Dipping my toes in the water, I breathed deeply.
After a busy term working as a teacher, it was holiday time for me and my kids Ruth, now 10, and Sebastian, seven.
We were at Wellington Point Beach with my mum Sylvia, 70, and our family dogs, Perseus and Zimri.
‘Look out for jellyfish!’ I shouted to Seb and Ruth.
Living in Queensland, we’re aware of the dangers, but stingers aren’t usually found this far south.
I pulled on my reef shoes and played with the dogs on the water’s edge.
Suddenly, I felt a searing pain in my right ankle.
Looking down, I was horrified to see a 50cm-long clear tentacle wrapped around my leg.
A jellyfish! Desperately, I tried to unravel it, but the more I pulled, the more it stung.
"I felt a searing pain in my right ankle."
I groaned as the agonising pain travelled up my torso.
I needed help fast.
‘Mummy what’s wrong?’ Sebastian called, now running towards me through the ankle deep water.
No! I realised he was headed straight into the path of the stinger.
‘Sebastian! Stay where you are,’ I screamed.
But it was too late.
I watched in horror as my little boy suddenly collapsed on the water’s edge.
He’d been stung too.
Fighting through my pain, I crawled over to Sebastian.
I ripped the tentacles off his leg, but my boy was already struggling to breathe.
Fellow beach-goers rushed to our aid.
‘Please get an ambulance for my boy,’ I sobbed.
By now, my own muscles were seizing up and I felt like I might vomit.
I’m going to die, I thought.
My kids will be left without their mum. I just hoped my son could be saved.
In minutes, two ambulances arrived and Sebastian was stretchered away.
‘Is he going to be okay?’ I managed to ask.
‘We’re going to do our best,’ paramedics replied.
I knew I had to win my battle if I had any hope of seeing him again.
Mum looked after Ruth and the dogs as I was taken to an ambulance where I was given a shot of morphine before being raced to hospital.
After more treatment, incredibly, five hours later, I was well enough to leave – so I went straight to Sebastian’s beside at the children’s hospital in Brisbane.
He was unconscious when I got there.
Doctors administered three shots of adrenaline to stabilise him, before sending samples of the tentacle for testing.
But Sebastian was now stable.
‘If he’d been smaller, he probably wouldn’t have survived,’ I was told.
When Sebastian woke the next day, he stared up at me.
‘Mummy, I thought I was going to die,’ he stammered.
Tests later showed that we’d both been stung by an Irukandji Morbakka fenneri – one of Australia’s most deadly jellyfish.
After our narrow escape we haven’t been back to the beach.
I hope by sharing my story I can raise awareness about the need for beach signage, warning about the dangers of jellyfish.
If it could happen to us, it could happen to anyone.
➤ These small, extremely venomous jellyfish fire stingers into their victim, causing symptoms collectively known as Irukandji syndrome.
➤ They were thought to only inhabit waters north of Gladstone, Qld, but in 2007 the jellyfish were discovered off Hervey Bay, and in 2013 several were reported off Fraser Island.
➤ Wearing a full-length ‘stinger’ suit reduces your risk of being stung by 75 per cent.
➤ If stung, pour vinegar over the affected area and seek medical attention urgently.