Stinger scare hits North Coast beaches
By ADAM HICKS firstname.lastname@example.org A MYSTERIOUS health scare for Lennox Head surfer Marcus Aboody has raised fears potentially fatal North Queensland stingers may have swept south to our coastline.
Mr Aboody, 28, went into 'whole body trauma' after surfing off Seven Mile Beach at Lennox Head last week.
"I was out in the surf and stood up on a wave and just started losing the feeling in my legs," Mr Aboody said.
"I pulled off the wave and caught the one behind it lying down and started getting pretty bad chest pains.
"I thought I might have had a mild heart attack, it was that painful."
A North Queensland stinger expert said it was possible the young father's symptoms were caused by the potentially fatal Irukandji jellyfish.
James Cook University Tropical Australian Stinger Research Unit director Jamie Seymour said the Irukandji, usually only found north of Fraser Island, might have been swept on to the Far North Coast of NSW by warm currents.
"Anything is possible, certainly with the increase in water temperature," he said.
Dr Seymour said the Irukandji's sting delivered a low-level initial pain similar to sea lice, but would lead to the onset of Irukandji syndrome, where a person experienced lower back pain, nausea, stomach cramps and overwhelming pain throughout the body.
The symptoms described by Dr Seymour were similar to Mr Aboody's, however, a series of medical tests have failed to identify what caused the surfer's pain.
After leaving the surf the tree lopper went home where he passed out for an hour before awakening, vomiting uncontrollably.
"I've never had anything like it before. I wasn't sure what was going on, I just knew something wasn't right," he said.
"I was not in a good way at all.
"I started losing all the feeling in my arms and legs and started getting a bit scared. I started hyperventilating."
Mr Aboody's partner, Michelle, rushed him to Ballina District Hospital, where he was hooked to a heart monitor before being transported to Lismore Base Hospital for brain and chest scans and a lumbar puncture.
"Once I got to Lismore I started getting really, really bad pains from my lower back down through my legs," he said.
"I was lying in bed moving my legs frequently. It was the only thing that helped with the pain and took my mind off it."
Mr Aboody was given morphine to treat the pain and was released from hospital the same evening when his symptoms subsided.
Tests revealed no abnormalities, and after a day of rest, Mr Aboody was back to full health.
"I've surfed all my life and done heaps of surfing contests. I've been stung by heaps of blue bottles and it was nothing like that. That was just a sting. This was like a whole body trauma," he said.
"I'm still not 100 per cent sure it was a jellyfish, because when we were at the hospital they weren't sure what was going on."
A local scientist with 40 years experience in coastal ecology said it was possible for the Irukandji to be washed this far south.
South Cross University adjunct professor Nick Holmes said it may have been caught in the east Australian current.
"Assuming it was an Irukandji, the question is how did it get there?" Dr Holmes said.
"It's possible it was swept down in the warm current that comes from the tropics and swings east into the Tasman Sea.
"Sometimes it peels off quite far north in the Ballina region; sometimes it goes down as far as Sydney. It all depends on the weather conditions at the time.
"This year it seems to be hugging the coast a lot further south and sea temperatures in Sydney are high.
"At the same time we've had a lot of on-shore winds which could have pushed the current against the coast."