HORRIFIC PAIN: Benita Guilfoyle was stung on the foot by a freshwater stonefish while swimming in Hell Hole Creek, Mooloolah Valley, and suffered severe pain.
HORRIFIC PAIN: Benita Guilfoyle was stung on the foot by a freshwater stonefish while swimming in Hell Hole Creek, Mooloolah Valley, and suffered severe pain. Warren Lynam

Stonefish victim: 'Pain worse than childbirth'

A SUNSHINE Coast mother has described the pain of a brush with a stonefish as worse than childbirth.

Mooloolah Valley resident Benita Guilfoyle was stung recently while swimming in a freshwater creek called Hell Hole at Diamond Valley.

Only her big toe touched the potentially-deadly fish but put her in hospital.

"I had my two kids without painkillers but this was worse," Mrs Guilfoyle said.

"I'd heard of other people being stung at Hell Hole but didn't think it would happen to me. Wrong time, wrong place I think.

"It was excruciating. I've never had anything like it.

"We put boiling water on it but that didn't help at all. No one should go through that pain."

 

Benita Guilfoyle was stung on the foot by a freshwater stonefish while swimming in Hell Hole Creek, Mooloolah Valley, and suffered severe pain.Contributed photo of the injured foot.
Benita Guilfoyle was stung on the foot by a freshwater stonefish while swimming in Hell Hole Creek, Mooloolah Valley, and suffered severe pain.Contributed photo of the injured foot.

Nambour's Andrew Brault was also stung this year while fishing at Tin Can Bay.

He was in foot-deep murky water and his foot grazed a stonefish. He said the pain went from a "five" to "12 out of 10".

"It pretty well dropped me to the ground. It drew blood and about an inch around it went blue-black instantly, that is when the pain took off to the extreme," he said.

"It was like someone got an oxy torch (a welding device used to cut metal) and used it on me.

"We had no phone reception and 30 metres away from help. We stumbled back to the land.

"But morphine didn't help, the whistle didn't work, only boiling water that a passerby told me to use worked. It was hell."

 

Benita Guilfoyle was stung on the foot by a freshwater stonefish while swimming in Hell Hole Creek, Mooloolah Valley, and suffered severe pain.
Benita Guilfoyle was stung on the foot by a freshwater stonefish while swimming in Hell Hole Creek, Mooloolah Valley, and suffered severe pain. Warren Lynam

Two hours after being barbed, Mr Brault finally made it to Gympie Hospital where he was treated.

Sunshine Coast University Hospital stings expert Dr Simon Jensen had noticed a rare spike in the amount of reported sting cases on the Coast.

He said 10 people had been treated for venomous stings, largely from stonefish, since December.

"The pain isn't just the sting side, it can travel up the limbs and bring swelling," Dr Jensen said.

"It can cause fluid to leak out of bloods and sometimes take days or weeks to heal.

"It is quite common for the patients to still be screaming by the time they reach the emergency department, especially if it's not in hot water."

Queensland Museum ichthyologist Jeff Johnson said stonefish were not a seasonal creature and the spike was simply down to the number of people in their habitats.

 

Benita Guilfoyle was stung on the foot by a freshwater stonefish while swimming in Hell Hole Creek, Mooloolah Valley, and suffered severe pain.
Benita Guilfoyle was stung on the foot by a freshwater stonefish while swimming in Hell Hole Creek, Mooloolah Valley, and suffered severe pain. Warren Lynam

"With school holidays and the amount of people in the water, more people venture into places likely to have them," Mr Johnson said.

"Stonefish are a bit different to most. They won't flee after a disturbance. They will erect their barbs as a defence mechanism.

"Their spines are quite strong so if you put your full weight on one you'll have a nasty time.

"Young children or people with heart conditions are the most at risk."

Stonefish fast facts

  • When: Found all year round, reports increase with more people in area
  • Where: Right along northern parts of Australian coastline. Particularly common in mouths of rivers and estuaries. Often found in Pumicestone Passage and Maroochy, Mooloolah and Noosa Rivers.
  • Habitat: Creek mouths with murky waters, sand, rocks and weeds
  • Why: Masters of camouflage who use spines as defence. They partly bury themselves in sand as they wait for prey


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