Not worth the risk

Port Douglas & Mossman Gazette - - NEWS - RICHARD KOSER koserr@tpd.newsltd.com.au

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.”

Photo by ALI­SON GE­ORGE

Once stung: Chloe and jack Le­wandrowski

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