Cedar Hill police officer still battling effects of yellowjacket stings

April 9, 2023
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Cedar Hill police officer Jim Valenti (center) attended a Mansfield City Council meeting to help recognize his daughter and the paramedics who saved his life after he was stung by yellowjackets. (Photo courtesy of Jim Valenti)

By Amanda Rogers

Mansfield Record

Jim Valenti said he was dying – and he was right.

Valenti, a Cedar Hill police officer, knew he was severely allergic to wasps. When he was attacked by three yellowjackets while mowing his yard, he immediately knew there was a problem. But he didn’t anticipate that his heart would actually stop.

Valenti came home Sept. 30 and decided to mow his lawn in the Remington Ranch subdivision. His wife, Madonna, was using the weed eater, while his daughter Nicole Biddle was working in the garden.

“I did two swipes in the backyard and ran over a yellowjacket nest,” Valenti said. “I saw a couple come out. Two bit me on the neck and one on my right ear. I shooed them off and told my wife ‘I just got stung.’ She gave me a couple of Benadryl, but I still wasn’t feeling right.”

It wasn’t Valenti’s first encounter with stinging insects.

“In 1992, I had gotten stung (by a wasp),” he said. “About 15 minutes later, I passed out and woke up in an ambulance.”

Since then, he has been stung by fire ants, but those bites were quickly dispatched with a dose of Benadryl. Still, after the incident with the wasp, Valenti has carried an Epipen – just in case.

And this was the day he needed it.

“I grabbed two Epipens, administered one on my right thigh,” he said. “Everything was closing in and going black. I threw my Epipen to my wife and said ‘Call 911, I’m dying.’

“I went down on the ground and was immediately in cardiac arrest,” Valenti remembers.

While his wife called 911, his daughter started CPR.

“My daughter hadn’t been CPR certified since she was 18, she’s 39 now,” he said.

His 12-year-old grandson, Maddox Brooks, directed the paramedics when they arrived from Station 1.

“When they got here, I still was not breathing on my own,” Valenti said. “I was in full cardiac arrest. My heart had stopped. They intubated me and got my heart started.”

When Valenti arrived at Methodist Mansfield Medical Center, the medical team was able to stabilize him, but they couldn’t get him to wake up. They used hyperthermic therapy, lowering his body temperature, to slow down the cells in the brain and allow the body to heal.

“I was in that for 72 hours,” he said.

By Oct. 3, he had began to make sounds. That’s when police officers from around the area gathered in the parking lot at the hospital to show support.

On Oct. 4, Valenti woke up.

“When I woke up I couldn’t feed myself,” he said. “I spent 11 days in the hospital.”

He was released on Oct. 10, his 54th birthday. Valenti said it’s amazing that he survived at all.

“I had a 2 percent to 9 percent chance of living,” he said. “There’s a 60 percent chance of permanent brain damage if you have full cardiac arrest outside the hospital.”

Since then, he has received physical, occupational and speech therapy.

“My prognosis is good,” Valenti said. “I should be 80 percent to 100 percent in eight months to a year. My doctor said I am way ahead of where he thought I would be.”

Valenti returned to work for light duty and plans to be back to full capacity soon.

He praised the paramedics, nurses, doctors and, of course, his daughter for saving his life.

“I have two lifesaving awards in the last three years,” he said. “I have assisted in several CPR cases. It was so weird to be on the other side.”

And the yellowjackets? They didn’t go down without a fight.

“A friend sent Blue Line Pest Control of Midlothian to come and dig out the nest,” Valenti said. “The nest was a foot in diameter under the fence. And they chased the pest control people. On the Ring camera, you can see them running. Every day, the (yellowjackets) set off my Ring camera.”

But Valenti is done mowing.

“If I got stung again, there’s a 90 percent to 92 percent chance of not making it or having a repeat of what happened,” he said.

“I’ll never cut another blade of grass,” Valenti said.

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