TAMPA (FOX 13) - A regular evening of yard work turned deadly when four yellow jackets stings killed a Tampa father over the weekend, his family said Wednesday.
John Clarke, 53, was using a Weed Eater in his front yard Sunday, and had no idea there was a nest of yellow jackets in the ground.
He also had no idea he was allergic to them.
"He came in the house and says, 'Julie, I got stung by some bees and it hurts really bad,'" Julie Clarke, John's wife, told FOX 13 News.
Julie said her husband started feeling numbness in his face and his breathing became labored. After about a half hour, John told his wife he wanted to go to the hospital, so Julie called 911.
"I realized, at this point, something was going very wrong," she said. "I was holding his hand and he was like, 'I love you.' And I was like, 'I love you too.' And just the way he, kind of like, settled in, it made me a little bit nervous," she said.
Julie believes, not long after that, her husband stopped breathing and she tried to provide CPR until paramedics arrived.
"I did all I could do. But he didn't know and I didn't know [that he was allergic]," she said.
Doctors tried to revive him, but weren't able to, and less than an hour after he was stung, John had died from anaphylaxis.
His family can barely process the loss.
"The keys are on the counter where he left them. His shirts that I folded earlier are stacked on his dresser," Julie said. "Everything was regular except he wasn't there and it was just hard to realize that he's just not coming back."
"I'd accept a heart attack," added Julie's father, Dave Kozlowski. "[But] a perfectly healthy, beautiful guy dead that quickly, and it's within an hour! He gets stung by the bee and less than an hour later, he's gone! You can't hardly believe something like that."
According to the National Institute of Health, John Clarke's case is incredibly rare; there are only about 50 deadly stings a year in the U.S.
FOX 13's Dr. Joette Giovinco said severe allergies like the one John had can develop at any time in a person's life.
"There is just this exception here, with these types of wasps and bees and insects, where that anaphalxis can occur very, very rapidly," she said.
Dr. Jo said epinephrine injectors can help in these cases, but the person would have to know in advance that he or she was allergic.
Julie said she is now worried that her 6-year-old daughter may also be allergic and plans on keeping a close eye on her.
In the meantime, she's just trying to prepare for life without her husband.
"He was a really, really sweet guy and just would do anything for anybody," she said. "He was really, really, really funny. He would always entertain my daughter. He was just all in when he'd play with her."
The family set up an online fundraiser to help them with expenses. https://www.gofundme.com/clarkefamily