The Real Story of a Sting
While fatalities - we're told - tell us about the severity and scale of a problem, grabbing the headlines with the shocking statistics of war, road, disaster, disease, massacre; those figures can remove us from the awful lingering reality of the fact that for every death there is more often than not a great number of injuries.
While lives are tragically ended, other victims are forced to continue their life suffering the effects of the incident with painful wounds, life-altering disability, physical hardship and mental scars.
In terms of numbers - as has been discussed in this blog (Numbers Aren't Everything) - deaths from jellyfish are thankfully not up there. Not even close. This does not make it any less a problem for those affected. You need look no further than the above image to see that a jellyfish sting is serious.
The numbers that give further meaning to this particular sting are the 91 stitches in 2 surgeries, the 6 weeks of hospital treatment, the endless days of pain, the months of worry, the years of healing.
The story of this sting which occurred on the beach at Cha-Am, Thailand is typical insofar as the unsuspecting victim suffered intense pain and fear coupled with unfathomable incompetence from a medical professional who simply should have known and done better.
The incident, that only recently came to light, took place in September 2008 and while it is cold comfort to this victim who today carries horrible scars, thankfully due to a dedicated team effort in Thailand there have been ongoing improvements in medical knowledge and training that hopefully will avoid this kind of outcome in the future - though there remains a long way to go.
What is certain is that jellyfish stings in Thailand and the region are common and the best prevention is being prepared.
We talk about it a lot but something like that endured by this poor woman could have been avoided by wearing a lycra suit - even just a long sleeve rashie top like those commonly worn across Australia that are readily available. A full length suit obviously provides better protection with legs being particularly vulnerable.
Get your tan - if you must - when sunbathing on the sand then cover yourself, as you would if SCUBA diving, when you enter the water.
Having a bottle of vinegar with you at the beach is a cheap investment in safety that is the first line of defence against a jellyfish sting - splash it liberally over the sting area for at least 30 seconds to stop the jellyfish tentacle from injecting more potentially lethal venom.
The good news is that it's unlikely you will end up a headline. However this humble little blog will continue to write a few to help make sure this continues - as we know 'Stings Happen!'