Sep 142011

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?

Photo by Frank Gourley

Photo by Frank Gourley

Or was it the anticipation of the next day’s events, namely, my wedding?

Photo by Sean Davis

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.

Photo by Mr. Reeftraveler

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.

Villa Marrakech - Playa Langosta, Costa Rica

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….

Photo by Sean Davis

Photo by Frank Gourley

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!

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  2 Responses to “Things That Sting in the Water”

  1. This just happened to me last week in Punta Islita. The hotel staff was hesitant to do much other than arrange for transport to a private doctor in Samara. The ray actually whipped and slashed into the back of my right ankle. The gash was deep and required internal stitches on my achilles tendon and 12 stitches to sew up the outside. It took 4 hrs to see the doctor, by that time I was writhing in pain. The poor van driver was doing his best on the bumpy road to Samara while listening to me moan and cry. Luckily, the doctor in Samara was awesome! He did everything right. My wound is healing great and I made it back to the states with one hell of a story and a scar to back it up. I am now planning my tattoo of a stingray with my scar as the tail. I figure I’ve earned it as a badge of courage!

    • You must be my long lost “Stingray Sister”. Sounds like your injury was more gruesome than mine. Ouch! The stingray is now my spirit animal, and it sounds like you feel the same way.

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