Still waters

The beach continues to teach me lessons.

I skipped the gym one night recently and told myself I’d make up for it by going swimming. It was warm and I had cycled home, so I was pretty sweaty and looking forward to a cleansing dip. I walked down to the beach and was amazed by the stillness of the water. The water gently lapped at the shore. This is gonna be great, I thought to myself. No scary waves to knock me over, nothing to pull me out to sea. I found a spot without many rocks and waded in. I dunked my head a couple times until I felt cooler. Then I figured it was time to get some of that exercise I’d promised myself, so I earnestly started doing breast stroke (I never quite mastered this stroke in swimming lessons). I was just starting to get into a groove, when I felt a scratchy sensation in my armpit, that very quickly turned into a stinging sensation. I looked around in the water for the culprit, but couldn’t see anything around me, or anywhere else. As the stinging turned to burning, I muttered the F word repeatedly and headed for shore.

Hugh had told me previously that there are no jellyfish in South Australia that can kill you. Which is very reassuring, until you get stung by a jellyfish and your entire arm is on fire and tingling and feels like it might go numb and angry red welts are forming from your elbow, up through your armpit and all the way down the side of your left boob and it’s throbbing. Then it’s suddenly not so reassuring. And when your husband is on Kangaroo Island with limited cell service and he doesn’t answer the phone and you’re trying not to panic as you google “jellyfish sting” and find no helpful information, it can be difficult to know what to do. Having this little factoid tucked away in the recesses of your brain might convince you that it’s not an emergency, but is kind of a problem, so you look for a non-emergency health hotline to call, but the recorded introductory message goes on for so long that you think your arm might fall off or the neurotoxins might reach your heart and cause it to stop beating before someone actually answers the phone, so you hang up in frustration and panic and dial emergency services because you think there’s a slight possibility that maybe you might just die, or at least lose an arm. And the operator answers and asks if you need fire, police, or ambulance and your voice is a mixture of panic and embarrassment as you explain to her that you’re not actually sure if it is an emergency…


So yeah, I called an ambulance. And the paramedics were very sympathetic and understanding as they iced my arm and assured me that I probably wasn’t going to die, but that there wasn’t much I could do beyond putting vinegar and ice on it.

Here’s the lesson to be found in all this: You’re never fucking safe! Even in still waters, there are perils lurking. Even when life seems calm, you can’t let your guard down! Something might just attack you in the armpit!

Or, the alternative lessons could be: actually, you’re fine. Even when things are shit, and they hurt a lot, you’re probably not gonna die, so that’s a win overall, right?

The photo above was taken two days after the incident. The wound continued to sting for a few days, but then slowly started improving, until eight days after the incident, when I discovered that jellyfish stings are a gift that keeps on giving! Apparently, it’s relatively common to have a delayed hypersensitivity reaction about a week later. And this can recur for up to two months!

TWO MONTHS!! So this is me 11 days later, just pretty much loving life.

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