Dad anchored the Diva ll, our 10 m catamaran in MOMI bay, 25 km off NADI , Fiji Islands.
I watched as the Fijian villagers waved to us with big smiles and their children paddled out on canoes to greet us with extreme excitement filled faces.
We were there to get fresh water from a pipe built by US armed forces during World War II in 1943 to supply their ships.
It was 6 April 1994; I was 13 and traveling with my parents, Andrew & Madhu , my sister Amanda 14,my seven year old brother Sean.
Dad brought the catamaran as close as possible to shore, and then we formed a human chain to pass up buckets of fresh water from the pipe to fill our tanks.
The temperature was over 30 degrees but none of us minded it. We were waist deep in the sea and having fun.
“You splashed me!” Sean said, then drenched me with a bucket of saltwater.
Laughing as we wrestled, I felt something sharp stab the sole of my left foot. The pain was excruciating. I screamed.
“What is it?” mum said, rushing towards me as I clutched my foot, sobbing.
In agony I was carried back on board. My left foot had swollen to twice its size.
“Stone-fish sting,” one of the local kids said. Then they rushed to shore and disappeared into the bush.We tried paracetamol and stingoes but the pain got worse. Few minutes later, a village elder who’d been summoned by the children, paddled out to our boat. He carried something that looked like clay wrapped in a banana leaf. He mixed it with water to form a paste then pushed it against the wound. The deck spun and I fainted.
A moment later, I opened my eyes and the pain had numbed. It was severe but more bearable. The elder soaked my foot in hot water.
“I just got in touch with the hospital at MOMI , but they say stonefish anti-venom is in short supply,” dad told mum. “Anyways, headwinds would slow the trip to three days.
We’ve really no option but to trust the local remedy and hope for the best.”
Within a week my foot began to heel and gradually pain eased. Four weeks later I could walk on it.
I’m now 28 and with a keen interest in biological science, know about the dangers of stonefish. Their poisonous spines can cause muscle weakness, paralysis, shock and in many cases, death.If victims survive recovery takes about six months but in my case, it took just four weeks. Whatever that paste was, it saved my life. Till today I don’t know what medicine was in that paste?