Chiangrai Times – A mother has told how she feared she was being eaten by a shark when she was stung by a jellyfish just hours after arriving at a luxury resort in Thailand.
Sam Webster, from Solihull, suffered third degree burns and was left with horrific scarring when she fell from a banana boat and was attacked by the dangerous sea creatures.
The 37-year-old said the stings felt like ‘hundreds of razors’ being sliced through her leg, leaving her close to drowning before her partner jumped in to save her.
She spent the rest of her trip in hospital and since returning to the UK has undergone two operations and faces further skin grafts to repair her leg.
Now Ms Webster, who had to take four months off from her job as a council manager, wants to warn other Brits travelling to Thailand.
She said: ‘I am scarred for life but just pleased to be alive and relieved that it wasn’t my daughter that got stung.
‘The pain was so bad I honestly thought I had been attacked by a shark. I’ve been through months of hell since this happened. I never realised a jellyfish sting could be so life changing. I want to warn others.’
Ms Webster had arrived in Thailand and taken her six-year-old daughter Ella on a banana boat ride to cool down after their trip, while partner Dave Stanley, a sales manager, watched from the shore.
After zipping around the ocean, Ms Webster fell off the ride into the water and was waiting for the driver to turn round and get her when she was stung.
She says: ‘One minute I was laughing and splashing about, the next it felt like hundreds of razors were being sliced through my leg.
‘I was screaming and panicking so much I started floundering in the water. I thought if I wasn’t eaten I would drowned anyway, but luckily my partner saw and dived in to pull me back to shore.’
Her calf was covered in huge red blisters and locals crowded round, some pouring cold drinks on her leg.
Ms Webster says: ‘I heard them saying it was a jellyfish sting but I was in shock. It felt like my leg had been dipped in acid.’
A local policeman drove her to a nearby clinic in his pick up truck and she was treated with antibiotics and painkillers and taken back to her hotel to rest.
The next morning, Ms Webster tried to ignore the pain in her leg as the family had booked a rainforest excursion and her daughter was looking forward to feeding elephants.
‘It was the trip of a lifetime, the highlight of our visit and I didn’t want to spoil it. I thought a jellyfish sting couldn’t be that bad,’ she explains.
But during the drive, her leg started to swell and the red blisters turned black.
She says: ‘Dave was looking very worried and insisting I needed to be seen but by now we were deep in the rainforest.’
With the help of their guide, Ms Webster was taken to a tiny hospital in the rainforest where lizards scampered up the walls.
‘Of course I didn’t expect the standard of hospitals we are used to at home but I was shocked to see the wildlife inside. There were no sheets and blood on the floor. I was terrified.’
Mr Stanley spoke with their tour operator who arranged a transfer to a bigger private hospital in Phuket.
He stayed with Ms Webster’s daughter Ella at camp while her mother was taken by ambulance on the six-hour journey.
It was there medics confirmed she had suffered third degree burns caused by a jellyfish sting.
I was admitted for a week and they started clearing the spines out of my leg. It was agony. I insisted Dave and Ella stay at the hotel, I didn’t want to spoil their trip. There was no phone reception so I couldn’t even speak to them.
It was supposed to be the holiday of a lifetime but I had to lie in bed watching English war films.’
Three days into her stay an earthquake rocked the hospital. ‘I was starting to think my time was up when the nurses ran in to evacuate me. It couldn’t have gotten any worse.’
Thankfully nobody was hurt and after seven days as an inpatient, she was reunited with her daughter and partner.
They flew back to England and Ms Webster was admitted to hospital immediately. Surgeons removed the top layer of skin and weeks later she had a second operation to remove the damaged tissue underneath.
She spent the next three months recovering from the surgery on crutches and has only recently been able to return to work as a manager with the local council.
She said: ‘It was meant to be the trip of a lifetime but it turned into a real nightmare.
‘I’ll never be able to wear shorts again and will need skin grafts in the future to help the scarring but knowing what I know now about jellyfish stings I was lucky. I could have died.
‘I won’t ever be able to wear shorts or a bikini again. My leg is a mess.
‘I want to warn others travelling in Thailand so it doesn’t happen to them. I honestly wish we had gone to Cornwall or Weymouth instead.’