‘The Mediclinic event team is the reason I’m still alive’

Posted on 9 February 2017

As Sean Hanekom approached the end of Stage 3 of the 2013 Absa Cape Epic, he felt a sharp pain on his arm. It was a bee sting, which for most riders would have been no more than a minor irritation. For Sean, however, it was something far more serious.

It was a standard in-and-out stage – or as ‘standard’ as it gets on the Cape Epic: a 92km figure eight, starting and ending at Saronsberg Wine Estate in the Tulbagh Valley, with 1 950m of climbing in between. ‘It was quite a hot day,’ Sean recalls. ‘Coming down the mountain, about 2km from the end, we hit some singletracks and I got stung on my left bicep, right on the vein. It couldn’t have been at a worse spot or a worse time. We’d been riding for eight hours, it was 35 degrees plus, and the blood was flowing through my body at a hell of a rate. I just turned to my riding partner and said: Bee!’

Knowing he was allergic to bee stings, Sean had packed an EpiPen and antihistamines. Not wanting to waste time, and assuming the antihistamines would do the job, he didn’t use the EpiPen. ‘I just took some antihistamines, got back on the bike and carried on going,’ he says. But quite soon afterwards he started to feel strange. ‘I said to Craig [McHendrie, his riding partner], There’s a problem: we need to get to the finish quickly.’

As soon as they did, Sean dropped his bike and staggered up to the Mediclinic medical tent. There, he told race doctor Jann Killops what had happened. ‘She took me straight to the ICU facility at the back,’ Sean says. ‘I thought that was a bit over the top. Then they started putting all sorts of monitoring devices on me. I felt no pain; just very drowsy. I had no idea how serious it was.’

Dr Killops confirms that Sean arrived at the medical tent in a severely compromised condition. As a result, he required multiple doses of adrenaline and resuscitation. He was then transferred to the Critical Care Unit at Mediclinic Panorama, where he received expert care from Dr Marius Wasserfall and his team.

‘In true Cape Epic spirit, Sean called me 48 hours later to say he’s being discharged and asked if he may get back on his bike and continue riding,’ Dr Killops laughs.

‘We were delighted with his recovery. He now often speaks about his experience to educate people about the dangers of allergies and why it’s essential to carry adrenaline if they suffer from a life-threatening allergy,’ she adds.

Four years on, Sean is fit, strong and preparing for the 2017 Cape Epic. ‘There’s a scar on my arm where I got stung,’ he says. ‘I’m planning a tattoo there to celebrate surviving this experience on the Cape Epic. I still don’t know exactly what Dr Killops and the Mediclinic team did that day, but I do know they’re the reason I’m still alive.’

Published in Events

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