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. Sharon

    Rachel...you are obviously a strong person...Experience helps you garner your strength through the trials of every day life as you grow...you are a genuine survivor! Best wishes for your continued recovery.

    April 27, 2010 at 12:22 pm | Report abuse |
  2. David

    To all the Agnostics and Atheists, why can't you just let people have their faith. Just wish the little girl the best and be on with it. Remember, acceptance does not mean agreement.

    April 27, 2010 at 12:24 pm | Report abuse |
  3. Steve

    D. Solomon: Rare events happen rarely. No need to invoke anything supernatural about this. Glad the girl is doing well.

    April 27, 2010 at 12:25 pm | Report abuse |
  4. Archangel

    For all those who don't believe in God, Which came first the chicken or the egg? Try to prove that he doesn't exist with that one.

    April 27, 2010 at 12:25 pm | Report abuse |
  5. jim

    It sounds to me like she survived BECAUSE she was enveloped and suffocated by the jellyfish.

    If you're knocked out your heart rate will be way down so the venom won't be dispersed through you body as quickly, giving you a better chance to fight it off.

    April 27, 2010 at 12:25 pm | Report abuse |
  6. Andrew

    Maybe the reason people suffer is for humans to expierence compassion and sympathy, therefore making a change in the human condition. In order to learn one must think on a very diffrent plain of existance, and think outside the "human" box.

    April 27, 2010 at 12:26 pm | Report abuse |
  7. S.Lively

    Hey Atheist & Non-believers,

    You better thank GOD that you indeed woke up today and brushed your teeth. Do you really think you make it happen for yourself? Do you really think, that very breath you take everyday is by your own strength. GOD created it all, we ALL would be nothing without him. Remember, ONE DAY "Every Knee Shall Bow and Every Tongue Shall Confess, That Jesus Christ is Lord"!!!

    April 27, 2010 at 12:27 pm | Report abuse |
  8. suzy diamond

    WHAT an AMAZING story!

    April 27, 2010 at 12:28 pm | Report abuse |
  9. Andrew

    Maybe she is God or at the very least someone with superpowers since she survived this. Glad to read that she is alive and doing reasonably well.

    April 27, 2010 at 12:28 pm | Report abuse |
  10. unkown

    Wow, it just amazes me at how many people doubt the existence of God and how few believe in Him. God Bless you all. I know I need all the blessings I can get in this day and age. Hoping for a speedy and complete recovery for Rachel.

    April 27, 2010 at 12:28 pm | Report abuse |
  11. A

    What a wonderful survivor story! God was most certainly with this little girl! Good luck to her and her family and continue on the path to recovery!

    April 27, 2010 at 12:28 pm | Report abuse |
  12. alex

    thank goodnes you are alive

    April 27, 2010 at 12:29 pm | Report abuse |
  13. Simplebaby

    I must say is miracle and God name be praised

    April 27, 2010 at 12:30 pm | Report abuse |
  14. shodan

    Atheists don't have to prove that it wasn't God. YOU have to prove that it was God that saved her. I abhor illogical thinking such as yours.

    April 27, 2010 at 12:31 pm | Report abuse |
  15. wow

    It is the same God you call on when you are in some kind of trouble or issue in life and you say "Oh God, please help me." Might be the only time you acknowledge Him, but whether you want to or not, you do.

    April 27, 2010 at 12:31 pm | Report abuse |
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