No ordinary anniversary…


The day started out much like we had expected. It is Ramadan, the Muslim month of fasting, so the days are very calm and quiet in the village and in our house – except of course when Bo decides to practice her pterodactyl shriek. With Ni not eating we try to find quiet, energy conserving ways to spend the day.

As it was our anniversary we wanted to do something special, but with out the typical anniversary celebratory options in this part of the world – we opted for a quiet day together as a family. Bo hadn’t slept more than twenty minutes all day.. and out of sheer frustration, and wanting to keep the day as civil as possible we decided a trip to the beach would be a great idea. I would have a surf, a return to the water occurred early this week for me after 12 months off the board. It was a beautiful, freeing and empowering feeling to be out in the ocean alone again. I would surf and Ni would stay with Bo on the beach, keeping her calm and relaxed and with any luck getting her to sleep.

All great in theory? Sure. We’ve done it before. No problem.Right. Wrong.


I paddled out to the point, the water cool and refreshing against my skin. The sun was hot on my whitened skin, my tan long gone after so many months of baby induced house arrest. I caught a few waves, reminding myself of how it feels. Taking my time. I flipped off the back off a wave as it closed out and that’s when it happened. It was like an electric shock running up my leg, sharp and hot and fast. I quick short breath in and I knew I was in trouble. I turned around trying to shake from my leg that which was still wrapping itself tightly around my skin, as I did this I felt this shock again on my arm. Long thin blue tentacles wrapping themselves around my body. Two large blue bubbled heads stuck against my skin, leeching their poison into my body. I was able to remove both the heads from my body quickly. And paddled away, looking back briefly I saw hundreds of floating blue bottles, it was like a mine field. I caught a wave into shore quickly. Careful not to drag to much of my body through the water. The sting wasn’t too bad, my skin was quickly bubbling and red but it was still disguised by a mass of light blue tendrils gripping me tightly.

I put my board down on the sand and walked up to the restaurants. The pain was getting hotter, but I had no idea what lay ahead of me. I’d never been stung by a blue bottle before, and no one has ever really warned me how bad it can be. Worried faces of friends washed against me, advice, rub sand on it, remove the tentacles, go to the restaurant, get hot water. I stumbled numbly through the back doors of the restaurant where my Indonesian family work. I interrupted their cooking with a request for hot water. They stopped and looked at my skin. Everyone dropped what they were doing. I was confused. I sat down and then it hit me. A wave of nausea so intense that my vision blurred. Hot water was being poured over my arm and leg, cucumber rubbed against my skin. There was much talk in local tongues that I don’t understand. I have to lie down. I have to lie down. No one was listening. I have to lie down. I whispered. I stumbled out the doors and lay on a piece of cardboard under the stairs. But it was hot. Too hot. My body was heating up… I was half carried into the backroom just in time for my legs to lose any power. The pain was unbearable. The only thing I can liken the effect of a bluebottle sting to is labour. The pain shoots up your legs and settles in your lower back heavy and strong. All power is gone from your arms and legs which tremble uncontrollably. The lymph glands in my groin ached (ached is not a strong enough word) and sent sharp stabbing pains that seemed to crawl up my spine and into my ribs. Every muscle in my abdomen tightened with the intensity of the height of a powerful contraction. I cried. I yelled. I did not handle it with any sort of composure whatsoever. My little Indonesian mother rubbed some kind of deep heat into my back, and stomach. She put pressure on my lower back, trying to relieve some of the pain. At some point someone went and found Ni and brought him to me. Bo was taken from the room by a close friend, one of her many uncles. There was no way I wanted her seeing me like that.

The effects last like this for about an hour, a little longer perhaps. I was frightened. I panicked. I couldn’t breath in or out properly as it felt like my diaphram wouldn’t move. I was scared. Ni tried to feed me fresh coconut water. He kept telling me. It’s not so bad, I know it hurts. I glared at him through my pain. I’ve seen worse, he said with a smile. You aren’t throwing up, you’ll be fine. As a surfer he has seen this a thousand times, he has also been there before. He knew… It’s nothing but time. Nothing else really works, he said to me, you just have to wait it out. You’ll be ok. It didn’t feel like it would be ok. I felt like I was dying. Eventually my breathing settle slightly. The heat started fading from my chest. When I started feeling the burning from the stings I knew I was coming out of it, half an hour before I couldn’t even feel the burning because the other pain was so intense.

Once I could move Bo was brought back in but as soon as she saw me she became hysterical. She climbed on top of my body and grabbed my face with her chubby little fingers. Her little face against mine. She cried. I couldn’t console her properly so Ni took her out again and I slept fitfully for an hour.

Later that afternoon we went home, the three of us, and Bo and I climbed into bed together. Ni went back to the beach to surf… crazy man that he is. But returned moments later with tales of millions of jelly fish floating on the surface of the water, no clear path to be found. One blue bottle attack a day is more than enough for this family.

I was so thankful for my online mothers group, I was worried about feeding Bo after the toxins had been in my body. There is very little information online. But friends in Australia called Motherease. poison control and the Australian Breastfeeding Association and a local hospital to get the right information – if you have found this blog because you are searching for the same answer. Feed your hungry baby! It’s OK. I fed Bo with a little trepidation, but once she fed she slept well. I couldn’t sleep, still scared of any after effects Ni and I watched over her closely for hours.

Our Anniversary wasn’t at all what we’d planned… but then not much has been planned about our little family. But like our family, our anniversary was certainly unforgettable. Last night Ni and I were finally able to sit down together of a cheeky glass of rose that has been waiting for us for months. We sat together and laughed about the craziness of it all… there are a lot of things both good and bad I can say about jungle living… but, one thing I know for sure, you can’t turn your back on it for a second…

Bo and I will be taking a week off from the ocean I think. We won’t be going in if there is any chance that those little blue ninjas are anywhere to be seen.


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  • August 1, 2012 - 6:50 pm

    Rachel - Oh so glad you’re ok — our beach here was full of blue bottles last weekend too (although it’s much too cold to swim)!
    Thanks for sharing that you can still breastfeed with those toxins — hopefully I never find myself in that boat but that’s very handy to know! Hope you’re feeling back to normal soon.ReplyCancel

  • August 2, 2012 - 6:53 am

    Tamsin Michelle - Oh god, you poor thing, it sounds terrible!! So glad you were ok again, how scary. Look after yourself. xReplyCancel

  • August 2, 2012 - 7:21 am

    Angela - Sash, Owcha!

    Im sorry to read you had this terrible attack – such a extreme reaction. Part of me cant believe this is your first encounter.

    When my brother and I were little kids (we grew up next to a beach) we would play Russian roulette with the blue bottles, generally I won the blue bottle sting and every time my big brother would look on in sympathy and guilt.

    Anyways, just wanted to say “vinegar” its not magic bullet but it really does take a lot of the sting out. Dad or the lifeguards would always carry it.


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