I don’t know the odds of doing this, because I was the only one out of six people and two dogs who got stung. While the initial sting felt like maybe a crab pinch, or stepping on a sharp shell, a few minutes later, the venom made the pain unbelievable. It was dull, and coursed throughout the appendage with every heartbeat. It felt like my tissues were necrotizing in my foot with every wave. Don’t use cold therapy (ice) as it is described as “disastrous” and elevating it above heart level yields similar results. From personal experience, don’t do it.
Treatment includes placing the area in water as hot you can stand for 30-90 minutes… for me the pain relief was almost instantaneous. The hot water also works to relax the muscles and hopefully allow any piece of the stinger to drift out. There is no antivenin for stingrays and you’ll find in a quick internet search that there’s not much information on the subject. It is speculated that maybe hot water denatures the proteins that make up the venom, but others disagree with that hypothesis. What’s really important is making sure that there are no barbs from the stinger or other foreign bodies left within the wound. Most doctors will prescribe oral antibiotics in case of infection, given the nature of the environment that stingray stings occur in (ie saltwater, sand). The physician’s assistant down at the beach cut into the area (with local anesthesia) to make sure the barb was gone, and also sent me for an x-ray just in case.
The days following and up until a week after the incident, the area felt 100% fine. It looked and felt like a papercut on the bottom of my foot, and I expected maybe some bruising as I tend to bruise easily. I kept bandaids on the site to prevent random opportunistic pathogens in, but it had already scabbed up after 2 days. After we arrived back home, I went to work as normal. The first day was more painful than I’d anticipated, but it was long before I forgot about it altogether.
Then, exactly 7 days later the area started itching. A couple things ran through my mind, like maybe the bandage was latex-based and my skin had had enough of it (I’m latex sensitive), and that this was a sting like a bee sting and would be bound to itch, so I didn’t think much about it. But. The next day after work, I grew increasingly alarmed. The area was very inflamed again and there was a sudden surge of little red dots all around the sting area, one of which looked like a double pustule. It doesn’t take a medical professional to figure out that, this prolly ain’t good. I put a bunch of hydrocortisone on it, worried about it and went to sleep. The next morning, I was 100% concerned. It looked BAD. The wound seemed cyanotic, the inflammation was a 4x4inch circle surrounding the puncture site, the little red dots were extremely pronounced, and it was hella itchy. As soon as I could, I called the office down in Topsail where I had been seen and talked with the PA who finally gave me the radiology report (nothing radiopaque evident in the tissues, but they did find an old evulsion fracture at the base of the 2nd toe). I told him about the condition of my foot and he wanted to to see it, but I was long gone from the area. He then told me to go see my primary care physician and said that he would order an ultrasound at this point. I called my PCP and got in right away. Called work and they found a temp. Ran off the to doctor’s. The NP was like, yeah that’s not normal. No one knew what to do about stingray stings, so I volunteered what the PA told me. Sent me over to the radiology office to get an ultrasound and gave me a second round of the Augmentin I was on.
After waiting in radiology for about an hour, they let me go only to call me while I was waiting for my Augmentin to be filled at the pharmacy. The radiologist spoke with me, telling me that there was a LOT of fluid in the area and they couldn’t see anything. She had conversed with the NP and they want me back next Thursday for a re-evaluation, possibly a new ultrasound, and possibly a drainage of the area. I’m like, OK, so I schedule the appointment. THEN the PCP calls me too, to say that the ultrasound was inconclusive and that I need to come back. For both of them to call me so quickly must mean that they are concerned. The last time I had my ankle x-rayed it took forever for them to get back to me…then again they hadn’t been worried about anything.
So now it’s almost 2 weeks later. It feels and looks a ton better even though I spent the entirety of Saturday walking. The red dots all ended up melding together into a large rash on the inside of my ankle, but the inflammation has gone down and the area looks less cyanotic. I couldn’t take it anymore, though, and scratched the wahooba out of it last night, opening up the scab and making myself just miserable (well, satisfied and miserable at the same time) because now it itches, burns AND hurts. The rash is not red anymore and now looks sort of dull gray, although the itchiness has spread to the back of my ankle. I’m hoping that by Thursday it’ll look good enough not to have to drain. It definitely hurts when I work, though. Such a pain to deal with while trying to work with patients.
Aaaand there you have it. I will update more later about the results of Thursday
I felt much better about the whole thing that day heading into the PCP. They saw we quickly this time, the assistant faked doing a BP, and the nurse bursts in happy that it’s looking so much better. I am given an appointment for a follow-up ultrasound. Once again, it was a quick turnaround, and before I know it the imaging is being done. This time as I follow on the screen, I can actually see and make out what’s going on. Clear as day I see the cavity in my foot. I wait again as the radiologist takes a look. He, himself, actually comes in this time to take a look at the foot himself. I describe to him what it used to look like and how now I don’t have to limp when I walk. He looked at it and I could see him juggling decisions in his mind before telling me that having drainage and surgery in the area is risky, so he would not recommend having it drained. Given the significant reduction in inflammation, I was advised to keep taking the rest of the antibiotics.
A few days later the PCP called to give me the official report. She said, “There is no evidence of a drainable abscess in the area.” Hopefully the antibiotics and my body will continue to fight the fight and naturally dispel the infection. No word on foreign bodies, so I’m assuming that there is not. The area on my foot is still purple, but for the most part it feels normal. Every so often it twinges and throbs a little (complaining heavily after I come home from work), but I’m of the mind that it’s better…? I guess only time will tell.