Stepping on a Sea Urchin
Last week, I blogged about Angel’s medical emergency, but I’m overdue to fill you in on mine . . .
As regular readers may recall, the end of July was a fun, but particularly hectic, time for me. During a brief lull one Sunday, Beau went out diving (free-diving and spear-fishing) for the day, and I decided to treat myself, too.
I slept in a little – anything past 6:30am is a luxury! When I woke up, I was craving French Toast, but I didn’t have any bread in the house. I used that as an excuse to do the decadent thing that sounded fun to me – I took myself out to breakfast! Just a short golf cart ride away, I went to the local marina/restaurant and enjoyed a sit-down breakfast while greeting various friends who were working or passing through.
One friend joined me for a while and suggested I join her group on a boating excursion. I hesitated, with laundry on the line and thinking of the leisurely things I could do back home before joining Beau and the guys for fish-cleaning camaraderie later. But it was a beautiful day, and it sounded fun. “We’re not even packing lunch,” she said, “so we’ll be back by early afternoon.” That clinched it.
After a brief stop home to take care of Angel and change into a swimsuit, off we went. What a glorious day! Our small group ended up in a particularly beautiful area of shallow water and sand bars. We anchored the boat, floated a cooler to a sliver of sand in the midst of the shallow sea, pushed a sun umbrella into the water’s bottom, and proceeded to float in bliss.
Knowing from prior experience that I should not attempt to “keep up with” my girlfriend and her copious amounts of wine, I had a splash of wine with my club soda and enjoyed a spritzer while we hung out in the water.
After a while, we noticed a friend out on his property on the small private island nearby. My girlfriend and I left the others and swam over to say hello. After chatting, he invited us to cross over the little channel to his main property and come up – the others had pulled the boat around to his dock and would join us.
As I waded through chest-deep water, I was surprised by how strong the current was in the little channel. Because of that, I was perhaps stepping more forcefully as I made my way across. All of a sudden, “OWWW!” I had stepped on something sharp. I commented to my friends, but we figured I’d cut my foot on a conch shell or something, and we kept going toward shore. However, the pain started to worsen, and I couldn’t walk so well. I lifted up my feet and started to swim. But my leg was kinda seizing up, and my brain was feeling a little muddled by the sudden pain, so I wasn’t able to swim as strong as usual, and I felt myself being carried away by the current.
I called out to my girlfriend and was able to grab her hand. She pulled me to the rocky edge of the property, and our other friend suggested we take a look. I lifted my foot out of the water. The entire sole was covered by grey dots. “Oh my God,” he said, “you stepped on a sea urchin. But I’ve never seen so many!”
After nearly three decades around these parts, I’ve never stepped on a sea urchin. I’ve only admired them while snorkeling. They are roundish, come in a variety of sizes and colors, and are covered with porcupine-like needles or spines. Images and info about these creatures can be found here. All of a sudden, I had a whole new appreciation for them.
My leg had totally seized up by this point, and my friends told me not to put any weight on my foot. Apparently, when I stepped on the unseen sea urchin, the spines broke off in my foot. So, with one friend pulling each arm, I floated while they dragged me over to his dock.
Our other friends had joined us by this time. I’m sure I was the picture of grace as I crawled up the steps in my swimsuit. Once we reached the landing (where our friend has a spectacular outdoor living room), I collapsed on a couch. I asked them to call Beau and let him know where I was. The time had gotten away and it was mid-afternoon, and I knew he’d be looking for me to join him at the fish-cleaning bench, and my cell phone and stuff was still in the boat.
They reached Beau and turned to tending to me. Now, the well-known home remedy to relieve the intense pain from a sea urchin sting is for someone to PEE on it! I was hurting enough that I welcomed that. Alas, none of my friends cared to oblige (and it didn’t occur to me until later that I may have been able to maneuver that feat by myself?) Instead, they brought me a basin of fresh water with Epsom Salt, and I began to soak my foot.
I was proud that my friends were all calling me brave. I hadn’t shed a tear or whined too much about the pain. BUT IT HURT. We counted the grey spots on my foot, and I had NINETEEN holes where sharp spines had pushed into my foot and broken off. Good times.
In addition to the Epsom Salt, my friends decided it would be a good idea to medicate me by plying me with alcohol. One friend had prescription painkillers, but I had the presence of mind to figure that was not a great idea for me. And yet, I permitted myself to be liquored up. Not good.
From here on, the story gets a bit fuzzy, as did the pain. I vaguely recall wine, champagne, vodka and who knows what else being poured. I recall the sky darkening as day faded to night. I remember waking up and being in a different location on the deck, still salty and in my swimsuit, but covered with a sarong wrap, and I could hear my friends in the other room.
If this had been my little island, I would have gotten myself home from the inception of this mess. But I didn’t want to impose on my friends’ time by interrupting their fun to take me home. At some point, however, I no longer cared. In my inebriated state, I was a little out of my head! I was crying and calling out Beau’s name. So much for not crying and conducting myself in a calm manner. I just wanted to go home!
My next memory is hearing Beau’s voice in the distance. He’s here!! I started crying and calling out to him. My girlfriend came over to reassure me, but also to tell me to get it together! Beau walked onto the porch and saw me lying there, a mess, and said “Oh Lord.” My friend showed him my foot, and we started to head for Beau’s boat. I couldn’t hobble very well, so Beau ended up carrying me to the boat to take me back to our island a few miles away.
My next memory is being in the nurse’s office. Although it was evening by now, Beau had called her and taken me to the clinic. So there I was, lying on the examining table in my bikini, and trying to act like I wasn’t a total wreck. The nurse cleaned my foot and used tweezers to pull out two of the spines that were near the surface. WOW did THAT hurt. We both thought it best not to dig any deeper. The spines are known to come out on their own later and/or be absorbed into the body.
The nurse gave me some painkillers and antibiotics and wrapped my foot. Heading home with Beau, he stopped to pick up some food that he’d ordered at a local restaurant and insisted that I eat, then I fell straight into bed. Poor Beau. That had to be a test of his patience as well as his care-taking skills!
The next morning, the pain had diminished. I believe that is typical, but I also think any remaining pain was overshadowed by the massive hangover I was enduring. I managed to shower off the prior day’s salt. Then I spent the rest of the day on the couch, with a brief visit to the nurse for a follow-up check, and alternating rounds of soaking my foot in peroxide.
Overnight, the pronounced grey spots had changed to faded red spots. Thankfully, no spines were in my toes or on the ball of my foot, so I was able to hobble around for the next few days on my tiptoes. The pain was gone, except when I put weight on my foot, and over the course of the next week or so, that subsided, too.
The spines never did “pop out.” Who knows – one friend told me he had some come out of his foot a YEAR later! I picked out two of them a few weeks ago. They were so small it was incredible how much pain they had caused. As for the rest, I think some have been absorbed. In other spots, I can still feel hard little bumps deep down, but I’m going to just let them do their thing at this point.
There’s no pain at all now.
Well, except for the embarrassing memory of the day. As we say around here, “What a mess!”