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. fedup

    Listen to yourselves you are all acting childish with these comments
    for the christians God says judge and ye shall be judged, let the blind lead the blind
    and for the athiests there is God and the devil why blame God for everything
    who are you to tell him what is right, for all we know this is some breakthrough
    for scientists to learn a new lesson. The good or bad we all learn something from it.
    People survive worse everyday your hearts however need some work!

    April 27, 2010 at 12:44 pm | Report abuse |
  2. Robert

    Cool Jellyfish

    April 27, 2010 at 12:45 pm | Report abuse |
  3. LacrosseSon

    Deities are an invention by man to control the masses.

    April 27, 2010 at 12:45 pm | Report abuse |
  4. Pianist

    So happy this little girl is alive and doing well. This is truly a miracle! May God continue to bless her with good health.

    April 27, 2010 at 12:46 pm | Report abuse |
  5. Joe Hall

    @ LacrosseSon
    governments are an invention by man to control the masses. and I mean that literally.

    April 27, 2010 at 12:46 pm | Report abuse |
  6. rick

    this was truly a miracle that she survived, whether it was God or that the girl has somekind of anti-venom fighting abiities. Just be glad it wasn't your child.

    April 27, 2010 at 12:46 pm | Report abuse |
  7. TAL

    This is amazing, and I'm very happy for this girl. But the immediate absense of an explanation for something is not 'proof' that there is a God. Keep trying, but maybe on the comment section of an article that has anything whatsoever to do with religion.

    April 27, 2010 at 12:48 pm | Report abuse |
  8. Mark C

    *** Wow, GOD was watching over you ***

    My god, what a retard. If God had been watching over, she wouldn't have been stung in the first place. You religious freaks have to be the biggest idiots on the planet. If nothing happens, God was protecting you. If some really awful but not fatal happens, God was protecting you. If you die, it's God's plan. Seriously, religion is a degenerative mental condition.

    April 27, 2010 at 12:48 pm | Report abuse |
  9. Andrew

    OR MAYBE.....just 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 12:48 pm | Report abuse |
  10. toot

    OK, yes I am in complete denial what's your point? Just like the Easter Bunny, Tooth Fairy and Santa Claus there comes a point where inteliigent people come to the realisation that your God does not esist.

    April 27, 2010 at 12:49 pm | Report abuse |
  11. bruian

    I think most atheists find the notion horrible that a GOD would injure and permanently scar and impair a little girl for some 'plan'.

    I actually have no problem with people believing in god, but I don't think god would cause something like this. A real, great god would help someone cope with what nature and bad choice of swimming location caused.

    April 27, 2010 at 12:49 pm | Report abuse |
  12. God here. Leave me the hell out of this.

    Sorry, I'm kinda busy, I'm k-kinda busy.

    April 27, 2010 at 12:51 pm | Report abuse |
  13. Good Lord

    Seriously...if God is so powerful and great, tell me: who created God?

    April 27, 2010 at 12:51 pm | Report abuse |
  14. Daisy

    Its funny I often read articles from CNN and than the comments to them. I thought ok here is a story that the comments can't possible turn ugly or into an argument. But somehow it does anyway.

    It is definitely a miracle that she is alive!!

    April 27, 2010 at 12:51 pm | Report abuse |
  15. Kat

    Maybe the jelly fish didn't kill her because it didn't want to kill her. Yes, it stung her several times, but maybe the venom was in a lower dosage. We still don't fully understand these creatures, so I don't think it'd be far-fetched to say that this event could've been a warning rather than an intent to kill.

    April 27, 2010 at 12:52 pm | Report abuse |
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