They should have got help sooner

Townsville Bulletin - - Just Briefly - By JES­SICA JOHN­STON

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

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