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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  1. Soldier for Christ

    Our only hope is in Christ. You can't get to heaven as you are because your sins have separated you from God (Romans 3:23). That's why God sent His only Son to die for the sins of the world, to bridge the gap between God and man (Romans 6:23). If you were good enough to go to heaven on your own merit, Jesus' death, burial and resurrection would have been unnecessary.

    Well what do you need to do? First, come to the Father, admitting that you are a sinner. This proclaims your need for a Savior. Second, ask for forgiveness of your sins. Third, ask Jesus, to come into your heart, and save you, and to help you live a life for Him (Romans 10:9-10). Dedicate the rest of your life to serving Him and mean it. Only a truly repentant heart can Christ come in and forgive. Jesus died for you, He ask that you live for Him (Romans 10:13).

    If you would like to accept Jesus as Lord pray with me right now:
    Father, I know that I am a sinner and cannot obtain salvation in and of myself. I come to you in the name of Jesus asking that you forgive me of my sins, and to cleanse me from all unrighteousness and guilt. I trust and believe that Jesus died and rose again to pay my sin penalty. I accept this free gift of salvation, and from this day forward, turn my life completely over to the Lord. I thank you and praise you God for giving me a new life in Christ. Amen.

    April 28, 2010 at 7:01 am | Report abuse |
  2. CNN HLN

    CNN Headline News Top Story: Girl surviving jelly fish sting ignites Atheist vs. Christian war! (Continued from Comment #331)

    As the comment tally nears a whopping 700 comments, the battle still rages on between the Christian and Atheist sides. As to many, it’s still shocking how the story of a young girl surviving a nightmare jellyfish attack has turned into what some have been calling a global meltdown of humanity.

    The opinions expressed in these comments vary from religious theologians, scientific experts, medical professionals and conspiracy theorists. This odd combination has resulted in a white hot frenzy of debate never before seen here at CNN.com.

    Marine Biologist, Richard Fildner (#580, #589) is a seasoned diver and oceanographer. In his years of global exploration of our oceans, he has had his share of close calls and deadly experiences. “I got stung in the balls by one of these jelly fish. My balls swelled up the size of Wilson on Castaway!” But when asked about the sever circumstances of this particular case, he had this to say: “I think that the ghost of Steve Irwin saved her from a sure death. He is still poed over the whole stingray incident.”

    Poster, Jerome Summers (#515) has been through a similar experience, more than once in his life. Growing up on the gulf coast of Texas, residents of his community are all too familiar with jellyfish stings. But with that, comes firsthand knowledge of how to quickly aid such an injury. In this comment, Mr. Summers shares a personal account of one of these attacks: “on one occasion I was stung by a man of war on my arm's an legs very extensivly I applyed the ammonia most of the stinging went away wright away an in a couple of days most of the swelling was gown.” These accounts though have brought questions from those who may not be that familiar with jellyfish and the dangers of swimming in the ocean. Popcorn (#657) asked this question: “so yea....im curious are box jellyfishes really the most poisonest creatures on the planet?”

    Some, though, just do not see eye to eye with nature and have an outlook that is even more negative and possibly damaging to the future perception and reputation of the jellyfish. Poster, Sticky (#500) says: “love the idea of an impotent jellyfish!” Whereas this may have been the case when young Rachel was attacked but no one can be certain. Given the circumstances and the unavailability to reach the jellyfish for comment, marine biologists still say that more research could be done to further explain the behaviors of the jellyfish. Dr. Leeman (#517) of the Orcasmic Center for Oceanic Research made this request: “I think the $40K grant should go to investagating the little girl and how she survived the jellyfish vemon.”

    But still the most surprising issue that has come from all this is the increasing battle of religious beliefs. In a society where we have seen religious wars control populations, wars and the economy, this battle over the existence, or lack thereof, of God came to a shock to most CNN.com readers. Bob, an obvious Christian and believer in God, (#437) had this to say: “If you are going to use GODS' name in vane don't let everyone see it. It makes me sick to think theres so called cristians out there that use it in vane.” And naturally, there is an opposition to every argument. Later, middle management semi-leader of a localized local sect of the Atheist movement, Rivirivi (#519) pleaded this question with other posters: “PLEASE PEOPLE why would you believe in that tale called the Rupture?”

    Other stout and firm Christians haven’t taken this continuing drama lightly. Some have even claimed to hear the voices of spirits and some to have seen possible apparitions. “I think I can see Jesus' face in the jellyflish. Or is it Mary?”, said Whisky Tango Foxtrot. Yet others have been more emotionally scarred and have found it hard to express their feelings. Little Jesse (#433) had a hard time expressing his sadness and frustration over this almost 24 hour debate. At first Jesse was reluctant to speak with us but with the persistence of his stuffed tiger, “Tiffy”, and promises of M&M’s and a rainbow parade for his birthday, he was able to leave us with this: “i dont like nuber 8 comment”.

    It is still yet too early to tell if this battle will ever be won. Could this be the next Iraq war? Time will only tell if there will be an end or compromise. Through all of the mud slinging and holy water boarding, one thing remains the same; A 10 year old girl by the name of Rachel Shardlow has survived what experts would have thought to be impossible. She has overcome some great odds but with a price of excruciating pain and some scarring. We here only hope for her full recovery and her long and happy future. We also hope that one day, she will understand this fight between good and evil is not her fault, but the fault of a hungry jellyfish that messed with the wrong 10 year old.

