Dangerous waters, the sea!…

Stingray barb. 

The ocean and its majestic wonder are daunting and uncertain. Many flock to its tempting water freely without reservation. That’s Tom. Others tiptoe at the shore hesitant to partake in its cooling waters, uncertain as the dangers that lurk beneath. That’s me.

Tom is rethinking his position today after yet another guest at LaruBeya was viciously stung by a stingray in her foot yesterday as we lounged in the shade on the veranda. We witnessed the young woman being dragged out of the water by two other swimmers, one on each arm as she writhed in pain.

All the swimmers cleared the water. The word was out. There was nothing we could do to help as she was quickly taken to her villa directly above ours, her husband following behind in an obviously frenzied state. 

Photo of stingray in the Belize coral reef.

Resort staff immediately went into action to come to aid in her care.  There are no urgent care facilities within hours of here.  The medical clinic in the village, five miles from here was closed.  The staff stated that the nurse from the clinic lived above the clinic and someone would go to find her. 

In these cases, the nurse will inject the site of the injury with Lidocaine to relieve the pain while the toxins

The treatment for a stingray “bite” is described here in this article. It’s not actually a bite, more so a puncture/scraping wound.  More information about stingrays, in general, can be found on National Geographic.

The barb of a stingray.  A misconception is that the barb in the actual tail when it fact in it along the tail.

We all recall the heartbreaking story of Steve Irwin‘s untimely death from the piercing of his heart by a stingray. A horrifying story. Yes, he took a risk playing with these and other potentially dangerous creatures. It was his life’s work.  He left a vast legacy of valuable information about our amazing animal world. 

As far as we’ve heard, the swimmer above us is recovering after a frightening experience, albeit with continuing pain in the bloody piercing and scraping from the barb and its toxins.

Last week, our Minnesota friend Nancy received a nasty jellyfish sting on her arm. Jellyfish are common in Belize based on its proximity to the massive coral reef. Having experienced a sting four years ago, Nancy was familiar with the procedures necessary to minimize the pain and risk of systemic illness. 

The last time she was stung, she developed a fever, vomiting, and body aches. With pain at the site and quick treatment, this time, she suffered only pain and redness at the site and a general feeling of malaise for a day. It took a few days for the redness and swelling to dissipate. This is the treatment Nancy used to reduce the discomfort and speed healing.

When we first arrived at our resort, another swimmer received a sting and was rushed away. With the knowledge of these potential risks in the warm water so the Caribbean Sea, we’ve spent little time in the ocean, having walked far out toward the reef only a few times. 

On our frequent walks along the beach, we’ve seen several stingrays swimming less than one foot from us, exercising caution not to disturb them.

With only two weeks left of our time in Belize, I think, for now, we won’t swim in the ocean. The coral reef attracts beautiful aquatic life, but along with it comes many potentially dangerous predators. 

The clear appearance of the jellyfish makes it difficult to see when swimming in the ocean.  Jellyfish don’t purposely sting.  They have no brain.  Stings often result from brushing up against them.

We’ve taken the biggest risk of our lives, leaving everyone and everything we’ve known and loved behind as we travel the world for the next 5-10 years.  In a concerted effort to avoid health risks and injuries, we tend to be more conservative than others may be on a two-week vacation. With a four hour drive to a major emergency facility, we’ve chosen to exercise caution in the areas “that we do know the present risk.” 

After all, it was only a little over two weeks ago, that we fell on the collapsing steps, averting potentially life and limb changing injuries. We had no way to know about that risk. Thus, we choose to steer clear of known risky situations. 

For most swimmers, nothing will occur. No stings, no bites, little risk. The waters of Belize are beautiful and generally safe for swimmers, scuba divers, and snorkelers.

But for us, does exercising such caution diminish our level of enjoyment?  Not at all. We’re engaging in exactly what we choose to do and at the moment, venturing out into the sea, not included. The pool is great.