Nine year old Swedish girl Ida was nearly killed in yet another attack of the deadly box jellyfish in Thailand. Only the fast action of a Swedish fire-fighter likewise on vacation in Thailand, saved her life.
The incident took place on Koh Mak near Koh Chang. This is significant, because previously all attacks and deaths by box jellyfish have been in the Andaman sea. With this incident, the Gulf of Siam can obviously no longer be considered box jellyfish free waters.
The ordeal of Ida and her parents are described in detail in an article in Swedish language in Aftonbladet (http://www.aftonbladet.se/nyheter/article6723047.ab )
The Rosenberg family from Tyringe in the southern part of Sweden had just started their winter vacation in Thailand. Jenny, 36, and her husband Frederick Rosenberg, 35, were out snorkelling in the waters off Koh Mak Island. Their daughter Ida was splashing around in the water closer to the beach. Suddenly the parents heard her screaming in pain.
“We started swimming like mad towards the shore,” the mother told Aftonbladet.
When they reached their daughter Ida, she was already unconscious on the beach. The fire fighter Anders Brunzell, 42, was fighting desperately to save her life. Ida’s heart had stopped beating by an allergic shock from the dangerous jellyfish.
The Swedish fire-fighter explains:
“I and my family were sunbathing a bit away. We ran to Ida and saw that her right leg was completely covered with long threads, like glass noodles. There was only one thing to do,” says Anders who with his wife Marie began to rip off the tentacles with their bare hands.
Anders, who works as a fire-fighter in Stockholm, began heart massage and mouth-to-mouth first aid. He then ordered staff at the nearby hotel to get vinegar which will stop the tentacles of jellyfish from stinging more. He also borrowed oxygen from the hotels scuba diving school.
“The only problem was that the oxygen mask was made for diving, so it did not work, “says Anders.
But little Ida woke up thanks to the fire-fighter and his professional skills.
Then Ida was carried to a boat which brought her to the mainland, where an ambulance was waiting and brought her to a hospital.
Today, two days after the jellyfish attack, Ida is doing fine under the circumstances. She is conscious again, but is badly burned on the leg and other body parts. Over the next few days, she and her mother Jenny will stay at the hospital in Trat for observation.
“Because she was unconscious for so long, the hospital staff is worried that she has had brain damage. She is a bit groggy and still has a fever. But, everything else seems okay”, says Jenny.
Jenny is grateful for the Thai health care, and for Anders’s rapid action.
“What do you say to a man who has saved the life of one’s daughter? There are no words to describe my emotions. But one thing is clear, were it not for him, Ida had been dead today.”
But she is critical that the hotels did not warn tourists of the dangerous jellyfish, although several people have died earlier.
“No signs, no information. The day after Ida was burnt I was told that people were down there in the water at the same place swimming again. This should not be allowed to go on”.
“On the other hand, I myself have read in the newspaper back in Sweden about similar events in Thailand. But as with everything else one thinks that “it does not happen to me”. Stupid really,” Jenny admits.
What to do if you are attacked by the jellyfish?
Somchai Bussarawit, Chief of Reference Collection at the PMBC’s Phuket Aquarium, is working with the Central Marine Fisheries Research Institute in Australia to identify the collected specimens. His advice to victims of the jellyfish is:
Any person who has suffered a possible box jellyfish sting should get out of the water as soon as possible, have his or her pulse rate monitored, and undergo cardiopulmonary resuscitation (CPR) in the event of heart failure.
* The sting should immediately be treated with vinegar to stop further injection of the toxin, the PMBC advises.
* Do not rub or scratch the site of the sting or apply fresh water or alcohol to it, the PMBC advises.
* Dr Somchai reiterated that there have been no box jellyfish sightings on west coast beaches, where the seawater is generally too saline an environment for box jellies.
However, he advises seaside resorts to keep many bottles of vinegar as a standard part of their first aid kits as it is effective in treating stings from other kinds of less venomous jellyfish.
Not all attacks are deadly
The pdf file in this link informs scientifically and in depth about the life cycle and precautions one should take in relations to the box jellyfish. Some beaches extends nets from the shore into the water which will hold the grown jellyfish out. Click to read the full report: http://scandasia.com/upload_files/cubo_brochure.pdf
Watch this very useful Youtube video to get more familiar with what to look for along the shores: