Not worth the risk
IT’S that time of year again.
The weather gets warmer, the wind swings around to the north and all of a sudden there are jellyfish everywhere.
While stinger nets provide protection from the box jellyfish chironex fleckerii, they don’t stop smaller critters getting through.
Wonga Beach couple Jack and Chloe Lewandrowski have both suffered irukandji syndrome, brought on by the tiny carukia barnesii or one of its relatives.
For Chloe, the trouble started one December day on a reef boat, where she was working as a snorkel guide.
She was helping passengers out of the water when she felt a sting on the back of her neck.
“It was just a little sting,” she said, “but back on board, my tongue started to swell up and I got pins and needles.
“I went to change, and the pain hit me so hard I passed out.”
Luckily, Chloe doesn’t remember much else: the emergency dash to the Quicksilver pontoon, the morphine injections, the helicopter ride to Mossman hospital.
“Every time I woke up, the pain was intense,” she said.
“It would hit me like a wave, in my stomach, my back, and then I would pass out again.
“People say it’s worse than having a baby.”
Jack and Chloe are both keen spearfishers, but Chloe spent six months out of the water after her incident.
These days, she won’t go into the water at any time of year without a full-length wetsuit.
“I went a bought a new suit, which covers me from head to toe. I can’t get stung on the back of the neck again,” she said.
“I never ever want to go through that again.”
Hubby Jack, however, isn’t such a wuss.
Yeah, he got stung. Okay, he ended up in hospital. No, it wasn’t fun. And yes, he’s got a full-length suit. But he hasn’t really learned his lesson. “Sure, I’ll wear my wetsuit,” Jack said. “At least, I do when Chloe’s around.” World irukandji expert professor Jamie Seymour, who holds the world record for irukandji stings at 11, advises taking precautions at all times, whether it is ’stinger season’ or not.
“We need to learn to live with these animals,” professor Seymour said.
“The risk of being stung is incredibly small if the proper precautions are taken, such as swimming within stinger enclosures and wearing stinger suits.”
Once stung: Chloe and jack Lewandrowski