Monday, April 23, 2007

Adventures in Cuba - When in Doubt, Pee on Your Leg

I eventually went back to the same island in Cuba where I suffered my water skiing tragedy. It was called "Cayo Blanco" and they had several other activities there that didn't involve pain and humiliation. Like snorkeling. Perfectly safe, no danger whatsoever. I'd been snorkeling many times before and the worst injury I'd sustained was a sunburn. I figured it would be a breeze.

I made it six feet into water before it went badly. I didn't even have time to put on my mask and flippers. I was in less than a foot of water, minding my own business when something bit my ankle. I screamed like a girl.

As soon as I'd calmed down and remembered that sharks generally don't swim in one foot of very warm water, I examined my leg. I had a small, black hole in the back of my ankle with what looked like a long piece of pencil lead stuck in it. I hobbled back to the bar, which doubled as a first aid station and showed the staff my foot.

Turns out I'd been stung by a Sea Urchin. Specifically a Caribbean Diadema Antillarum, and although the spines are not venomous, the stinging goop on the pedicellariae hurts like hell if it happens to get jammed into the back of your foot. The Cubans had a good laugh at my expense. Then it got a little weird.

My Spanish was limited to "Donda esta la piscina?" and "Una bocadito de jamon y queso, por favor." Oh and who could forget the most important "Una cerveza por favor!" So I thought that maybe, just maybe I was hearing wrong when they told me I needed to pee on my leg. They explained, between giggles, that human urine acts as an anti-venom and if I urinated onto the back of my foot, the pain would go away.

It took me quite a while to accept this, and as I stumbled off into the palm trees for privacy, carrying an empty cola bottle to collect the anti-venom, I wondered if they were still laughing at me. But it hurt, so I tried it. I filled the bottle and then slowly poured it's contents onto my ankle.

It was a miracle. The pain disappeared. I couldn't believe it. Yay urine!

I asked my doctor later when I got home and he explained that there are conflicting views as to the efficacy of urine for treating urchin stings. At best, the ammonia may help neutralize the venom, but it does nothing to help remove the embedded stinger.

For future note, the correct treatment for a sea urchin sting is immersion in hot water and surgical removal of the spines.

Or you could stand there like an idiot and pee on your leg.
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5 comments:

The Nightbreeze said...

Maybe the guy in the Hospital Cafeteria was stung by a Sea Urchin.

Did you ever think to ask?

T. D. Fuhringer said...

Ha ha Nightbreeze! Good one.

Anonymous said...

You might want to consider wearing a diver's suit next time you go swimming in Cuba, t.d.

Anonymous said...

It was certainly interesting for me to read this article. Thanks for it. I like such topics and everything that is connected to them. I definitely want to read more soon.

Anonymous said...

Don't stop posting such themes. I love to read blogs like that. By the way add some pics :)