Monster from the deep!

My daiughter had been given just 10 minutes to live...

Published by: Laura Hinton
Published on: 5th January 2011

Squeals of delight echoed along the riverbank from my daughter Rachael, 11, as she splashed about in the water with her brother Sam, 13.
Watching them from my deckchair, I smiled as they chased each other. It had been sunny when we’d got up that morning, so me and my hubby Geoff, 46, had taken the kids to a campsite on the Calliope River in Queensland, west Australia, for the afternoon.
We were an hour from home and two miles from the nearest road – it was bliss, and the kids were having a great time. But all of a sudden, Rachael’s giggles sounded different.
Was she… squealing in pain?! Jumping out of my seat, I saw her.
She was thrashing about in the water, arms and legs flying around wildly, and Sam trying to pull her out the water.
Her legs looked like they were tangled up in some kind of weed from the bottom of the river.
But why wasn’t he pulling it off her? ‘Mum, Dad!’ he shouted. ‘Help!’
It was only when I got closer I saw it – the huge, jelly-like mass of tentacles, wrapped around Rachael’s legs.
A jellyfish… in a river?!
But this wasn’t any ordinary jellyfish. This cloudy blue, wobbly mass had tentacles at least 10ft long. They twisted around her left leg up to her thigh and, as they crawled slowly up her arms and tummy, she flung herself about, shrieking in agony.
‘Oh my God!’ I cried, reaching to pull the monster off her.
Suddenly, an elderly man who’d been setting up his caravan nearby was at my side. ‘It’s a box jellyfish,’ he shouted. ‘Don’t touch her… I’ll get some vinegar!’
My blood ran cold. A box jellyfish… This was one of the world’s deadliest creatures.
I’d lived in Queensland all my life, and had grown up with horror stories about these sea monsters. Their deadly poison takes five to 10 minutes to seep into the body – they’d killed dozens of people in Australia.
My beautiful daughter’s life was on the line. If we didn’t get medical help within the next 10 minutes, we knew she’d die.
‘Mummy,’ she screamed, her blue eyes pleading with me. ‘I… can’t… breathe.’
‘It’s okay darling, I’ll get it off you,’ I told her as calmly as possible. If we poured vinegar over the tentacles it’d stop the jellyfish from releasing more poison, and we could pull it off Rachael.
Seconds later, the elderly man was back with a bottle of the stuff and some paper towels – that way we could get the thing off her without getting stung ourselves.
Wildly, I tore the slimy monster off my daughter’s body, imagining the poison already travelling through her blood. ‘Mummy… am I going to die?’ sobbed Rachael.
‘I promise you’re going to be fine, sweetie,’ I told her. But the sight of her now black and purple legs set my heart racing. ‘We’re getting help, trust me.’
Geoff scooped her into his arms – as Rachael’s eyes rolled backwards, and she fell silent.
We needed help, fast! As we raced to the car, leaving Sam with the elderly man and his wife, I noticed her lips had turned blue.
Geoff ran to the driver’s seat, I jumped in the back. ‘She’s not breathing!’ I screamed. ‘She
needs the kiss of life. I-I can’t…’
The thought of doing it on my daughter’s lifeless body was just too much. Thank God for Geoff. He slammed on the brakes, and we swapped places.
As I floored the accelerator, all I could hear was him breathing regularly into our daughter’s mouth, pumping at her chest…
Desperately, I punched in the number for the emergency services on my mobile. But I couldn’t get a signal! ‘Oh God!’ I screamed.
We were still a mile from a road. At this rate, we’d never make it. I tried my phone again, my heart leaping at the sound of the dial tone.
‘Help!’ I shrieked. ‘My daughter’s been stung by a box jellyfish. The hospital’s 10 miles away, we’re at the Calliope River.’
‘An ambulance will meet you at the next service station,’ the operator told me. ‘It should be no more than two minutes away.’
Finally reaching the highway, I weaved through traffic at 100mph and screeched up alongside the waiting ambulance.
Suddenly, defibrillators, needles and breathing equipment were appearing. Me and Geoff stepped back, helpless. ‘We don’t have any antivenene,’ shouted a medic.
‘You have to be joking!’ I yelled. They didn’t have the medication to counteract the affect of the poison rushing through my daughter’s body.
‘Call another ambulance,’ he ordered his colleague.
I clung to Geoff. It was only a couple of minutes away, but it seemed like an eternity.
Finally, the drugs were injected into Rachael and the ambulance was ready to move her.
‘I’ll get Sam, and meet you at the hospital,’ Geoff said.
So I climbed in the ambulance with Rachael… and watched as the poison really took hold. She let out a bloodcurdling scream, arching her back against the pain. She was so delirious, she had to be sedated. The welts on her skin were blistering, it looked like her left leg had been barbecued.
At nearby Gladstone Hospital, they put her into a medically- induced coma. ‘I have to warn you, our last five box jellyfish victims didn’t survive,’ the doctor said, solemnly.
‘No,’ I replied. ‘Rachael’s a fighter… and I promised her she’d get better.’
But looking at my daughter in her hospital bed, she seemed so weak. The raised, red-raw stings made her look as if she’d been whipped.
A day passed and Rachel didn’t stir.
Would she live?
Another day went by. I prayed for a sign.
Finally, with a great gasp of breath, she came round! Me and Geoff couldn’t believe it.
She was confused and still in pain, but alive. ‘You’re a miracle!’ I sobbed, clutching her hand as she braved the pain of her blisters being bathed and bandaged every day.
If it hadn’t been for Sam getting her out of the water so quickly… the stranger with the vinegar… Geoff giving her the kiss of life….
Somehow, in just two weeks, she was ready to leave hospital. We have no idea how she survived when the odds were against her.
There’s no explanation as to why the box jellyfish was so far upstream, either. They normally live near the mouth of a river. All we can think is it got caught in a current.
Rachael still has the scars, some are fading but many will be with her for life. For now, it doesn’t bother her.
‘The doctor said I should be proud of them,’ she giggles.
I can’t help but smile. I’ll always appreciate the sound of her laughter, because I know how close she was to falling silent, for ever.
Ruth Macklin, 45, Boyne Island, Queensland, Australia