Edinburgh woman ‘died’ after jellyfish attack

Kerry Sowersby had been at a boat party off Nissi Beach. Picture: Getty
Kerry Sowersby had been at a boat party off Nissi Beach. Picture: Getty
Have your say

A HOLIDAYMAKER who almost died after being stung 20 times by jellyfish in Cyprus has spoken for the first time about her terrifying ordeal.

Kerry Sowersby’s body had to be revived with adrenaline after she suffered a near-fatal reaction to the stings while swimming in waters off Ayia Napa, Cyprus.

The 24-year-old told how she felt no pain during the sting attack itself. But she later passed out and her condition deteriorated so quickly that doctors were preparing to cut an airway into her throat to allow her to breathe.

Fortunately Kerry, who works as a hairdresser, responded to injections before emergency surgery could begin. She then spent three days of her holiday recovering in hospital, when she said the pain felt like she had been covered in boiling water. She has now returned home to her worried family, and said that she is still being treated for the after-effects of the extreme allergic reaction.

And speaking to the Evening News she admitted she was lucky to survive.

“We were at a boat party off Nissi Beach which had rules and regulations about when it was safe to jump into the water,” she said. “I went when they said it was safe and didn’t even know I had been stung when I was in the sea. I only started to feel a bit sick when I got off the boat and was back at shore.

“I had lost my sister and friends and was walking to get a drink and noticed my arm was swelling up and my face. I just blacked out after that and woke up in the hospital. When I woke up I was in mortal agony and had never felt pain like it. It was like burning all over my body, like someone had thrown boiling water over me.”

Jellyfish attacks in Cyprus are considered to be relatively rare, and are generally not serious, although in recent years there have been warnings that the numbers of jellyfish in the area have been growing.

However, Kerry’s reaction to the stings meant her encounter was nearly fatal. She said: “I died and had to get two injections to bring me round. I couldn’t breathe and the doctors were considering cutting into my throat.”

Doctors battled to save her life as her organs began failing and she fought for breath.

“They told me that I had taken a severe allergic reaction to the jelly fish stings,” she said. “I had been stung over my arm, backside, and face.

“My arm swelled up to about five times its size and my face was really badly swollen too.”

Kerry said the sting marks she suffered last Tuesday were likely to leave a scar and that she would not fully be recovered for several weeks. She returned to her Slateford Road home yesterday morning and visited her local GP for further treatment and medication.

Mum Sheila, 46, said: “The doctor said that in 30 years of his career he had never experienced anything like what happened to Kerry.”

And she added: “She came back from the dead – I thought she was a goner.”

Danger that lurks in oceans

There are almost 2000 known species of jellyfish in oceans across the world, and most are completely harmless to humans. There are, however, several species of jellyfish that can cause extreme pain, scars and even death.

Among the most dangerous is the Irukandji jellyfish, They are extremely poisonous, and symptoms of an Irukandji sting including nausea, vomiting, cramps and high blood pressure. The sting itself only causes mild discomfort, but the venom is slow-acting and severe symptoms surface only a few minutes after the sting. There is no known antidote to the venom of the Irukandji. In most cases, victims have to be hospitalised and in rare cases, people are known to have died.

The box jellyfish is also extremely dangerous to humans, with tentacles covered with a very high density of powerful venom. A sting from one can be excruciatingly painful and can result in death.

The Portuguese Man O’ War is wrongly considered to be a jellyfish, but is in fact a colony of four polyps. A man-of-war sting can be extremely painful and can also lead to fever, shock, heart and lung problems, and in rare cases, even death.