It was a beautiful day to be in the light blue warm waters of Clearwater Beach: September 27th, a sunny Friday afternoon, and my 24th birthday. I was with two of my favorite people in the world: my sister, Monikka, and my best friend, Dana. We spent most of our beach day in the water because it was just that hot. We were actually playing catch for most of that time with a little beach ball we picked up at Walgreens on our way to the beach. At a certain point, we decided to go back to the beach and layout while listening to some music. Dana found an awesome playlist called The Sound Bar on Apple Music and we just jammed out and relaxed for a while.
When it came time to cool off in the water again, we grabbed the beach ball and hauled into the water. Dana and Monikka couldn’t have been more than a foot away from me when I felt something sharp grab my foot… or seemed like it. I felt a type of tingling pain shoot up my leg into my hip and really couldn’t understand what had just happened. My sister asked what happened and I said I must have gotten bit by something. I showed her my bloody foot while constantly saying “ow.” As I attempted to explain how it felt, Monikka assumed I was stung by a jellyfish because we were all just unaware of what type of marine life was at Clearwater Beach. My sister grabbed my hand and walked me to shore where she could see my foot bleeding and walking got harder for me due to the throbbing pain in my leg.
Maybe It’s Just a Cut?
I sat on my beach towel by my chair and asked Dana to just clean out the wound as I calmed myself. That’s when this Canadian man approached us and said that I was definitely stung by a jellyfish and pointed out that there was a purple flag out at the beach. Apparently the purple flag indicates dangerous marine life. None of the three of us had a clue–Monikka lives in Florida and Dana frequently visits. We all just knew something was wrong for sure. This kind gentlemen pointed us in the direction of the fire station conveniently located about 60 yards away from where we were on the beach. Monikka and I headed there and Dana stayed behind to keep watch of our belongings on the beach.
Firemen Saved the Day
Once we got to the fire station, I was still in pain but had calmed myself down to explain what happened. We walked in to interrupt the firemen eating dinner–I felt so bad–but they knew right away what had happened. All I said was, “I think I was stung by something.” This (very attractive) fireman asked me if I felt a tingling pain going up my leg and, when I confirmed, told me that I was stung by a stingray.
Getting Into Hot Water
How they treat this was pretty interesting to me. All you have to do is stick your foot (or affected area) into a bucket of extremely hot water. Simple, right? Not so much. Now I have a pretty high tolerance for pain, but I did give my sisters hand a painfully tight squeeze as I submerged my foot in the water. You do get used to it after a while… Until they make you switch your foot to a hotter bucket of water since yours cooled down. They firemen were nice enough to splash cold water into the bucket for a little bit of comfort, though. The point of the hot water is to pull out the toxins that the barb of a stingray injects you with when it stabs you.
The Worst Part?
In reality, it wasn’t all that bad–it was mostly uncomfortable. In 90 degree weather mixed with humidity, it isn’t very pleasant stepping your foot into hot water. I was seriously sweaty (more so after the hot water) and anxious and in front of all of these firemen while in a bikini. However, it is crazy that the hot water draws the toxins out that way. I could feel the tingling go away from my hip down to my ankle as if it was was water rolling down my leg. It really didn’t take long to feel a difference. I maybe soaked my foot for an hour or so.
As we were leaving the fire station, they advised me to keep an eye on the wound because sometimes the barb can break off in the wound. Also, they told me to expect to be in pain because it is like a stab wound. I wasn’t in pain at all by the time I was leaving, but it was likely due to the skin being so irritated around my foot and ankle that I wasn’t focused on the pain of the wound. Over the next couple of days, I did notice some bruising and that is all it felt like to me: just a bruised foot. I still couldn’t wait to go back to the beach!
Telling This Story to Floridians
Before we left the fire station, on of the firemen told us we should check out the place near by called the Palm which is a restaurant/bar right on the beach and semi-next door to the fire station. When we went in, we told one of the employees what happened and I she immediately said, “You didn’t do the shuffle?” And that was the first of many times I heard that the rest of the trip. I suppose it is just common knowledge in Florida. Some of the people that were on the beach and saw what happened ended up being at the Palm, as well, and were concerned about me. They came over to hear what happened and give me well wishes before concluding with, “Don’t forget to do the shuffle!” A few minutes later, we went back to the beach and “shuffled” into the water.
Apparently, you are supposed to shuffle into the water because you will kick up the sting rays and they will move. What had likely happened in my situation was walking into the ocean and stepping right on the stingray. They sting you as their defense mechanism. Obviously, if they feel threatened by you stepping on them, they will think you are a predator and “sting” you with their stinging spine (barb). Again, none of us ever knew this information before. SO, when people near the beach say do the shuffle, they aren’t talking about a dance…
Once I Returned Home
Everyone kept saying I, at least, have a good story about my 24th birthday. I couldn’t agree more… People at work were genuinely shocked and then would tell me their crazy beach stories–it really created a lot of good conversation. I have never had anything like this happen to me before, so it was definitely surprising. People would ask if I was okay and what it felt like now. I would respond by telling them it felt just like a bruise.
That was up until the Saturday after I got back and began to feel feverish and dizzy at work. I didn’t think much of it, but I eventually checked my foot. Before work, my foot looked fine–nothing but a bruise and what looked like a little scrape. Once I looked at my foot at work, it had swollen up and was red and splotchy. Actually, I could barely put my shoe back on after removing it. I ended up having to go to urgent care the next day because the red area grew and the swelling increased.
The doctor prescribed some antibiotics and told me to take it easy, maybe stay off of my feet for a while. Well, I work on my feet, so that kind of went by the wayside. For the next 48 hours, my symptoms of infection actually got worse–even while taking antibiotics. I decided to go back into the doctors to see what was going on the next day and just continued soaking my foot in Epsom Salt. The next day, there was a huge difference and my foots swelling was going way down. Just goes to show that sometimes it gets worse before it gets better.
2 Weeks Later
I am doing very well now (minus this awful cold), and my foot is back to being just bruised across the top and less swollen. These antibiotics are really doing the trick! I am grateful for being so well taken care of at the fire station on Clearwater Beach and at the doctors here at home. And, hey, it is a pretty good story! I don’t hold any resentment and can’t wait to be back in the ocean soon! Next time I will be more aware!
The nice firemen at the station told me it is so common to be stung by a stingray! They, actually, told me that I wasn’t the first one they treated that day and said I wouldn’t be the last. So…
DO THE SHUFFLE!
It could keep you from having the same experience I did!
Have any of you had something like this happen in the ocean?
Let me know in the comments!