April 27th, 2010
11:19 AM ET

Girl stung by venomous box jellyfish 'shouldn't be alive'

A biologist researches the lethal nature of the box jellyfish.

To call 10-year-old Rachel Shardlow a survivor is an understatement.

In December, the girl tangled with a box jellyfish, one of the world's most venomous creatures, in the Calliope River near Gladstone, Australia.

"Usually when you see people who have been stung by box jellyfish with that number of the tentacle contacts on their body, it's usually in a morgue," Jamie Seymour, a zoology and tropical ecology associate professor at James Cook University told the Australian Broadcasting Corporation.

The creature didn't just sting the girl. It enveloped her: Its tentacles wrapped around her limbs and wouldn't let go. She couldn't see or breathe. The creature, which is capable of killing an adult in four minutes, wrapped its tentacles tighter and knocked her unconscious.

"I don't know of anybody in the entire literature where we've studied this where someone has had such an extensive sting that has survived," Seymour told ABC. "When I first saw the pictures of the injuries I just went, 'you know to be honest, this kid should not be alive'. I mean they are horrific."

After several weeks in the hospital Shardlow is still feeling the effects - but the fact she is feeling anything at all - let alone doing as well as she is baffles Seymour. For now, besides scarring and memory loss, she is doing well, her family told ABC.

ABC: Young stinger victim speaks out

There have been others who have survived being stung by the deadly jellyfish, but Seymour said many of them are stung quickly, but not to the extent Shardlow was and with as many tentacles wrapped around them, Seymour said.

Seymour and other Queensland researchers received a $40,000 grant to investigate just how lethal is the venom of Irukandji and its relative box jellyfish. They will also look for treatments to help those like Shardlow who are stung by them.

The jellyfish, found often in the Great Barrier Reef, can have as many as 15 tentacles on each corner of its bodies with nearly 5,000 stinging cells, according to a guide to sea creatures posted on the Great Barrier Reef site.

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Filed under: Australia • Health • Web Pulse • World
soundoff (725 Responses)
  1. sarah

    This is such a positive story. The news has been so negative, it's hard to read sometimes. What I don't understand is why the readers , no matter what the story is, are always starting some sort of arguement about God, and no god, politics, and freedom. There is no right or wrong answers. The point of this story is for positive feed back on how such a little girl survived. Move on, be happy!!

    April 27, 2010 at 1:29 pm | Report abuse |
  2. José

    Truly a miracle, the parents of this little girl have been blessed with a second chance to love and care for their baby.
    Science will have to study the "how could this happen" to understand and help others.

    April 27, 2010 at 1:29 pm | Report abuse |
  3. KB

    This was great content everyone! Thank you CNN and all sides for providing with such interesting comments...lol Ok, so you know I have many religious values instilled in me, I wanna say that I'm happy that the girl is recovering. But wait a minute- do I need religion to reinforce the caring or apathetic side in me? No. I don't ever think I needed anyone to tell me it's not right to kill people or to steal. Humans are a complex species with an understanding of the differences between good and bad, right and wrong. Humans are so complex that some like to create false scenarios in which people can be led like sheep by ego mongering individuals fixated on a quest for more power. It's not the fault of the sheep. They were scared into it. That's why I get so confused every time I call out for god when I'm in trouble. It's all a psychological game in my head. We see religion used as a reason for committing horrible acts both today and in the past. It was not long ago when our last Prez said that "HE told him to go to war"- something that now most congressman and women regret allowing. I wish religions could have their own peace, but it inevitably breaks up any opportunity for mutual respect and goodwill. As an example, someone above had quoted verses of the koran. I may not have ever picked up the book, but it didn't bother me until someone started responding by talking about their god in a manner to dispel the other religion. I'm sure a lot of atheists thought that was funny in a way because we gotta chance to see them bicker at each other. But it really is sad when you think about it. There are even bible verses in the sights of some manufacturer's sniper rifles that our military uses. Nobody will ever be able to take away the religions of the world. One can only hope that they don't keep fighting with each other. It diminishes the quality of life for everyone.

    April 27, 2010 at 1:30 pm | Report abuse |
  4. Andrew

    without suffering we cant develop compassion. without fear/obstacles we cant develop courage.

    April 27, 2010 at 1:30 pm | Report abuse |
  5. barry

    don't trust religion! It's the Man trying to keep the little man down!

    April 27, 2010 at 1:30 pm | Report abuse |
  6. O.Charles

    When it's your time it's your time. It wasn't hers. Good luck to the family and the recovering girl

    April 27, 2010 at 1:30 pm | Report abuse |
  7. I AM

    Religion is the source of all evil. With knowledge comes understanding & the end of ignorant superstition – I'm surprised with as much as modern man knows about the universe, there are still those so simple-minded and ignorant to believe in gods... that should have been phased out around the time we discovered the Earth isn't flat or that it obits the Sun. Religion creates "US vs. THEM" thinking. Look at the ignorance of these feeble minds who have posted their ridiculous superstitious ideas here... aren't you ashamed to still believe in "Santa" as a grown up?

    April 27, 2010 at 1:31 pm | Report abuse |
  8. rusty

    "FAITH is what happens when we make a virtue out of not thinking."

    And no, I didn't think up that saying myself. I am a hypocrite. I'm also honest and cute.

    April 27, 2010 at 1:31 pm | Report abuse |
  9. R.Ruff

    God is so great!!!!! For those of you who can possibly deny the power of God it is because you have never witnessed what He can do. I am very happy for this child and her family and wish them the best. I am so amazed at how God can take something that seems so bad and prove himself through a walking miracle. Who are we to question why He allows certain things to happen? In spite of whatevert akes place in this world H e is still so deserving of our lives.

    April 27, 2010 at 1:32 pm | Report abuse |
  10. Rodney

    looks like most people have abondoned the story for trying to prove or disprove the existnence of GOD. be patient... you will all soon know the answer.

    April 27, 2010 at 1:32 pm | Report abuse |
  11. emilee

    God did have a hand in this. He created that darn jellyfish. But He also gave people a free will. For all we know, He coulda been telling her not to go, but she went anyway, got stung, but He saved her.
    Before you start bashing the One who created you, I'd check the facts. He exists. He does miracles. He proves Himself. The Bible is full of all the answers to everything you're all saying. I just don't have enough space in this box to explain it all to each of you. Seek and you will find.

    April 27, 2010 at 1:32 pm | Report abuse |
  12. Jackie

    People, please!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!! I agree with Marc – can we PLEASE leave God out of this?!?! I just finished reading the story about the young lady who passed away after a long struggle with cystic fibrosis and the comments on that story dissolved into a name-calling fest of believers v. non-believers. Switch over to this story and sure as sh****, the same thing!! Arrrghhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhh.

    I am happy this little girl has survived and is going to recover. Can't we all just leave it at that????

    April 27, 2010 at 1:33 pm | Report abuse |
  13. jo

    She was really saved when the Flying Spaghetti Monster reached down and lifted her out of the ocean with his noodly appendages.

    April 27, 2010 at 1:33 pm | Report abuse |
  14. JT

    take a friggin chill pill all of you. The girl survived and is relatively OK considering it was the DEADLIEST JELLYFISH ON EARTH that had her in a bear hug. just, be happy for her... jeesh.

    April 27, 2010 at 1:34 pm | Report abuse |
  15. Tracy

    I am very happy for this girl to still be alive and wish her all the best of luck in the future. I look forward to hearing of her full recovery. She will have an amazing story to tell.
    I also agree with Steve in comment number 7, very well stated.

    April 27, 2010 at 1:35 pm | Report abuse |
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