The Tiny Stuff of Nightmares
When I was 5 or 6 years old, my parents took me for vacation to Hawaii. It was the first time I remember going someplace other than Disney World and the whole trip is full of wonderful memories, except for one fateful encounter that happened on Oahu. While playing on the beach, I strayed from my parents for just a few moments and happened to come across an amazing discovery. There, being washed in from the ocean was a beautiful iridescent balloon that looked like it was made from glass. I ventured closer to claim the fascinating treasure for my mom & dad and when I reached down to pick it up, my nightmare began.
Of course the balloon was nothing of the kind, but was in fact a Portuguese Man o’ War which had washed up on the beach. When I touched it I was immediately stung and ran screaming for my parents. I don’t remember much after that, but my parents tell the tale of how they rushed me to the local hospital where they spent the rest of the day in the emergency ward with their frightened son, in great pain as I dealt with being stung by one of the scariest creatures in nature.
That is unless you’ve encountered the tiny Irukandji jellyfish (pictured here) as did a man from north-east Queensland, Australia last week. The man thought he had taken the proper precautions by donning a full-length “stinger suit” which covers everything except the hands and face to protect against jellyfish stings. As fate would have it, he dove head first into the water and was immediately stung in the face. Since there is no antivenom, victims must endure excruciating pain, muscle spasms, vomiting and in some cases, death. Blood pressure can rise as high as 280 over 180. The little creatures are so deadly in fact that in 2002, two tourists were killed in two separate incidents of the coast of northeast Australia. All this from an animal no bigger than your thumb.
At last report the man was in serious condition at Mackay Base Hospital, 600 miles north of Queensland. I can only imagine what he’s going through right now and I wish him and his family well. Sitting at our computers, playing with our cell phones and watching TV, it’s sometimes easy to forget the awesome power of nature. We watch the Discovery Channel in HD and sometimes they even show us the amazing life cycles of these creatures, but few of us ever actually encounter them. Speaking from experience, I can honestly say I’d like to keep it that way.
Yup, I can definitely sympathize! I was stung twice by two Mediterranean jellyfish at the beginning of October (after being told by the lifeguard that “the brown ones didn’t sting”). Cue 10 hours of intense pain. The mark is still visible today.
I read up on them afterwards and found the same Wikipedia articles about the Portugese Man’o’war and the Irukanji. Amazing how these beautiful things can be so nasty!
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