2011 was definitely an interesting year for me. I got to visit a lot of new places and experience a lot of new things. One new thing that I wouldn't have counted on landed me the distinction in my office of "Most Likely to Get Bitten by a Cephalopod." Ah yes, 2011 was indeed "The Year of the Octopus."
|The octopus and his hideout|
Rob first spotted the baby octopus in about six feet of water in the inlet, right on the edge of where the sand drops of to what I like to call "the abyss." It's really just a few feet deeper, but way deeper than I would ever venture. We had never seen an octopus at the inlet, and honestly, I didn't know that they lived in the tropics. He convinced me that I wouldn't get attacked by a shark or a barracuda if I just went and checked out this cool baby octopus that was just hanging out on the sand. I tentatively swam out, looked at it, and immediately swam back to my "comfort zone." I told Rob to try and catch it for our saltwater fish tank. He looked at me like I was crazy and said, "How?" I said, "Just pick it up!" He flat-out refused, so I let it go.
The next weekend, I was snorkeling in about two feet of water. There were tons of beautiful shells near the shoreline, and I was having a great time collecting them. I lifted up a piece of coral, and guess who was there? The baby octopus! I wasn't afraid of it at all...I knew that octopi have beaks, but I figured that it may just wrap it's tentacles around my hand or something. I tried to grab it, and it jetted away and inked. No octopus for our tank that weekend either.
The following weekend, I was snorkeling for shells in the same area I was the week before. I spotted a large, broken conch shell. I decided to pick it up, because our fish like to have hiding places in the tank. When I picked up the conch, I realized that it was occupied by...the octopus! Woo-hoo! I captured the octopus! I yelled to Rob to get a bucket of water to put the shell in while we finished swimming.
|The moment of envenomation|
Rob tried to calm me down, telling me that I was just having a panic attack, but there was NO calming me down. I was sure I was dying. A Broward Sheriff's office boat was anchored in the inlet, so I flagged him down. (Notice: I flagged him down, not Rob, who was no doubt more embarrassed than concerned that I may be dying.) I told the officer that I had been bitten by an octopus and I didn't know they were venomous and now I couldn't breathe and I was afraid I was dying... Naturally, he looked at me like I was insane and said, "I didn't know that octopus bite people." But, being a public servant, he humored me and called the paramedics, asking us to pull up to the docks just inside the inlet to meet them.
By the time we got to the docks, I had calmed down enough to realize that Rob was right - I was just having a panic attack. My hand was swollen and turning purple, but I could breathe a lot better. Mortified, I told the officer that I would be fine, and that he could tell the paramedics not to come. He told me that they were already on their way, so I should probably let them check out my hand. (In other words, give them something to talk about back at the station.)
|Let's give 'em something to talk about!|
I opted not to go to the doctor, and treated my bite wound myself. I read online that it could take up to six weeks for the wound to heal, so I wasn't really worried about it. The swelling had started to go down after a couple weeks, and other than itching like crazy sometimes, it wasn't too bad. About three weeks after I got bitten, we went on vacation and I tried paddleboarding. By the time we got back home, my hand was swollen again (looked like a giant man-hand), red and itchy, so I decided to call the doctor.
|My nasty, irritated "man hand"|
(The wound looks like an octopus eye, doesn't it?)
It's been six months since my octopus encounter. My hand has gone pretty much back to normal, but you can still see where the little guy dug his beak into my palm. A guy at the dive shop told me that baby octopus have more venom than full-grown octopus. I guess it could have been worse. I definitely learned my lesson though. That'll teach me for trying to be brave! ;)
With Love and Aloha ~ Nancy