The Day I Met A Stingray

Growing up in Florida, the ONE thing you always did is shuffle your feet!  I can remember being nagged to not go running into the water, because I will inevitably get stung by a stingray.  As the years went on, I have gotten careless.  I mean, I haven’t been stung yet, so how likely is it that it will actually happen?

Well, two days ago, I received a much overdo introduction to a stingray…

So, here is my experience with it…what I did and what I shouldn’t have done and what you absolutely need to know if it ever happens to you!

I had just started an intermediate lesson.  The student had taken lessons about a year ago and was working on upwind riding and transitions.  I wanted to double check his skill level and make sure he remembered the basics.  So, we walked into the water to work on water relaunches with the kite.  As soon as I handed him the kite and he set it in the water, I took a step forward and felt a sharp pain in my foot.  It felt like a big crab had grabbed me and let me go quickly.  It was a violent, quick hit.  I immediately felt a lot of pain in the area, but took a second to recover my composure and continued with the lesson.

The student was able to relaunch the kite, so we walked back up onto the beach to size the straps on the board for him.  Once on the beach,  I noticed I was bleeding a lot.  Not wanting to be in the water bleeding this much, I called a friend over and asked if he could grab a first aid kit out of his car.  While he was doing that, I had the student go ahead and begin.  As he rode out and inevitably downwind, I followed him along the beach.  On his first tack, he crashed the kite and was having some difficulty getting it relaunched.  By the time he got too far down, he had drifted close to the beach.  I had him pull his safety to prevent him getting pulled too close to the dock and walk in.  I took the kite and attached it to me.  At this point, I could no longer walk.  My friend came back and walked down the beach with the first aid kit.  I sat down and told the student we would need to switch instructors.

My friend wrapped my foot to prevent any more sand getting into it while we made our way back up the beach.  He took the kite up the beach while the student and I went at a much slower pace.  Very shortly, Mike (my boss), found out what was going on and ran down and helped carry me off the beach.  When they got me into the car, the pain had traveled up to my knee.  At this point, it was clear that what I came into contact with was a stingray.

We drove to the Urgent Care Clinic on the island….a clinic that is advertised to be open 24 hours a day/7 days a week…they were closed.  I called the doctor on call only for him to tell me he was downtown and wasn’t sure when he would be done…maybe an hour?  After several minutes talking on the phone to someone who not only didn’t care, but told me it would cost $400…I decided maybe I didn’t need a doctor.  If you have never been to an urgent care clinic, know that you pay up front and make a claim with your insurance after.  When I hung up the phone, Chris told me he googled what to do on his phone and it said to use hot water.

We ended up at my friend’s house (The Paddison family) equipped with a cooler from the convenience store to hold the water, tylenol and a snickers (snickers was definitely a key ingredient)!  The relief from the hot water was immediate.  Within a few seconds, the pain vanished as the hot water neutralized the venom.  I soaked my foot for about two hours while I socialized with the Paddisons, ate pizza and drank wine (not a bad way to recover!).  After two hours, I felt well enough to take my foot out of the water and go home.

Post treatment for stings can be as important as the first aid provided right after the injury.  Sting ray barbs can hold a lot of bacteria that can cause a nasty infection.  So I applied neosporin and covered it for the first night.  The second day, my foot was still swollen (albeit much closer to its normal size than it was the previous day) and tender.  I decided to take the day off and just rested it.  I reapplied neosporin throughout the day.  Now, on my third day, I can barely tell where the puncture wound is, but am still keeping a close eye on it.

Overall, despite having to go through the pain from the actual sting, it was a good learning experience.  I had never considered what to do with a stingray sting (and mostly because I had never experienced it myself).  There are a few things I would recommend based on my experience:

1.  Keep a heat pack with you at all times if you are in an area where there are stingrays.  We all like to think we are invincible..but that isn’t the case.  This is also a good time to note that, if I had been alone, the situation would have been much more unpleasant (SO NEVER KITE BY YOURSELF!).

2. The sting gets progressively worse in the first 30-90 minutes, so expect this and prepare yourself for it.  As soon as you can get your foot into some hot water, the better.  The hotter the better (as long as it doesn’t burn you).  The heat neutralizes the venom.  If you don’t have access to water, any heat source will work, just be careful about burns.

3. If it’s bleeding…let it bleed.  By bleeding, you are pushing out the venom and bacteria that entered your body when you got stung.

4. Take an anti-inflammatory like Motrin as the injured area will swell from the sting.

5.  You can experience a puncture or a cut depending on how you get hit.  There is a chance that the barb can break off in your skin.  If this happens, it would be more beneficial to see a doctor (mostly to get yourself some antibiotics to fight off the infection that could set it).

6.  Take care after the injury to keep the area clean and apply topical antibiotic to further prevent infection.

If you begin experiencing severe symptoms, go see a doctor.  These steps are purely from my experience and it worked well for me.

That’s it for my experience with Mr. Stingray…!  When jellyfish season starts back up again, expect some more information for all of you on how to deal with a sting.

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