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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soundoff (725 Responses)
  1. barry

    Phil- never said i believe in a Soul...it is possible (as are a million other things), but how would I (or anyone else) know until we die?

    April 27, 2010 at 2:48 pm | Report abuse |
  2. Sam

    Why is it that every time someone defies the odds against dying, it is a "miracle", an "act of God", or some other proof of divine intervention? What about all of the times that someone defies the odds against living and is killed prematurely or unluckily? Does God hate them? Or does he hate all of the people who grieve for them? Is God responsible for all of the rare events at the outer edges of a probability curve, or only the ones that we like? What about the people who never have anything extraordinary happen to them? Does God not have a special purpose for them?

    I'm very happy for this little girl and her family that she was able to survive. I hope she has a full recovery.

    I'm very sad for the people who are still so superstitious as to attribute specific outlying cases of a probability curve to some outside influence. And I hope they don't try to confront this girl and her family and try to push their agenda on them.

    April 27, 2010 at 2:49 pm | Report abuse |

    AHHH Man the kids in special ed . are smarter than most of you here.

    April 27, 2010 at 2:50 pm | Report abuse |
  4. Elletra

    Here, something better to do with your time:


    the ASPCA tweeted this link yesterday, why don't you convert your frustrations into something positive

    April 27, 2010 at 2:50 pm | Report abuse |
  5. You serious?

    Re: early Christians usurping holidays.

    It wasn't meant as a proof about why God doesn't exist, but more of an point that most of these christians who devote themselves to their religion don't even know where their religious celebrations came from.

    truth be told, the Christian diety is a rehash of Sky-God and Sun-God mythos with a solid, codified worship structure. Weaker religions were eventually absorbed and their holidays adopted to make it easier to convert other followers. These holidays are only sacred enough as was convenient for Christians. Convenient to convert others, that is. But, believers still think these are the actual days these things happened.

    April 27, 2010 at 2:51 pm | Report abuse |
  6. fuzzbox

    i agree, God had a purpose for this girl.

    apparently it's Jellyfish Target.

    April 27, 2010 at 2:52 pm | Report abuse |
  7. Jessica

    There's a million times I should have died while driving my car, because of idiots not paying attention. Now, I could claim that GOD HAS A PLAN FOR ME...or I could use some logic and say that I was lucky that I was paying attention when those other drivers werent. Next time, I might not be so lucky. Or maybe next time, God will have abandoned his plan for me?

    April 27, 2010 at 2:54 pm | Report abuse |
  8. Robert K

    "Yes, God must have a porpoise for her." LOL. That was the only comment worth reading...

    If there was/is a God and he wanted us to have proof of his existance, we would have it by now. People who are looking for "proof", above and beyond the order and logical system of the universe, are usually poorly informed academically.

    I hope that mankind may better understand this universal logic and order, which does exist, so that it may be applied in "godly love" to better the lives of our fellow man.

    April 27, 2010 at 2:55 pm | Report abuse |
  9. rivirivi

    FIRST OF ALL, it is such a wonderful thing to see this girl survive such a venom, such a critter! I was stung once by many "portugese man-o-war" which are nothing compared to the box jellyfish, and not only was I in pain everywhere, but the pain was numbing of my faculties, since I was windsurfing I had fallen right in the middle of a congregation of jellyfish. Luckily, I survived and I still remember the tremendous sharp pain and my yells.
    SECOND OF ALL. The problem with some Christians is not that they quote the Bible only but that they call my dear brother Jesus, God. Jesus never ever said he was God, he did say something interesting among his teachings for forgiveness and it was: WE are ONE with GOD. To Atheists who say God does not exist it really does not matter because IF there is a Limitless God, then we are all WITHIN, even if a couple of humans pretend he does not exist, as if God would end to exist just because.
    THIRD OF ALL, IF there is a limitless God, then for real, everyone and everything exist WITHIN the limitlessness of God. By everyone and everything think from the smallest particle to the biggest conglomeration of Multi-Universes. If you are getting confused and you think that God then is a shapeless humongous blob, come back for an instance to think about yourself, being tiny compared to other things, like the cosmos, you are perfectly capable of thinking, doing things, learning, making mistakes, creating, feeling,! Don't you think that God is capable of doing everything you do and MORE?
    FOURTH: The Bible is a translation of elderly 73 books and all the other so called "Holly" books are copies of it and other books. Humans have tried and tried to come up with answers like: Why bad things happen to good people? – then they invented Satan- as IF (because if you believe in a bad angel you surely would believe in the GOOD Angels, if the Good angels exist then they will kick the bad angel' asss and you have nothing to worry about. Humans are still bound to the consequences of their chosen acts no matter how much they repeat "The devil made me do it" No sir, that will not help. What it helps is to be conscious of your chosen acts and the consequence for them. IF there is a GOD and is limitless, it does not stop where the other group of humans whose color of skin you don't like begin to be, or the other groups of humans you do not like begin to be. WE MUST HONOR OUR PRESENCE WITHIN by choosing the best actions, like helping ourselves and others to achieve happiness in PEACE. Is that so difficult to learn? just need a little bit of shampoo to wash away old beliefs which are not FAITH.

    April 27, 2010 at 2:56 pm | Report abuse |
  10. Al

    I think you are old enough by now to be told that God and Santa Claus don't exist. Unofrtunate events can be prevented, but not always. I hope this little girl recovers and can use this unique situation to grow strong, not thank God that she is OK. We are always thanking God, how about ourselves. Thank yourself for being strong and getting through this with your friends and family. not God. <3

    April 27, 2010 at 2:57 pm | Report abuse |
  11. PUR man

    This was NOT god's work. She has a remarkable immune system and should be studied.
    This varies from person to person so please do not involved God on this OKA. You all sound stupid saying that god (or whatever you believe) was responsible for this. Some people are more “tolerant” to poison than others and if someone does not understand this statement please get a life and go back to school. Thanks and regards.

    April 27, 2010 at 2:57 pm | Report abuse |
  12. toni

    i just think that this is not an act of some god, But the strength of the girl thats all.

    April 27, 2010 at 2:57 pm | Report abuse |
  13. mark

    i am wondering why all of a sudden some people that believe in god are call ignorant. i think the persons who dont accept other people's choice should be called that. this is the year 2010 and still you find people that cant understand that we are all different in our believes. why cant we accept that different people have different opinions. no need try and make fun of people that believe in god or dont believe in god. chill guys

    April 27, 2010 at 2:57 pm | Report abuse |
  14. mbsizzle

    GOD IS GOOD!!!!

    April 27, 2010 at 2:57 pm | Report abuse |
  15. Teeph

    I am very glad this girl is okay. I hope she will fully recover and soon!

    On a side note, I like God. I'm a huge fan of His work.

    April 27, 2010 at 2:57 pm | Report abuse |
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