They should have got help sooner
A BOXING Day reef trip turned into a living nightmare for an American tourist after he was stung by an irukandji.
Mark Lopez, 42, spent three days in intensive care at Townsville Hospital on a magnesium drip to treat irukandji syndrome.
His girlfriend Michelle Currie said she and Mark had been snorkelling on John Brewer Reef with a Sunferries tour when he was stung about 1.15pm Tuesday.
Ms Currie said she grew deeply concerned for Mark when she saw him suffering excruciating pain.
‘‘He experienced a stinging feeling all over his face, right down to his feet,’’ Ms Currie said. ‘‘He was cramping in the legs and back.
‘‘He started throwing up as soon as he got out of the water. He was going through excruciating pain, he was just not himself, you could see it in his eyes.’’
Ms Currie said staff had immediately doused Mark’s sting with vinegar.
‘‘It was a big swollen red welt, they said it looked like a bluebottle sting.’’
Ms Currie said the welt went down when Stingoes was applied, but Mark’s pain did not subside.
‘‘They kept saying it was a bluebottle sting, another staff member said it might have been a moustache jelly fish.’’
But despite Mark’s obvious pain, Ms Currie said no attempt was made to get him to medical attention.
Mark remained on the boat with the rest of the tour group until they reached MagneticIsland, where the rescue helicopter collected him.
‘‘They gave him magnesium as soon as he got on the helicopter and the relief was immediate.’’
Mark was airlifted
to Townsville Hospital where he remained on a magnesium drip in intensive care until yesterday afternoon.
Ms Currie is outraged that her partner was left on the boat for three hours without professional medical care.
‘‘I don’t know why they didn’t get him off — or come and collect him sooner.
‘‘The staff did everything they could with what they had on the boat but I just feel they should have got h i m t o me d i c a l h e l p quicker.’’
Ms Currie said she hadn’t been warned about the potential threat of stingers and other swimmers hadn’t been warned even after Mark was stung.
‘‘To look down in the water to see all those people still swimming when they know there is irukandji in the water. . . ’’
Ms Currie said she had not heard the tour guides advise them to wear stinger suits.
She said she thought staff should be better trained to recognise irukandji syndrome.
Sunferries general manager Mark McKeon defended the actions of his staff.
‘‘All of our staff are trained. Three people were with him at all times, including a qualified medicwe have on the boat,’’ Mr McKeon said.
‘‘The signs when he got out of the water indicated he had been stung by a bluebottle.’’
Mr McKeon said two other people were stung at the same time as Mark.
‘‘Two others both got stung and it was exactly the same burn mark.
‘‘They all had similar looking stings, red burns that staff identified as most likely a bluebottle sting. They treated them with vinegar and Stingoes. The other two jumped straight back in the water.
‘‘All the initial indications to the crew were that it was a bluebottle sting.
‘‘We monitored him constantly and all of his vital signs were good. He had a perfect heart rate.’’
Mr McKeon said the tourist was immediately taken to the medical centre on MagneticIsland when the tour ended.
Mr McKeon said Sunsea cruises had a procedure in place to reach medical care if the situation was deemed an emergency.
‘‘If we do have an emergency situation we will go straight to Palm Island and get the helicopter to meet us there.’’
Mr McKeon said the American tourist had chosen not to wear a stinger suit.
‘‘Everyone is advised there may be stingers and to wear a sun-suit for protection against both the sun and to help protect against stingers.’’
STUNG . . . Mark Lopez, whose irukandji sting was mistaken for a bluebottle sting, with girlfriend Michelle Currie