Crystal Canterbury

The continuing saga of an ongoing battle with Mother Nature....

Every time I go outside to explore I’ve got on DEET. I pretty much bathe in the stuff to prevent ticks, mosquitoes, and greenheads from biting me, but the red dots up and down my legs clearly indicate that either DEET doesn’t work all the time or I’m just too darn sweet (I’m leaning towards it being because I’m just so darn sweet, but I think my parents would beg to differ.) So when I go out to the beach or on the Sound side of the island I pretty much expect to be assaulted by mosquitoes and greenheads which quickly meet their demise, but usually not until after they’ve already drawn blood (jerks).

The Spadefish that attacked Crystal
The Spadefish that attacked Crystal
Carol Bullard

What I don’t count on are the curve balls Mother Nature throws at me, such as the times I’ve been scratched and cut by green sea turtles THAT I WAS RESCUING! as they flailed about, or when I’ve cut myself on seashells that make their way into my water shoes (yes, I’m that person), or when palmetto plants jump OUT OF NOWHERE to slice or stab me, or when I’ve walked into quick-sand sunk up to my knee, or when prickly pears and/or sandspurs have made traversing the sandy terrain quite perilous, or when hornets/wasps/bees form battalions and unleash their fury onto me.

Seriously, I think Mother Nature is trying to harm me. That thought was further justified during the OcraFolk Festival.

Our Editor-in-Chief, Sundae, had been sick and wasn’t able to attend the Festival. In its 18-year run, she’s only missed two: when her daughter Mariah was born in 2006 and this year’s festival. Her other daughter, Caroline, was in charge of the tee-shirt fish-print station and Sundae asked if I’d be an extra hand. Of course I said yes, so I biked to the Festival and dove right in. Well, I kind of dove right in. Caroline and a friend had everything very well managed, but I helped where I could.

The best part was when Caroline pulled out a plastic bag full of freshly packed-on-ice fish! We removed the fish from the bag and neatly placed them on the table, and the painting began! Local Laurie Garrish and her grandson, Graydon, were ready to roll, so he picked out a fish and began painting! After each use we adults took turns washing the paint off the fish so the next child could get crafty.

Fish Print Tees – a Festival favorite!
Fish Print Tees – a Festival favorite!

The first fish I needed to wash was the biggest and also most sought-after. I dipped the fish into a bucket of water and began rubbing off the paint. Then, once again, Mother Nature threw one of those curve balls I mentioned earlier. I felt a searing pain (okay, maybe it wasn’t a searing pain, but it definitely made me say “ouch”) on my left pinky finger. I removed my hand from the bucket and discovered I’d been cut…by a dead a fish. Thinking nothing of it I was like, “Be right back! I need to get a tissue because a dead fish just cut me.”

Two residents – Carol Bullard and Laurie – quickly piped in that I need to wash it, like, immediately, saying I could get “fish poisoning”. I chuckled and said, “I guess it’s a good thing I have good health insurance,” but they again stressed that fish poisoning is real and can lead to severe illness.

What I imagined was that some sort of fish venom had entered my bloodstream and was making its rounds throughout my body and would begin shutting down my organs or at the very least make me sick. Laurie quickly explained fish poisoning happens from bacteria, not venom, but I was still wondering why the heck Mother Nature was trying to harm me. I went into Deepwater Theater to rinse off as much bacteria as possible, but Carol urged me follow her to her house where I could wash it out more thoroughly and get a band aid, so I did.

Everyone knows boo-boos heal faster with cute band-aids. Thanks, Graydon!
Everyone knows boo-boos heal faster with cute band-aids. Thanks, Graydon!

After thoroughly cleaning the laceration (which hurt way less than a paper-cut. Also, calling it a laceration might be a bit dramatic, but I’m telling a story, so it’s acceptable) and wrapping it with a band aid, Carol and I headed back to the fish-printing station. As we arrived, Laurie and her grandson Graydon appeared. Laurie had gotten some rubbing alcohol, which Graydon insisted on carrying and which I happily used, then gave me a Sponge-Bob Squarepants band-aid, which of course I used on top of the one Carol gave me because how does one tell a toddler “no, thanks” when he’s being so kind?

Not long after, I was relieved of my duties at the print station and carried on shopping. After buying some fabulous hand-crafted goodies I walked back to my bike (which is actually an adult tricycle) only to find the seat removed and resting in the basket. This has absolutely nothing to do with this story, but it’s kind of funny because when I left my house Saturday morning, 1. I didn’t expect to have potentially gotten fish poisoning and 2. I never would’ve imagined someone would remove my bike seat. Turns out it was my friend Corey Cutright who, as a result of this trickery, has been aptly nicknamed The Bicycle Seat Bandit.

So I go home, let the dogs out, and make a post on Facebook – like any reasonable 35-year-old person would do, of course – about the dead fish cutting me and discovered that not only were Carol and Laurie not exaggerating in the least, but that fish poisoning happens fairly often. Several friends commented about their own experiences with fish poisoning, the impacts an infection can have, and how to prevent it. I was very confident I’d done all I could to prevent an infection, and since the cut wasn’t red, inflamed, or sore, I didn’t see a need to worry. However, one of the friends who commented about her own experience with fish poisoning included that it takes about 36 hours for the symptoms to appear. Realizing I wasn’t necessarily out of the woods yet, I kept washing it and looked up some information. Here’s what I found:

Since I hadn’t eaten any tainted fish and have no known allergies to seafood, the concern about illness stemmed from the possibility of bacteria from the fish’s skin entering my bloodstream through the cut. Known as Fish Handler’s Disease, the illness can develop within 2-7 days from the time of injury and has a host of symptoms. Those symptoms include a sharply defined red-purple circular area surrounding the wound; increased diameter of infected area by about one-half an inch a day; pain, burning, itching, and swelling around the wound; joint stiffness; and lymph node inflammation. It’s recommended the wound be washed repeatedly in fresh water with soap and a topical anti-biotic ointment be applied to the cut. Washing open wounds thoroughly and keeping them covered with ointment can (but won’t necessarily) prevent sickness.

Feisty Fish

All of the sites I read highly recommended seeking immediate medical care if you experience any symptoms after being cut by a fish or shellfish (I’m looking at you, blue crabs). Caught early enough, Fish Handler’s Disease can be treated with a low chance of long-term impacts.

It’s been two weeks since the dead fish unleashed its fury and cut me. I’m happy to report the wound is sealed and I have no symptoms of illness. Also, I made a fish-print tee-shirt with the fish that tried to harm me. I sure showed that fish, didn’t I?