About infections and Stingrays

And now a horror story about infections and dangerous animals, which combination was still lacking on this blog. Halfway my experiments I got stung by a stingray when I walked to the experimental site (knee-deep water). I felt something very sharp and hard stinging 5 cm into my feet, 3 cm under my ankle, resulting in a lot of blood. I wore booties but it stung right through the neoprene and rubber. At first I kept thinking it was a sharp shell or glass and not a stingray because I did not notice any pain from poison at first and I expected to feel something moving if it was a stingray.


I had some visions about me unable to come back to the field so we continued and harvested the experiment for 2 hours. Already halfway I got some suspicion that I maybe was a stingray, I was in a lot of pain and an hour later I was experiencing the most pain ever. Looking at the 400m distance that I have to walk back to the shore made me feel hopeless. The pain was up to my knee. Off course I know that the stingrays are there and I always walk with sliding movements, which scarred them away 300 times before when I walked in the same area but I was just unlucky this time.

And know the worst part…..

As soon as we arrived at the sand road Wawan arranged a motortaxi for me. After asking around for the doctor people shouted she was not there, so I was brought to one of the older mantri (stand-in for the doctor). I was invited into a little dark and smudgy warung (shop) and I was invited to ly on the ground. They had a little metal casing with a syringe and also a local anastectic, which they gave me. But in staid of waiting a few minutes for it to work he directly put a kitchen scissor (not cleaned with alcohol or whatsoever) with cotton on top in the wound to take away poison using rough movements. The pain reached higher levels and I bit through my fingers skin to resist the pain the first minutes the anaesthetic not worked yet. I could see some stars. I was so out of focus that I could not speak Indonesian anymore. Wawan arrived in the meantime and pinched my hand harder than my hand pinched his after the sight of the mantri at work. After 10 minutes the pain was almost gone and I could stand on my foot. Fisherman showed me their scars and said it normally takes 3 days to heal and walk again so that was good news, I expected to be able to work in 3 days! Every week someone at Derawan Island is stung so it is quit normal here. And by the way this is not the same species, which killed Steve Irwin! So I send an sms to Sipke, Dad and Leon that I experienced the stingray without problems
But the story isn’t over here. At night the pain came back, even worse than it was. Alone in my room in the middle of the night I couldn’t move my feet so I was trapped and calling Sipke for some advice was the only thing I could do. On the Internet a lot of advice on hot compresses are given and I crawled to the thermos and filled a plastic bag to put on my feet. Unfortunately I was in so much pain I couldn’t feel the heat so I also burned it on 3 places. Finally Wawan was awake so he searched for doctor Wita in the middle of the night and found her. She brought me a sedative, anti-inflammation, anti-pain, and antibiotics: good care after all. 3 days later my foot was still getting bigger (and I had some nightmares of loosing my foot). I could determine were my ankles were and my foot was looking like an inflated rubber glove with some small silly toes at the end.

The doctor decided to open the wound again to rinse with sterile water, check for something left and to put a drain so al the yellow and green stuff could come out from the deep. This operation was a great contrast to the first. Very professional and clean they operate me on the floor of the house, without much pain. After this they swelling and inflammation stayed and I was trapped in the house until we finished the fieldwork at Derawan because I could only jump on 1 leg and the distance to the toilet was the maximum I could handle with the pain in the other foot/balloon. On 1 of the last days Wawan arranged some real wooden sticks which I could use to walk on “D-day” of cleaning Derawans beaches. Above all I am so grateful with Wawan who finished al the fieldwork under water and saved the experiments! Without him my whole trip to Indonesia had been a fiasco. After arriving home this weekend the swelling decreased very fast. The doctor at chirurgy checked the wound and took a bacteria sample and advised to take rest and expected it would be a infection of my bone or ankle muscle which was still causing pain at the inside of my foot. At this moment 3 ½ week after the sting I am still walking with my fancy “inspector gadget-stick” but it is getting better slowly, at chirurgy they said it will still take 3 weeks to recover, so it will get better in the end!