    As mentioned earlier in this post, the jellyfish in question could not be reached for comment. In our search for it’s view of the case, we were able to contact an uncle of the jellyfish who gave a statement on behalf of the jellyfish’s family. The statement was as follows: “------“. We’re pretty sure it was an apology but then again, it was a statement from a jellyfish and jellyfish can’t talk.

    Next up: The Brett Michaels Tragedy Continues: Tonight on LKL – A panel of doctors discuss the correlation between hair extensions, hair loss treatments and bandana over tightening as possible causes for Brett’s massive brain hemorrhage.

    April 28, 2010 at 8:25 am | Report abuse |
  3. lanmar

    Heartwarming that 693 people have stopped by to wish the little girl and her family well

    April 28, 2010 at 8:29 am | Report abuse |
  4. t bailey

    There is not enough information here to determine WHY the girl survived. Genetic mutations, antibodies (could relate to first), immune system, temperature, location, God (Goddess(s)), luck... It irritates me when people assume they know everything but know very little of the situation. Did anyone consider that the Jellyfish may be the one that is deficient? Do some research, make a hypothesis then state that logic AS A HYPOTHESIS...

    This statement is absolutely ignorant (as well as poorly written) – "Perfectly, the child has a great antibodies that repels stings and poisons. Remarkable indeed."

    April 28, 2010 at 9:07 am | Report abuse |
  5. susan

    Happy end, thank god, definately a miracle, I believe in science but I also believe in God more.

    April 28, 2010 at 9:30 am | Report abuse |
  6. susan

    i pity people who cant stand to hear about God and miracles, they will one day see and regret poking fun and talking so badly about believers. My heart hurts to think about what is in store for them.

    April 28, 2010 at 9:34 am | Report abuse |
  7. Kristina

    This 10-year-old girl has lived through something nobody should have to go through. I hope that she will recover 100% soon and be back to her old self.

    I can't believe that the majority of these comments have become a debate over God and Science. Get over it people believe in what they want, this is not about whos beliefs are right or wrong it is about the little girl's well being. It is a miracle, for lack of a better word, that she is doing so well and recovering so quickly.

    I find that her survival is enough in itself to let people belive that life is what matters, and hers is that much more of a blessing in my opinion since she could have lost it so young. I am not saying that any life is more important than another, I am saying when you live through something where your life could have been lost you should treasure your existance a little more than before, live each moment to the fullest and don't forget that each day is a gift and you are not promised tomorrow.

    April 28, 2010 at 10:38 am | Report abuse |
  8. chris

    WOW!! GOD is really great. This is just another sigh of how Good the Lord is.

    April 28, 2010 at 10:51 am | Report abuse |
  9. Sara

    There are angels among us!! I was elated to read the biologists were given a grant! Hopefully, Rachal makes a quick recovery, what a survior and a God send.

    April 28, 2010 at 11:07 am | Report abuse |
  10. Curious

    Just wondering what she did differently than everyone else...? Did they treat it differently? Peel off the jellyfish right away? Was it because she was young & maybe in better physical health? Would love more details.

    April 28, 2010 at 12:43 pm | Report abuse |
  11. Chris Bennett

    Hmm... it has been almost a full day at Swordfish didn't respond. Hopefully he has realized that evolution is a proven theory and will no longer continue spreading disinformation.

    Ha, that's hilarious. No, I'm far too experienced in these matters to believe that he'll change his ways now that he's been shown to be incorrect. Instead, he'll just quietly disappear, only to show up on some other forum spouting the exact same nonsense.

    Well hopefully SOMEONE here now understands how evolution works a bit better.

    Oh, one parting thought:

    I really don't mind people having their religions as long as they don't take them too seriously. If it's just a cultural thing, fine. But if someone REALLY believes in mystical crap then there is a real problem and it is NOT acceptable to just ignore it.

    The reason why such mystical thinking must be ATTACKED and REFUTED is that anyone who TRULY believes in such things is a danger to society. They could (and often do!) lash out and do something crazy and say "GOD TOLD ME TO DO IT" or some such. If enough crazy people like this get together, they can even change laws and public policy because it is "GOD'S WILL".

    Politely letting such people carry on with their beliefs without objection is a HUGE mistake. The moderate viewpoint that we should just let people believe whatever they want is certainly the EASY way, and it seems to promote harmony in the short term, but in the long term it is a DISASTER because we have to live with these uneducated people and they VOTE.

    So don't think you're being a better person because you are so polite and choose not to make an issue out of it. No. If you do so you are indulging in APPEASEMENT and you will come to regret it.

    April 28, 2010 at 1:22 pm | Report abuse |
  12. KD

    For those who believe in God. It's good. For those who is not believe in God. It's great. Happy for the little girl that she survived such an attack or sting. However, those who believes in God, please don't pop up and say "God this" and/or "God that". Keep it to yourself because those that don't believe in God did not start a conversation by saying "I don't believe in God or God did that bad thing". So, just leave it at that. Simple thing is that the girl survives and recovers from this "accident". For me to say, I'm not a believer. However, I'm respect your believe and choice. But don't pop in front of me and force your believe by saying "God that" or "God this". Go and tell people in Iran, Iraq and or the Middle Eastern origin, that and will see if your "God" can save your butt or your "God" will open his arm to accept your headless soul (because you'll be behead by those people over there)

    April 28, 2010 at 1:46 pm | Report abuse |
  13. rickets

    this should stop all of you idiots arguing religion vs science

    you say christ is the truth

    you say science is the search for truth

    therefore science will lead you to christ

    argument put to rest

    April 28, 2010 at 9:45 pm | Report abuse |
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