A Queensland TikTok star says he was hospitalised after suffering excruciating pain from attempting to rescue dozens of blue dragons at a Gold Coast beach and is warning his followers not to follow in his footsteps.
With his body disfigured by welts, 22-year-old Julian Obayd says he checked himself into emergency on Monday, a day after he was stung. “My life flashed before my eyes,” he told Yahoo News Australia.
“I freaked out because it kept getting progressively worse,” he revealed. “They were creeping up, these red marks all over my body. They were pretty weird.”
Unprecedented numbers of brightly coloured, venomous blue dragons have been washing up on beaches across NSW and Queensland in 2023 drawing increased media attention. Although not usually fatal, interactions can be many times worse than bluebottle stings.
Julian had been making a video for his popular TikTok channel which promotes conservation and his interest in marine biology. After rescuing a number of blue dragons which were dying on the sand, he placed them inside a pool of water to recover.
His video shows him gently scooping them with his hand. "Guys, by the way, never try this. This is incredibly dangerous even for a professional," he says in the video.
After describing them as "chill", he says he was stung, possibly three or four times. The TikTok video then cuts to him lying in a hospital bed.
Pain worsens after Julian is bitten by another sea creature
Julian told Yahoo News Australia he initially brushed the pain off as not too serious and set out to find something for the blue dragons to eat so they had the strength to be set free. Capturing their favourite prey, venomous blue bottle jellyfish, Julian says he was attacked once again: “I think I got stung three or four times in one day."
Describing himself as “something of a pain connoisseur” because he is frequently hurt while filming his videos, Julian conceded this time “was different”. “It was like a tingling feeling everywhere and it hurt to move around,” he said.
This is the third time Julian says he has been hospitalised from blue dragon stings, but he continues to be fascinated with them. However, he thinks it's important his loyal followers realise they should not emulate his on-camera behaviour.
“My heart was super fast when I came into hospital, but I'm not sure if that was because I was stressing,” he said. “I told them what happened and they said: You’re so dumb.”
After being given painkillers and an injection that made “everything go happy”, Julian says he was made to rest in hospital overnight. “It’s the worst sting I’ve had, I was being pretty stupid.”
Julian concerned risky behaviour could see TikTok account cancelled
After Julian's blue dragon video cracked 18 million views, he says he became concerned his account could be shut down because it could be seen to be encouraging dangerous onscreen behaviour.
His other videos have included kissing a venomous stonefish and biting into dead bluebottle jellyfish. Feeling at risk of losing over 520,000 followers, Julian said he felt forced into making a video saying he wasn't actually stung and his hospital stay was unrelated.
But pictures supplied by Julian show welts on his arms and chest which he says were actually from the blue dragon stings.
Julian says close friends and mentors have told him to stop making dangerous videos because they are concerned about his behaviour and safety.
Worried about the rising heat, he now plans to "lay low" for a bit. While his long-term goal is to have a career in marine biology, in the meantime TikTok helps him reach and educate a massive audience about the oceans.
Such a large, engaged following would be craved by many experienced academics who feel pressure to converse with the public and educate through the media. How the 22-year-old continues to share his passion safely is a work in progress. "You only become well-known for doing more exciting things, but I'd be doing this if there wasn't social media."
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