Irukandji Jellyfish Sting
Irukandji, scientific name Carukia Barnesi
The Irukandji, a small jellyfish with a bell approximately 2cm in diameter is responsible for the unusual and dramatic syndrome observed following stings commonly known as Irukandji Syndrome. The Irukandji from its peanut sized body has a single retractile tentacle ranging from 50 to 500 mm long, hanging from each of the four corners of its bell. Unlike most other species of jellyfish all parts of the Irukandji can sting and not just the tentacles.
The initial sting of the jellyfish is usually not very painful. However about 5 to 45 (in my case 10) minutes after being stung, the person starts to have a severe reaction, including backache, headache, shooting pains in their muscles, chest and abdomen. They may also feel nauseous, anxious, restless and begin vomiting. In rare cases the victim suffers pulmonary oedema (fluid on the lungs) which could be fatal if not treated or complete heart failure.
The below articles are extracts from a small selection of the many publications which appeared after my ordeal with the deadly Irukandji Jellyfish whilst working as a diver in the Great Barrier Reef in Australia.
Once the story of my survival emerged a few television companies approached me to feature in there programs. I have starred in "The Big Sting" which was filmed by the BBC Natural History Unit for Discovery Animal Planet America, and I was also interviewed for Bravo's "World of Pain" series.
"23-year-old diver Tim Saxon... defied death after being stung by the lethal Irukandji jellyfish while diving on the Great Barrier Reef, Australia.
Saxon was rushed to hospital in a state of paralysis with his heart beating erratically as a result of the jellyfish venom. Unfortunately, no antidote has been developed to the Irukandji sting, which means that most victims go into full respiratory arrest and perish.
Australian doctors used a magnesium based intravenous drip to stabilise Saxon's condition. Marine biologist Maya Stranivasan was part of the team which developed the life-saving treatment. Coincidentally, she is a cousin of the stricken diver, but he only found out about her role in his recovery after he telephoned her from the hospital.
The tiny Irukandji jellyfish is regarded as one of the most poisonous in the world. As many as twenty people per year, mostly swimmers, are thought to be killed by it's venom. However, as many victims die of what appears to be a heart attack shortly after reaching the shore, an accurate estimate of numbers is difficult to come by."
By MARTYN SHARPE (14 March 2003)
BRIT Tim Saxon was saved with a revolutionary antidote developed by his COUSIN after being stung by a deadly jellyfish.
Tim, 23, was paralysed within minutes of being attacked while diving in Australia.
He looked set to die as his heart rate fluctuated wildly from almost nothing to 160 beats per minute.
But docs decided to try a new anti-venom on him as a last resort — and Tim responded immediately.
The next day Tim phoned his Australian cousin Maya Stranivasan to tell her of his ordeal.
And he was astonished to learn that marine biologist Maya, 30, had played a key role in developing the antidote against the tiny Irukandji jellyfish. IT worker Tim, of Barnsley, South Yorks, was visiting Queensland as part of a round-the-world trip.
His dad John, 52, said yesterday: “If it hadn’t been for the new antidote Tim would have slipped away. It’s thanks to Maya that he’s still alive. Maya’s been working on the project for a long time — but Tim didn’t realise until he rang.”
Three holidaymakers — including Brit Richard Jordan, 58 — have died in the past two years after being stung by Irukandji jellyfish in Australia. Tim was diving on the Great Barrier Reef, 35 miles off the Queensland coast, when he was attacked.
John said: “The jellyfish just brushed against his arm. It looked so beautiful that Tim was not worried — but paralysis set in within minutes.
“Doctors thought they were going to lose him.” Tim made a full recovery after three days in intensive care at Cairns.
Irukandji Sting - Cairns Post Newspaper
(10th March 2003)
"Irukandji Sting - A 23-year old British tourist was airlifted to Cairns Base Hospital with suspected Irukandji syndrome yesterday. The Queensland rescue helicopter picked the man up at Hastings Reef, about 50km northeast of Cairns, after noon. He was believed to have been stung by an Irukandji jellyfish"
Tim's Story - 'The Pain tore through my body'
Take a Break Summer Special (2006)
"Tim Saxon 26, nearly died three years ago when he encountered an Irukandji jellyfish while diving off the Great Barrier Reef in eastern Australia. 'I was working as a photographer filming tourists as the learnt to dive. I also gave them a talk about the dangers they might encounter,' says Tim. 'I usually wear a full-length wetsuit but on that day I picked up one with shorter arms and legs. I was returning to the boat to collect some more air when I thought I saw a small jellyfish, only the size of a peanut, which looked like an Irukandji. 'This is a dangerous species that normally stays close to the shore. We were 50 kilometres off shore, so I thought I was probably mistaken. The jellyfish brushed against my arm, but I didn't feel a sting.'
Tim climbed on to the boat and mentioned the incident to a colleague who suggested he waited before going back into the water. A few minutes later he collapsed. 'The pain kicked in immediately. It was as if my body was being held against a radiator what was getting hotter and hotter. I felt it flowing through my spine, and then it was everywhere and I started to vomit.'
A helicopter took Tim off the boat to the nearest hospital where he was given a new anti-venom treatment.
'I was lying in intensive care, watching my heartbeat slow down and wondering if I was going to survive. But once they got the treatment into my bloodstream, my heart rate improved, although I was still in a lot of pain.' Tim was in hospital for four days and off work for a month. His diver insurance covered all his treatment including the £7500 cost of the airlift.
Tim... adds, 'I was very unlucky. The Irukandji had been blown offshore by a storm. I've been stung many times by jellyfish, and it is usually about as painful as a bee or wasp sting. I was saved by the fact that I recognised what is was, and by the new treatment. But it didn't put me off going in the water. I kept pestering the doctor until I was allowed to dive again.'
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