Rushed to hospital after suspected irukandji sting
A BUNDABERG girl is lucky to be alive after being stung by what is believed to be one of the world's deadliest creatures, one that has never been reported south of Gladstone.
The 14-year old was rushed to hospital in agonising pain with irukandji syndrome.
Sarah Smart was swimming with a group of friends at Elliott Heads Sunday afternoon when the life-and-death drama unfolded.
At first the Shalom student thought it was sea lice but when her muscles started to cramp, her arms and legs became numb and she couldn't breathe she started to panic.
The terrified teenager said it took less than half an hour after leaving the ocean for the pain to take over her whole body.
After watching Sarah struggle to breathe, friends and an off-duty surf lifesaver called triple zero.
Luckily ambulance officers were already in the area and were able to respond immediately.
Paramedics administered painkillers and rushed her to Bundaberg Hospital.
On arrival emergency doctors worked quickly, testing and monitoring Sarah, giving her medication to stop the excruciating pain.
Her father Andrew Smart became tearful as he told the NewsMail about the ordeal saying it was the scariest thing he had ever seen.
"They watched her heart rate and blood pressure closely to ensure she didn't have a heart attack," Mr Smart said.
Emergency specialist doctor Juanita Rayner said it was difficult to say whether Sarah was stung by an irukandji jellyfish but she responded to the treatment given as if she was.
"There was no mark on Sarah like there is when stung by other jellyfish," Dr Rayner said.
"It was at least irukandji syndrome - and we treat this the same.
"There are other species which present with the same reaction as she did, so it is too difficult to say."
Surf Life Saving Queensland regional operations manager Craig Holden received a phone call from the Bundaberg Hospital on Sunday afternoon advising a girl was stung by an irukandji.
Mr Holden said he advised all the region's lifeguards to be aware but had never heard of one this far south.
"No one can say with 100% certainty that it was irukandji," he said.
"People react differently when stung by different jellyfish.
"If she presented with irukandji syndrome she may have the same symptoms but was stung by something else."
He said it could have been the morbakka jellyfish which has been known to sting people around Agnes Water and Hervey Bay.
"Unless you see what stings you, it's too hard to say for sure," Mr Holden said.
"I just don't want people to panic as it may not have been.
"There were a lot of blue bottles around at the weekend but the hospital were not convinced it was one of them."
Mr Smart now wanted to share the story to raise awareness that the poisonous sea creatures were in the waters off Bundaberg.
He said the doctor's main concern was that Sarah didn't go into cardiac arrest and said her fitness helped her body fight off the venom.