eyes had begun to swell shut,” said Brilyn Sell, “and his neck started drooping. He looked really swollen. That’s when I knew he was going into anaphylactic shock.”

Brilyn reported that her father’s lips had swollen so much that they began to crack and bleed. The speed at which the symptoms were progressing was also concerning.

“From the time he came inside to him coming out of the shower it had only been ten minutes,” explained Bryiln. “I knew that if it’s gotten this bad in just ten minutes, we can’t wait another ten minutes for an ambulance. So I put him into the car and called 911 as I started driving to Raulerson.”

911 operators were able to call ahead to Raulerson Hospital to inform them of the situation and allow them to prepare. Brian, who is also a unit coordinator for the Okeechobee County Medical Reserve Corps (MRC), credits Bryiln’s training in that very same program for saving his life.

“Brilyn recognized the symptoms right away,” said Mr. Sell. “She’s a really smart and bright kid and I have to believe her experience in the MRC prepared her for that moment. If we had hesitated a few minutes more, who knows what would’ve happened.”

Mr. Sell held a long career in the military as an airborne ranger, fighting in both Panama and the first gulf war. Which makes it all the more surprising that a simple bug bite could incapacitate him.

“Anything can happen, which is why I recommend people take the initiative and join the MRC or take a first aid and CPR class,” said Mr. Sell. “It can be a life saver. I should know, it just saved me.”

The Okeechobee MRC is a community-based volunteer unit comprised of local health care professionals. MRC units provide health professionals with an organized mechanism through which they can volunteer their time and skills to strengthen their communities by preparing for, and responding to large-scale emergencies. Community members without medical training can assist with administrative and other essential support functions as well, according to MRC unit leader Tod Hardacre.

“There’s always something to do,” said Mr. Hardacre. “Even if you feel like you’re not cut out for the medical aspects, we can use you to work phone lines during an emergency or for data entry or traffic control. There’s plenty to do.”

Mr. Sell now keeps an Epipen at home in case of another emergency.

Brilyn Sell (center, wearing white) along with other Medical Reserve Corps students learns how to place an injured person on a field litter. Photo by R. Marion.

“My dad always instilled the belief in me that I need to know how to take care of myself,” said Brilyn. “You can’t always depend on 911 to get there on time. So from a young age we were always helping with the MRC, or taking first aid and CPR classes. The MRC has allowed me take part in all of these programs, and if I hadn’t done it, then it’s my firm belief that night could’ve gone a lot worse and he could’ve died.”

To join the MRC you can visit www.servfl.com or call MRC unit coordinator Tod Hardacre at 863-462-5805.

Richard Marion is a staff writer and photographer at Lake Okeechobee News and can be reached at rmarion@newszap.com.

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