Re: home remedy -A True Story - long

Outer Bamnks diving on the Great Escape Southern California Live-Aboard Dive Boat

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Posted by Patrick on July 25, 2006 at 19:01:28:

In Reply to: home remedy posted by ChrisM on July 23, 2006 at 20:26:23:

It’s strange that you’d mention the “beating the spines” treatment for your Cocos urchin wounds. I say that because in the far distant past I received the same advice from a Hawaiian diver after getting an ass-full – this is not colorful language, I actually had my right gluteus maximus filled with a load of stickers – of spines while trying to show some non-divers the wonders of the underwater world.

Years ago while snorkeling with some very raw and unskilled folks near Kona on the Big Island; I discovered the true meaning of the saying “No good deed goes unpunished.” The folks I was with wanted to see the pretty reef fishies, but unlike many places in Hawaii, the local fish residents much preferred to reside in the maze of lava tubes in the area and were thus invisible to the tyro snorklers as opposed to swimming in the open areas of the reef where they could be admired by visitors.. So I would skin dive down, and swim through a tunnel and try to gently heard the pretty locals out the other end and into the open water where the tyros could marvel at their beauty. Soon after I began this effort, I came upon a very large, and (initially) complacent, spiny puffer who allowed me to gently cradle him in both hands, and slowly begin swimming him out of the tube and up where he could be appreciated. As soon as I began swimming with him, he – doing the puffer thing – began gulping water and inflating.

Now, I have to make clear, this was a BIG puffer, probably 30-36” long. When he began to inflate, he quickly acquired the size larger than a basketball. Of course as he inflated, (being a spiny puffer) his spines came erect and, having no gloves, I could not longer hold him. However to encourage his movement up toward the admiring neophytes, I began to carefully place my fingers between the spines and gently push him upward through the water column. Apparently I crossed the line and offended this creature, for just as we cleared the lava tube, Spiny, who up until this time had been lethargically wiggling his pectorals, spun around like a ballerina, and clamped down on my right index finger. As I flinched back, my right butt cheek scored a direct hit on one of the tropical urchins that were scattered around the tube. That was bad, but most of my attention was focused on the incredible pain in my finger. It was like placing the digit in a vice, and having a 350-pound Samoan jump up and down on the tightening handle. Spiny was well and truly clamped on to my finger and the inertia of that water-filled mass of fish made it impossible to shake it off my hand.

I knew I was in trouble when I looked at the surface through a rapidly shrinking tunnel of black, at the snorklers who were laughing so hard it was probable they would drown with me, and realized that I was going to pass out from the pain. Just as the black tunnel was shrinking down to a point like an old B&W TV screen, Spiny released me. Actually, I initially thought he might have bitten my finger off, but no, it was still there – sort of. Much wider than it was ever meant to be.

I made it to the surface, my crushed finger spewing blood, the pain unbelievable. The newbie’s were laughing so hard they couldn’t swim, and I almost hoped they’d drown. The funny thing was, many of the tropicals were now forming colorful clouds in the water, apparently attracted to the blood that I was so generously donating to the occasion.

I made it back to the beach, a mere shadow of the diver I’d been just a few minutes previously. I could hardly walk – the pain of the urchin spines was awful, but the mangled finger was even worse. A local diver came by and took in the situation with a minimum of laughter.
“Notting you can do for the finga, man, but get your girlfriend to get a bottle of wine. “Drink de wine and then have your girlfriend pound on spines with empty bottle.”
“Humm, must be some local way to heap further indignities on the stupid tourists”, I thought. But a couple of other divers came up and after gawking at what was left of my finger, concurred with the treatment.

On the way back to the hotel, I had to kneel on the back seat with my hand wrapped in a blood-soaked beach towel and a lot of laughter from the front seat. Good thing the car was a rental.

Since my ass had already been kicked by fate that day, I went for the drink-the-wine-spine-beating-with-the-wine-bottle-therapy, and by the next day could hardly feel where I’d gotten stuck. The finger was slightly different. The bone in the finger tip was crushed and there was nothing much they could do about it. It stayed wrapped with a finger guard for almost three months, engendering peals of laughter whenever those who knew the story saw it.

There are many morals and lessons to be learned from my misfortune, but the point I’ll stick to right now has to with the efficacy of the “beat the spines” treatment for (tropical) urchin punctures – it works.

Stay wet

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