I knew I was supposed to do it, but I didn’t. I’m referring to the Stingray Shuffle. The Stingray Shuffle is done by shuffling your feet when entering a sandy beach to avoid nestling stingrays. What caused my temporary lapse of common sense? Was it the adrenaline rush from the warm Costa Rican surf?
Or was it the anticipation of the next day’s events, namely, my wedding?
Whatever the cause, I failed to heed the warnings, and I paid the price – a barb in the foot. Envenomation. Pain! I knew right away that I had stepped on a stingray.
I hobbled back to shore as the pain intensified. The pain was now at an 8 on a 10 scale. My then future sister-in-law happens to be a scientist who had just taken a course in marine stingers. I found her sitting on the beach. After receiving assurances that this wasn’t fatal, I made my way back to the villa with my brother and sister-in-law. This was just after the wonderful Steve Irwin (the Crocodile Hunter) had passed away from a stingray envenomation, so you can imagine my fear.
My family immediately sprung into action. Thankfully, the villa staff had seen this before, and they knew what to do. After a semi incoherent exchange (I was in shock), where I tried to describe the species in butchered Spanish, one of the guys yelled “como manta?” “Si!, Si, Si”, I yelled back, “pero mas pequeno”. “Candelas!”, he shouted to his friend, who quickly returned with candles, matches and a bottle of vodka for disinfecting the wound. We were relying on Costa Rican field medicine, but I felt a kinship with these guys, and I sensed I was in good hands. Besides, the pain was excrutiating and I had no other choice.
The treatment for a stingray envenomation is intense heat, as hot as the victim can withstand (do not use boiling water). I lie in pain in the grass, as the guys poured dripping candle wax over the wound, then peeling it off. The process was repeated over and over and over. After an hour passed, we reverted to immersing my foot in extremely hot water. This lasted for 3-4 hours.
Finally, I started feeling human again. My foot was twice its normal size, but I managed to hobble down the aisle the next day to meet my groom at the altar. Thankfully, I had planned to get married barefoot….
Have you ever been stung by a stingray or jellyfish? In addition to the stingray sting, I’ve had three major jellyfish stings. I guess you could say I’m a magnet for marine stingers!