My family and I were on vacation in Costa Rica, our first vacation since 2004. We toured Arenal, Monteverde, the Area Rincon de Guanacaste, and ended up in Nosara to surf in Playa Guoines.
I am not a goodt surfer; I am, however, fairly resilient. My first day surfing was very windy. My board whacked me hard on the head, and later collided with my jaw, and I received a mild jellyfish sting to the arm.
On my second day, my board hit me in the chin so hard I spent several stunned moments in the water floating on my back, wondering why my bathtub water was so salty. I continued to surf in spite of these and many more scrapes and bruises, which of course were nothing against my steely surfing demeanor.
The third day surfing, I was enjoying a relatively injury-free evening session when I lost balance on my board. I surrendered to it, falling backward into the water in a relaxed semi-seated position.
I landed on something very soft, lighter than air. Then the pain started. I felt the soft, sticky, stringy tentacles engulf first my left thigh, and then my right. Every place that the tentacles touched me felt like fire. Lucky me, I had sat right down on a large jellyfish tuffet.
I shot out of the water screaming every profanity in my extensive repertoire. I looked around, hoping against hope to see a gorgeous Tico lifeguard nearby, holding one of those red floaty things. Instead I saw my friends’ two 11 year-old sons bobbing up and down on their short boards, staring at me in horror: “Uh-oh, Mrs. Binell didn’t take her meds this morning.”
If I had had my wits about me, I would have gotten vertical, bent at the waist, and paddled away. My instinct at that moment, however, was to reach down with both my hands and push the jelly away. Big mistake. As I tried to push the tentacles away from my legs, more wrapped around my right wrist and left elbow. And then, of course, a large set of waves came rolling in.
I tried, but I couldn’t manage to get back on my board when the first wave hit. The wave thankfully washed the jellyfish away and drove my board toward shallower water, taking me with it.
I dug myself into a standing position, feet barely touching the sand, and reeled in my board as fast as I could. Another wave was fast approaching. My intent was to get on my board, roll under the wave, get back up, and to continue to surf. “I can do this,” I thought through the pain. I may be a terrible surfer but I’m tough, damn it!
I wasn’t fast enough. The wave hit, and I folded like origami.
This time I didn’t pop out the water, I emerged like the Creature from the Black Lagoon, my hair plastered down, completely covering my face like Cousin It.
I told him what had happened then he started taking pictures of my legs. I resisted the urge to bash him on the head with my surfboard, and handed my board to my son.
Our surf instructor, Richard, got out of the water and took me to his house. I was trying to remember the first aid protocol for a jellyfish sting. Richard said he had some vinegar and Benadryl, and if I wanted, he would give me a beer to top it off. Of course I wanted it. What I also wanted was to wash all the salt water off, so the first thing I did was rinse off in the outdoor shower and by the time I had rinsed off, Richard was waiting with the vinegar and Benadryl. He poured the vinegar on my legs. The relief I was told I would have was elusive.
One of Richard’s friends had told him to spray Windex on my legs; supposedly, ammonia helps. Again, nothing except now my legs were very clean and shinny and smelled like my kitchen. My legs were stinging more than ever, and some of the other surf students were coming back from the water making urine jokes. I even decided to get into the urethra humor and asked Richard, since we had tried everything else, if he wanted to pee on me. Trying to mask the look of horror that crossed his face, he diplomatically suggested that perhaps that was a job for my husband. Goodness, it was just a joke. No matter how bad my legs burned, I wasn’t really going to let anyone pee on me.
None of the urban legend methods were working at all, so I used the only tried and true method I could think of. I popped another Benadryl, and had another beer, and then another. Soon warm fuzzy happiness (and trying not to fall over) prevailed, and I stumbled on back to the beach house that my friends had rented for the week.
They fed me, and I soon drifted off to sleepy-land.My upcoming post will address the proper first aid for a jellyfish sting. Stay tuned to find out if indeed I should have had someone pee on me…