Vivienne Hollis is warning people to be aware of hidden dangers in their own backyards after a wasp attack left her in anaphylactic shock and "lucky to be here".

The Arapohue woman said she has around 200 sites of stings on her body - more than 40 on her head, 50 on each leg and at least another 50 on her midriff.

Earlier this month Hollis was doing work in a native bush area on her lifestyle block in Arapohue, 16km south-east of Dargaville, when she came across a fallen, half dried epiphyte, also known as a widow maker.

"As I dragged it, it actually split open and this huge swarm of wasps flew out. I stumbled and ran with these stinging, clinging attackers."


She headed towards a water trough about 25 metres away to try to "drown, douse and detach" the wasps.

At the same time she was screaming out to her daughter Terraine Hollis, who was in the house about 200 metres away and had luckily opted to extend her visit by one more day.

Terraine was wearing headphones at the time, but in another stroke of luck heard some strange sounds and went to see what was going on.

"I was already swelling, I was having trouble breathing. I was unable to stand and I was going in and out of consciousness as well," Hollis said.

She said Terraine made her promise to stay in the recovery position and count out loud to 100 while she ran to call emergency services.

Terraine returned with the phone and had to put it halfway up a tree so it could get reception, while she kept speaking with the operator.

Hollis said she knew it was serious when the attending emergency services staff registered her blood pressure at 50 over 25 and called for a helicopter. A normal blood pressure is more than 120 over 80 and less than 140 over 90.

She was flown to Whangārei Hospital where she stayed overnight before being released the next day.


"It was nasty. I realised I'm actually very lucky to be here."

In the week that followed, she suffered with the excruciating itch from the hundreds of welts all over her body.

"I wanted to gouge out my skin to the bone to get rid of the itch pain."

She said now she is really good, the itch has disappeared and she is just covered in spots that look like chicken pox.

"I'd worked down in that area so much previously and I hadn't noticed wasps around. Sometimes there can be dangers hidden not far from your very own doorstep."

The 64-year-old had suffered two previous wasps attacks when she was a child, but had not suffered anaphylactic shock on those occasions. Now she carries an epi-pen with her.

She was full of praise for the emergency services who responded rapidly.

"I think for me, having been on the end of emergency services myself now, I've got a whole new respect for the critical care they provide."