Most people associate bee stings with pain, but to Phil Gerigscott the sting of a honey bee could be saving his life.
A bit of background
Phil, who was raised in the suburbs of Chicago, moved to Oregon about three years ago with his wife Emma, dog and Pete the parakeet. Emma earned her MFA a the Oregon College of Art and Craft. (OCAC is now closed.)
By day Phil Gerigscott is the manager of the Portland ReStore. He’s been with the ReStore for over two years.
By night Phil is an artist, illustrator, painter and cartoonist, to be specific. He’s the talent behind Willamette Week’s “Ope.”
“It’s about a possum and their existential musings,” Phil explained. “For two years I’ve been doing the strip for Willamette Week, but I’ve been making comics and cartoon since I was five.
Now, back to the bee thing
Here’s another unusual thing about Phil Gerigscott: Bees sting him so he can be pain-free. That sounds like an oxymoron, but let me explain.
About seven years ago while camping on an island in Michigan, Phil contracted Lyme disease – a debilitating infection that results in severe chronic pain for many.
“It’s excruciatingly uncomfortable and painful,” Phil explained. “Some people do die of organ failure, but more often it just makes life miserable.”
Phil was treated with various strains of antibiotics, but he just wasn’t getting any better, and the medication was also taking a toll on his body. Natural medicine helped a bit, but Phil said he was far from healthy.
After hearing about bee venom therapy from concerned family, friends, and NPR podcast and then, when traditional treatments failed, his doctor.
Phil explained it this way. “It kind of felt like a race between what was going to kill me first: the antibiotics or the Lyme disease. So I realized it was time to try Plan B.”
[Disclaimer: “Let it be known I’m not a doctor, and if you’re going to try this on yourself make sure you have an EpiPen handy.” Phil Gerigscott]
With a brief beekeeping apprenticeship under his belt, Phil established a hive in his backyard. In peak season (June-July) that hive houses about 50,000 honey bees.
Phil breathes into a mason jar and places the jar at the entrance to the hive. The bees sense their is an intruder and come out to curiously inspect the jar.
Cap the jar with a mesh lid.
Phil wets down the bees wings with a few squirts of water.
He uses needle nose pliers to pick up one bee by the wings and then place the bee along his spine, where the bee will then sting.
(“It’s sort of an acupuncture method…I’ve gotten pretty flexible. I can get along the whole spine.”)
Repeat with 18 bees, for 18 stings. (The bee dies after one sting.)
Phil follows this procedure three times a week, for a total of 50-60 stings a week. “It takes me 10 minutes tops. I’ve gotten pretty efficient,” he said.
Initially Phil would get “insanely itchy” welts where the bees sting, and he still has scarring along his spine, but he believes his histamine reaction has settled down since then, and he is no longer uncomfortable.
Phil says he is eternally grateful for the lives the honey bees give him during his therapy.
“I haven’t harvested honey from them the past year because I care more that they’ll make it through the winter and that I’ll continue to have bees to sting myself with [rather] than the honey. So I’ve been letting them keep all of their honey through the winter in hopes that it will just create a stronger colony,” he said.
Prepping for the holidays – a tip from Phil
Phil can tell you that the holidays have hit the ReStore! They bring exciting Christmas buys, including holiday decorations, home goods, and DIY supplies if you’re crafting a handmade gift, or gifting a repair job. ReStore also has gift cards for the DIYer on your list.
“If you’re going to make room for new Christmas presents in your house, it’s probably a good idea to get rid of some [perfectly good] old things before,” Phil said. “Consider the ReStore. You don’t need an appointment to donate!”
‘Ope’ is often very relatable to the sides of people that are full of self doubt, societal angst, yet enjoy a good laugh at the same time–at themselves, at society, everything.” (Now you’re getting a real glimpse into Phil’s quirky alter ego.)