Tuesday, February 12, 2008

Don't Step On A Sting Ray

My brush with the Animal Kingdom happened just after helping a friend get their dingy through the first set of waves. They had a tough time getting in through the surf and had gotten rather wet so we offered to help get them out. Gene and I were on my way back to the beach in thigh deep water when I stepped on at least one sting ray. It hit my leg so hard I knew exactly what had happened. I made it to shore and rested on a nearby panga. Looking down at my ankle I could see a good amount of blood flowing out a hole just behind my ankle joint. I looked at the hole expecting to see a stinger sticking out, instead I could see about an inch and a half down into the wound. The ray actually hit me three times. Two hit bone and barely penetrated; the third hit gold.

Within minutes the pain was unbearable. Gene from Moody Blues came over to help me and put a very tight bandage over the hole. At that point I could no longer put weight or even touch the foot area because of the extreme pain. I knew we had to get back to our boat and figure out what to do. I only knew that I needed to soak it very hot water, but that wasn't going to happen anytime soon as we were across the bay and the trip over was a 30-45 minute ride. Gene and Susea took our dingy out through the surf. In the mean time I was still on the beach when an older Mexican man came over to see if there was any thing he could do. He even wanted to help carry me out through the surf to the dingy. It was a very nice gesture, but Gene had put his shoulder under mine and was getting me to the dingy on his own. I am not sure what I would have done without his help. Once in the dingy I thought about the 45 minute ride back to our boat. The wind and waves were still coming in fairly strong so we started to pound our way back to our home. Moody Blues stayed with us the whole way back in case help was needed. I tried to rest my leg on the pontoons of the dingy but the pain was too much to let my ankle touch a thing. I held my leg up with my hand and did the best I could. Of course I drove the dingy and kept my focus on the lights coming off our boat just ahead of us.

Moody Blues had sent the dingy from Destiny ahead to get on the VHF net to find out what to do. By the time we arrived at the boat Destiny (Gilly and John)had water boiling and 10 other cruisers standing by to help or just give advise. The net was humming, there were boats as far as 10 mile away in the next anchorage breaking in to give advise and offer help. In less than 5 minutes my ankle had been irrigated, cleaned, and checked for any signs of a broken off stinger or barbs. Everything seem positive so I put my foot in super hot water. Next, Pacific Voyager showed up with Barry and Pat prepared to do whatever needed to be done. I took a couple of pain pills and soon I started to feel some relief. Actually the pain pills barely took the edge off, it was the hot water that helped the most. Within minutes antibiotics were collected from nearby boats and a stinger remover kit was sent over just in case. The last bit of advice came from a cruiser who turned out to be a doctor. He asked if we had any papaya on board. When we said no he asked about Adolph's meat tenderizer. That we had. He said that papaya was the main ingredient and to make a slurry paste and put it on the wound. I tried it and oh boy did that add some new pain. We looked at the bottle and the first ingredient was salt. Ouch. I did it three times for as long as I could stand it, then I put it back into the hot water after each treatment. In about a half hour the pain started to subside. It had been four and a half hours since I had stepped on the ray. By the end of the fifth hour the pain was manageable. I was hoping the venom had run its course. My foot was the size of a football with little toes sticking out of the end. It hurt, but I could finally take it out of the water. I started taking the two sets of antibiotics and tried to go to sleep, it was after midnight. There was no way I could sleep and it made for a very long night.

The next morning a cruiser named Gerry came by to see my wound. Another boat had identified him as the doctor who told me about papaya. We discovered that the Adolph's must have work because most people have pain that lasts up to 12 hours. I couldn't imagine that! Gerry agreed on the antibiotics I was taking and said I needed to keep the wound open and draining for at least 5 days and no going in the water. I followed the doctor's orders (Gerry is an infectious disease doctor who practiced for the past 20 years in the Pacific Islands and coastal areas thanks to the navy) and and he stopped by every day to make sure I was ok.

It has been seven days now and my ankle is still stiff and sore. The wound is trying to close but there is still some weeping. I appear to have no infection and am on my way to recovery. We are not sure why the joint hurts but probably the stinger cut ligaments around the joint. I am sure it will get better and I continually thank all those who were there for me that night. They say the way to avoid a sting is to do the sting ray shuffle while walking on the beach. Ya, like I am going to remember to do that every time I get in the water while pushing my wheels and dinghy through the surf!The truth is it is a very rare thing to happen and go figure it was me. All is on the mend now and we are off to Manzanillo bay for a week or so. Warm winds, warm water, and sunshine---sure don't miss Oregon right now, but we do miss all of you!

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1 comment:

Crew of the Solstice said...

What an awful experience! We really feel for you. It puts our misadventures with injector pumps, transmissions, and autopilots in perspective. At least when those things break, it doesn't hurt.