Aussie woman's warning after box jellyfish leaves her body 'vibrating'

Zoe Cahill's dip in the ocean while on holiday left her hospitalised for over a month.

An Aussie woman has opened up about the incredibly painful moment “electricity shot though her body” as she was taking a dip in the ocean while on holiday.

Zoe Cahill, a yoga instructor who has been teaching and travelling in Southeast Asia, said she was on a solo trip on the island of Ko Pha Ngan, Thailand, when she went for a swim on Zen Beach.

“I thought I saw what looked like little bits of plastic in the ocean and within seconds this jellyfish stung me,” she recalled.

Left, Zoe Cahill in hospital with an oxygen mask on and scars on her hands. Right, huge welts and stings on Zoe's hand.
Zoe Cahill, an Aussie yoga instructor was holidaying on the island of Ko Pha Ngan, Thailand, when she says she was stung by a box jellyfish. Source: Instagram/9News

The 23-year-old said she had been swimming about 50 metres from shore when “all of a sudden my body just felt like it was vibrating,” she told 9News.

“The adrenaline kicked in, although my memory is still patchy, I actually managed to get myself back to shore,” Zoe said, adding she was sure a highly venomous box jellyfish was responsible.

“When I miraculously made it to shore I very peacefully drifted into a deep state of sleep,” she wrote on Instagram, recounting the ordeal which took place in October. “Bystanders have since reached out to me detailing that my body had turned completely blue.”

In the words of Zoe, a dance with 'mother nature’s most venomous creature became a cosmic communion'.
In the words of Zoe, a dance with 'mother nature’s most venomous creature became a cosmic communion'. Source: Instagram/Getty

A group of about 15 beachgoers rushed to her aid on the sand, reportedly dousing her in about eight litres of vinegar, with a nurse also performing CPR to keep her alive.

Jellyfish sting hospitalised Aussie for more than a month

Zoe told 9News she was “confused”, “crying” and “screaming” as she was rushed to the local hospital. She was then taken to another island where she was seen by a marine toxin specialist.

Photos and videos posted on her Instagram account show huge welts and now permanent scarring from the stings on her chest, arms and legs. The 23-year-old said she was unable to walk for two weeks due to the injuries and kept in hospital for over a month.

Zoe Cahill's scars from the box jellyfish on her chest and legs.
Zoe Cahill is scarred all over her body. Source: Instagram

“I’m scarred all over my body, everywhere you look there's a mark,” she said. “But I’m grateful to be here today.”

Zoe said she decided to share her experience after hearing about a spate of hospitalisations of tourists on K’gari, formerly Fraser Island. Irukandji jellyfish are believed to be behind those attacks.

Box jellyfish venom can cause cardiac arrest

The box jellyfish is considered one of the most dangerous marine animals in Aussie waters and they've caused more than 70 fatalities including the death of a 14-year-old Queensland boy in 2022, according to Queensland Health.

It is the species that is most often associated with deaths in the country, Professor Culum Brown from Macquarie University previously told Yahoo News Australia. “The venom (a neuro toxin) is so strong it can cause cardiac arrest within two minutes and it’s arguably the most dangerous venom in the sea,” he said.

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