Stingray Attack!

Lemme tell you a story …

As I mentioned in the skate wing dinner post, back a billion years ago – before 9/11, before Bush, before blogs even – our family was very fortunate to have a home in Florida. Specifically, a beautiful condo in Bradenton, Florida.

I spent a lot of time at the condo, dividing my time evenly between early morning cycling, relaxing on the beach at Beer Can Island in the afternoons, and shopping and eating at St. Armand’s Circle in Sarasota. The back country roads northeast of Bradenton, out by Parrish and Ellenton, are perfect for long distance riding … flat, flat and flat, and I spent an untold number of hours and miles cycling these roads whilst training for triathlons.

1) scanned photo: Mark, Ironwoman Judy and myself rebuild my bike in the lanai

, in October 1998, my mom and I headed to the south of France for 10 days of son/mom time together. We rented a lovely villa at the gorgeous Domaine du Mont-Leuze, high above Nice in Villefranche sur Mer, and basically filled ourselves silly with homemade French food and far too much locally bought rose wine. My time with mom on that trip still resonates to this day: we had an amazing time together. At the end of the second week, we were joined by my best friend (and should G and I ever get married, my bestman), Kevin. Kevin – being Kevin – had been binging at Octoberfest in Munich and took the train down to Nice to spend a couple days with us.

2) scanned photo: Kevin and my mom high above Nice. Sorry guys/ladies: Kevin is taken and married with two kids!

We hung out together and visited Eze then all TGV-ed back up to Paris to celebrate (Canadian) Thanksgiving in the City of Lights. Thanksgiving night was far, far too much fun as we wandered the City and the Champs d’Elysee to very, very early in the morning, returning to our hotel to panicked messages from papa, who had been ringing for hours trying to wish us a Happy Thanksgiving. Oops. The next morning, we had tearful departures as Kevin headed off to Amsterdam; my mom hopped on the Eurostar for London to visit (and shop) with Auntie M (more on amazing Auntie M here); and I flew back to Toronto to meet my sister and niece (who was just a wee lass of of a toddler), only to immediately fly down to Tampa for another 10 days rest and relaxation at the condo.

It was in Florida, wading with my niece in the shallows of Bradenton Beach that I was stung by a stingray. I initially felt something slimy cross my left foot, then the distinct feeling of something very nasty and very sharp slowly penetrating my foot from the top through to the bottom and then pulled back out again.

To say this was painful doesn’t explain by half the immediate, intense, hot, burning feeling that radiated from my foot. That pain was all-consuming and remains to this day – vivid, in my memory. Not wanting to scare my niece, I quickly exited the water only to see the wound and blood left by the stringray. Being a former lifeguard myself, I made haste to the nearest station where I was told to immerse the foot in as hot water as I could stand.

My sister got us back to the condo where I did just that, which gave some (limited) relief. Now, what I should have done at that point, was head to the hospital. Ah regrets …

Instead, I soldiered on, managed to staunch the bleeding and, though painfully, continued with the holiday.

In December, right at Christmas the wound reopened causing much nastiness, and, I suspect, an infection. I again soldiered on doing triathlons in the summer of 1999 even though the stabbing pains in my foot never ceased. A visit to a doctor in Toronto in the fall led to a specialist who advised a full body & flow scan be performed. The result showed “a clear intense
focus of uptake involving the left 2nd and 3rd metatarsals” … to quote
the report directly, and I’m told I have a
stress fracture and that I must stop running, period!  This sucks, as by this point, I’ve registered for Ironman USA in Lake Placid in July and really need to be training. After crying (yes, crying), I withdrew my racing spot at Lake Placid. Grrrrrrr.

3 & 4) the initial bone scans showing the ouchie … hey, I look good inside-out!

The months pass on until it’s now the fall of 2000 and things really aren’t any better, despite custom orthotics and visits to a chiropodist. Then with thanks to both Dr. Tom and my mom, I score a referral to Canada’s premiere Sports Medicine Clinic – the Fowler Sports Medicine Clinic at the University of Western Ontario (now the Fowler/Kennedy Sports Medicine Clinic).  The team here is fabulous and after all this time I’m finally thinking we’re going to get an answer to what’s actually happening with my left foot. The Fowler team does all sorts of tests – x-rays, white cell counts, and yet another full bone scan with yet more of that horrible radioactive tracer substance shot into me.

In the end, on March 21, 2001 I get the final word. I’m told I have “a lucent area at the head of the 2nd metatarsal which would be consistent with Freiberg’s Disease”. I’m told there are two options: surgical intervention to remodel the joint though it is often problematic as the physician needs to ensure no lesions are transferred, or – in what must be the best advice ever given – train to whatever level of pain you can stand.

Oh, sure, I can do that!

Long story I know but the lesson learned? … Two of them:

1) never give up on any dream despite how you’re feeling. Keep fighting the system and search for answers until you’re sure what’s going on. I could have given up my dream of doing an Ironman – and I initially did – but that fire continued and I soldiered on to finish Ironman Lake Placid in July 2004; and,
2) if you ever get stung by a stingray, go immediately to the hospital!

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6 Responses to Stingray Attack!

  1. CurryPuffy says:

    Oh my….quite a nasty encounter!!

  2. vsan79 says:

    Nice. So you are canadian or american ?

  3. Fatcat723 says:

    That is a lot to happen in a short time. I know the place you rode the bike – no I am not doing that. I am walking the beach on Siesta Key – trying to do it faster and longer each time. Boy I need the exercise. And if I even see a stingray I will say hello and walk the other way.

  4. kunhuo42 says:

    wow, that x-ray looks really bad! that’s a very motivating story… and it makes me feel bad for putting off running the past few days. i think tomorrow morning i will hit the road!

  5. Wow… that was such an intense story! I can’t believe it all happened! After reading all of that, I feel very motivated and inspired (To do what, I don’t know yet =P). I’m at a lost for words, really. That’s just so inspirational!(=

  6. ryc: it’s okay – it was mostly for me, anyway

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