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. Jason

    I think that people who see religious significance in this seem to ignore statistical probability. The fatality rates of any venomous animal is never 100 %, due to many factors like how the venom effects the victim, the amount that was injected, and if proper medical attention was available. The percentage of survival is raised or lowered accordingly.

    This girl was fortunate, yet it wasn't a miracle. She survived only because a lot of people put the time and effort into getting her well. She was fortunate to be in Australia, and of having access to excellent medical attention. If she had been in another part of the world, like the Philippines, then her chances of survival would have been even less.

    This is about giving credit where credit is due. To the doctors and nurses that worked tirelessly to save her life. To the engineers, and scientist that invented the machines that assisted in her recovery. If it wasn't for these people then she would have died.

    April 27, 2010 at 7:22 pm | Report abuse |
  2. malya

    A little girl is safe after a vicious attack. Great! Suddenly, someone thanks God, and it´s all about criticizing that person for believing. People, let´s accept that we all have different beliefs, tolerate our differences and be happy for Rachel and her family.

    April 27, 2010 at 7:25 pm | Report abuse |
  3. Edie

    Speedy recovery, Sweetheart!

    April 27, 2010 at 7:33 pm | Report abuse |
  4. Soldier for Christ

    All you people bashing on God need to repent. This is a fallen world, we turned on God and we sinned. He gave us a free will to choose to love him and obey him. He did not make us robots, because then he would not feel truly loved. But one day Jesus will come back and put a complete end to this evil fallen world and we who believe in Him and believed that He died for us and rose on the third day and believe that He is our Lord and Savior will enter into a new earth. Give your lives to Jesus our one and only God. Pick up a Bible and start reading it. Christianity is the only true religion. No other religion will get you into Heaven, they all have things wrong with them. God made it soooo easy by sending Jesus into this world, at least pick a Bible and see for yourselfs, start with reading John in the Bible.

    April 27, 2010 at 7:33 pm | Report abuse |
  5. firegurl6464

    Thank the Lord that girl wasn't hurt! I would have been scared out of my mind!

    April 27, 2010 at 7:38 pm | Report abuse |
  6. Hawaiikaos

    @you serious? Are you single, male, and straight? Will you marry me?

    @Andrea I'm sorry you were abused as a kid, but if you brought it up in an unrelated forum like this, you might need to talk to someone about it. Try your pastor/priest, a support group, or a therapist (therapy works wonders).

    @ peeps screaming (aka caps lock) about this forum thread devolving into a religion debate and how that only fuels anger, well you are wrong. The most angry seem to be you all. I'm not the least bit offended by the religious people, but I can't say whether they feel the same way. Maybe I won't convert anyone to atheism (that isn't my intent at least) but when different people of different backgrounds are exposed to each other like this, it makes us all more conscious of other ideas and other people. Overall, through many different debates, over time, we will all become more tolerant. This is one way that a society can transition to a new perspetive (look at the gay rights movement now, compared to twenty years ago. Because more people are exposed to it, the majority of people think it's no big deal). There are other ways to transition, such as by force, or by revolution, but by far, lividly debate and discussion are the safest, sanest method to do so. So don't hate on the process. If the debate offends you, don't read it and just move on.

    April 27, 2010 at 7:39 pm | Report abuse |
  7. Danny

    This girl was lucky to have survived, she must have taken some lessons out there. if that was me i would not have SURVIVED!!!

    April 27, 2010 at 7:45 pm | Report abuse |
  8. Terri

    What an incredible will to live this girl has. That must have been excruciatingly painful. I wish her the very best.

    April 27, 2010 at 7:48 pm | Report abuse |
  9. Matt

    I think the jellyfish didn't kill her because it wanted this flame war to occur

    April 27, 2010 at 7:50 pm | Report abuse |
  10. KAT

    God, is probably as good a word as any to say "our life force." Living creatures who fight to survive sometimes beat the odds. I wouldn't jump down someone's throat for their choice of words.

    April 27, 2010 at 7:51 pm | Report abuse |
  11. Kristina L.

    AMAZING__________Bless her little heart & be thankful that she is still here with us,,, : ) This is a great "I shoudn't be alive story."

    April 27, 2010 at 7:53 pm | Report abuse |
  12. dennis

    Wish the girl a speedy recovery.

    April 27, 2010 at 8:02 pm | Report abuse |
  13. kgb

    Why can"t people just be thankful that the child is alive and wish her well? For whatever reason she didn"t die. This is not the place to debate whether there is a God. It is apparent that some people are so miserable and have nothing better to do than to fuss about someones choice of words. I wish you a speedy recovery.

    April 27, 2010 at 8:06 pm | Report abuse |
  14. jw

    It is always appropriate to thank and praise God at all times and everywhere. It is NEVER inappropriate to mention God's goodness.

    April 27, 2010 at 8:17 pm | Report abuse |
  15. josie

    11 yrs ago, i was also stung by a jellyfish on my left ankle. it was a horrible experience and i still have the scar until now.

    April 27, 2010 at 8:24 pm | Report abuse |
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