An Odd Affinity To Jelllyfish Attacks

23 Mar
I think my son especially does not like jellyfish with tentacles.

I think my son especially does not like jellyfish with tentacles.

When the tentacle wrapped around my son’s leg in Long Island Sound (Connecticut side), people started running. I was not sure what was going on at first. My son, then about three years old, was standing in about 6 inches of water. His hand firmly grasped by a 10-year-old with two 8-year-old children next to them. We were all together, and I was watching closely.

But I did not see what was just under the water. My son started screaming. I ran over and grabbed him, as a man came running towards me. It was scary. What did this man want? He was yelling something at me, but it took a minute to understand that a giant, dead jellyfish has drifted over to the beach and one of its tentacles had wrapped around my son’s thigh.

As the man ran over to me, he was yelling, “We need to get your son to first aid NOW!” I looked down, and there just under the edge of my son’s swimsuit was a giant welt that encircled his thigh. Bright red and raised, the welt was growing before my eys.

By this time my son was holding his breathe. I could see his lips turning blue. He was so scared and in pain. I had him enveloped in my arms, as the man rushed me towards the lifeguard station. But we did not move far, the lifeguard was on his way running to me, with a squirt bottle in hand. He had heard all the commotion and knew something had occurred.

He sprayed my son’s leg with vinegar. The smell was sickly sweet. But I could see my son relax a bit, as the cool liquid eased the pain and started working on the jellyfish venom.

Needless to say, it was the end of our relaxing day at the beach. Even 21 years later, I can close my eyes and relive this moment and the entire hour or so that my son sobbed till he fell asleep from exhaustion. And I do not mean whimpers. I mean full-throated screams of agony. My friend, my Mom, the three girls and I all wanted his pain to end.

My favorite jellyfish photo ever.

My favorite jellyfish photo ever.

My son developed a healthy fear of jellyfish. He loved the water and he loved swimming. But no longer ever wanted to go into ocean. When we went to Florida to see his grandparents, we would walk along the beach the night before, checking for jellyfish. When he saw a jellyfish lying on the beach he would run in the other direction or hop over them. Usually the beach would be closed if we saw jellyfish. Which was just fine. Most of the time, he just wanted to swim in the pool. And I agreed. I did not want to go through that fear again.

Our family love to go to aquariums when we travel. He loved going as well, but he would quickly run past the jellyfish tanks. He wanted nothing to do them. He did not even want to see them.

I would like to say that this was his last encounter with a jellyfish.

Move forward 12 years. We are again in Florida visiting grandparents. One evening we had dinner with my nephew, who was studying marine biology. He told us all about the different jellyfish and Portuguese Man o Wars, which were common in Florida. And how jellyfish and Man o Wars were not the same things. A Portuguese Man o War was not a jellyfish! Our nephew made that clear. My son was unhappy with the dinner conversation. I think the conversation was actually a foreshadow of what would come the next day.

We were visiting friends on the coast. My son, my college-aged daughter and her then boyfriend went down t the beach to enjoy the great day. The adults stayed upstairs on the balcony and enjoyed visiting. We were getting cleaned up and ready to leave when the younger adults arrived back upstairs. My daughter announced loudly as they entered the apartment that my son ‘was stung by a jellyfish!” He is in pain.”

“Very funny, “ I responded. Thinking that she was joking because of our dinner conversation last night.

“No,” her boyfriend added. “He really got stung. Just as we were getting out of the water”

I looked at my son. Oh no! They really were not joking. I could see that he was in PAIN.

Mother mode kicked in. He really was stung by a jellyfish AGAIN! Well actually not a jellyfish, it was a Portuguese Man o War, even worse!!!

Someone went on line to see what we should do. Did getting stung a second time add to the impact and chances of a systemic reaction? Should I take him to an emergency room? I called my husband, who had remained home during our trip to see grandparents. Probably did not need to take him to the hospital, but needed to watch him for a bit. (My husband is a pediatric allergist, so it did make sense to call him.)

After the Man o War stung him, we used wine vinegar to ease the pain.

After the Man o War stung him, we used wine vinegar to ease the pain.

Vinegar would help. But the only vinegar my friends had was wine vinegar. We used it. We doused my son’s foot in wine vinegar. And then the jokes began. He did smell like a salad. And their dog did want to lick his leg. We got him calmed down as the pain ebbed. And we overstayed our visit by an hour or so, as we waited to make sure there was no reaction.

All was well. My son recovered.

But his odd affinity to jellyfish attacks have created an environment for jellyfish jokes which have become a permanent part of my son’s family life. I must admit, I am among the worst.   My husband and I travel often. And I still love aquariums. I have been to the aquariums in Boston, Baltimore, Atlanta, and more. And each time I go, I take photos of the jellyfish tanks then I email these photos my son.

Sometimes I even buy him jellyfish gifts.

He always smiles and says something like, “Really. This is what you got me.”

But finally I bought him a jellyfish gift that he loves.

His cat’s favorite cat toy had disappeared. He was bemoaning this to me one day, and told him I was going to the pet store to get food for my cat. So I would look for something.

The wonderful jellyfish cat toy I purchased for my son.

The wonderful jellyfish cat toy I purchased for my son.

I found the best toy ever. Developed by National Geographic, part of the price of this perfect toy goes to support animals. It is a jellyfish filled with catnip on a stick. I had to buy it.

When my son came over to pick it up, he laughed. “Really a jellyfish toy?”

“Yes,” I said. You can finally get your revenge. Whenever your cat attacks the jellyfish toy, you can envision those jellyfish that attacked you getting attacked by your cat.”

And he smiled his best smile and agreed it was a wonderful idea.

 

Advertisements

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s

%d bloggers like this: