Sea Urchin Needle in a Haystack

stunet's picture
stunet started the topic in Monday, 8 Jul 2013 at 2:58pm

In WW2 the Japanese tortured prisoners of war by growing bamboo under their fingernails, the Iranian secret police reportedly lifted and removed the fingernails of political prisoners, and 'denailing' has been a crude but effective form of torture since mediaeval times. The fingernail, or more specifically the flesh underneath, is a damn sensitive piece of the body and I can vouch for its ability to send you into quivers when prodded in any way.

Late last week I had a session at a local reef breaking about as good as I've ever seen it. Subsequently I caught the best waves I've ever had there. Twas a bit inconsistent but the wait was worthwhile, and with only two other amiable fellows to share it with the morning passed in an agreeable fashion: barrel, chat, barrel, chat etc etc

After a few hairy drops, successfully landed, I was starting to feel it and pushed myself into a late one from behind the reef. Saw the ledge coming and prepared for the airdrop thinking I was Marti Paradisis at 20ft Shippies. Grand delusions gave way to a sound slapping as I faceplanted into two feet of water and prepared to go up and over. I wrapped my hands around my head awaiting impact.

The impact was pretty soft, more glancing blow than blunt punch, but a pain shot through my hand. I let the following waves push me down toward the channel while I clutched my hand and tread water. When I got into a safe place I checked my hand to see a small armada of sea urchin spines stuck in my fingers with one evil fucker shooting up the fingernail of my left ring finger. It was about a centimetre long and had appeared to have broken. I couldn't quite believe it had gotten in there.

It turned into a real prick of a morning as I had to ride home - about 2k's with my sore hand steering - then try to tweezer the thing out by myself. The visible part of the urchin snapped putting an end to that idea. I was at a loss to know what to do. A quick trip to work established that the fellas in here had no idea either. Off the docs to find out that there was no obvious solution to the problem - neither of the docs on duty had dealt with something like this before so had different ideas of treating it.

In the end I got a series of anaesthetic jabs around the fingernail and the doc began the process of denailing me - Iranian Secret Police style. Lift and cut, tweezer the sea urchin away. Lift and cut and repeat. I had to call a halt to the process about an hour in as the pain was too great. I'd be fucken useless in wartime. Bite the bullet? I'd swallow the bastard and scream.

Told the doc I'd take my chances with infection and he prescribed a course of antibiotics. Three days passed and there's no sign of inflammation but it hurts like buggery when I bump it.

Photo taken during the sessions: http://i114.photobucket.com/albums/n245/stunet/stu_1_zpsdf65c285.jpg
Fingernail before detailing: http://i114.photobucket.com/albums/n245/stunet/photo_zps2e1ff7a5.jpg

braithy's picture
braithy's picture
braithy commented Monday, 8 Jul 2013 at 4:54pm

I just gave up surfing...

keegs's picture
keegs's picture
keegs commented Monday, 8 Jul 2013 at 6:01pm

I feel ya stu, not trying to be a story topper but I have a story related to denailing too.

Long story short, make sure your kids don't climb timber pailing fences in bare feet.

I got splinters under every nail in my left foot which required injections in the tips of 3 of the toes, followed by a similar scalpel and lift with tweezers technique.

The anaesthetic was honestly useless. It was definitely the worst pain of my life and I've had a number of broken/snapped bones through out my sporting career.

derra83's picture
derra83's picture
derra83 commented Monday, 8 Jul 2013 at 8:08pm

Thats a nasty story Stu. In some hospitals/parts of the world doctors test comatose or stuporous patients by prodding under the fingernails and observing the response. It's the most sensitive exposed part of the body and you stabbed it nice and deep.

stunet's picture
stunet's picture
stunet commented Monday, 8 Jul 2013 at 9:21pm

@Keegs,

Three nails?! If that were me I would've put my foot down - my good foot - and insisted on pethidine.

@ Braithy,

No need to give up surfing, just stick to sand bottoms.

wellymon's picture
wellymon's picture
wellymon commented Monday, 8 Jul 2013 at 11:19pm

mmmmm!
Japanese! clever as, or nasty, Subaru's or Saki?
No really I feel for you.
Going on the last photo! At least your wife would have said" harden up princess! It's only a little splinter?"
Little does she know?
mmmm nasty nasty. Painful as.
I feel it Stu.
As your beautiful wife would say!.........

Our brains are too small at the moment to comprehend the reality of what's happening in our forests . We're only just waking up so to speak . The big problem is we think we know everything, we are specks of dust on a timeline and we know nothing .

keegs's picture
keegs's picture
keegs commented Tuesday, 9 Jul 2013 at 7:01pm

Hope ya recover without any complications mate. My feet get sore just thinking about that day.

wellymon's picture
wellymon's picture
wellymon commented Tuesday, 9 Jul 2013 at 9:29pm

Its amazing what we humans go thru, to have fun , but we are so resilient we bounce back.

@Stu flag the pethidine!, I've been put in an ambulance twice in the last year, Morphine is the go, for sure.

I've never had it before and I've never ever been in so much pain, that stuff rocks. ( 7 broken ribs, don't sneeze )

Our brains are too small at the moment to comprehend the reality of what's happening in our forests . We're only just waking up so to speak . The big problem is we think we know everything, we are specks of dust on a timeline and we know nothing .

scoopmaster's picture
scoopmaster's picture
scoopmaster commented Wednesday, 10 Jul 2013 at 4:20pm

I messed up my hand in a workplace accident once - ripped all the nails off my right hand and all the skin off my fingertips too - i could see bone on all four fingers. Morphine did nothing to ease the pain. Luckily a surgeon did a great job of patching me back together so other than a shortened middle finger i'm pretty good.

As for the sea urchin spine i've found that digging them out with a sterile needle works fairly well.

wellymon's picture
wellymon's picture
wellymon commented Wednesday, 10 Jul 2013 at 4:56pm

Yeah scoopmaster, That would of been horrible, I suppose Morphine, in your situation did help a little though.

Its better than pethedine and even the silly little green whistle.

I bet your not scooping your hands in to turning machines now tho. Not that i know what happened?

Our brains are too small at the moment to comprehend the reality of what's happening in our forests . We're only just waking up so to speak . The big problem is we think we know everything, we are specks of dust on a timeline and we know nothing .

singkenken's picture
singkenken's picture
singkenken commented Friday, 12 Jul 2013 at 11:05am

Stu you have hit the jackpot by going under the fingernail, but I have had a few sessions with these little bad boyz. Notably at Aussie P, where some are the size of basketballs, and combined in an eastcoast cocktail of oysters & barnacles ( 6 -8 spines in each foot / heel conveniently broken off by my flipper heels ( was a cripple back then!),then years later in Oaxaca Mexico, where the removal procedure (by a mate) caused our travelling companion to pass out before I got the bugger out !!!. Seriously though, very painful due to the toxins in the spine, and cunningly microscopically barbed to keep working themselves in deeper. Keep an eye on it despite the ABx, cos they are better off completely out. ie : Had to cut down to the depth of the spine in Mexico to get it out , or risk an expensive dust-off to the States if left in.You have my sympathies.

alakaboo's picture
alakaboo's picture
alakaboo commented Friday, 12 Jul 2013 at 11:29am

Hey Stu, you can melt through the fingernail with a hot paperclip, then get the spine out more easily.
Heat it up on a flame until red hot. Try and stop before you get to the flesh...
Still going to be ugly.

stunet's picture
stunet's picture
stunet commented Friday, 12 Jul 2013 at 2:08pm

Are you kidding me Alakaboo, a red hot paper clip burning through my fingernail? What sort of a sadist are you? I got the nail lifted and cut away so (most of) the needle has gone. But jeez, I'd take my chances with infection before trying your home remedy out.

fitzroy-21's picture
fitzroy-21's picture
fitzroy-21 commented Friday, 12 Jul 2013 at 5:02pm

Holy shit Alakaboo, I've used a 1mm drill bit through the nail with my fingers (not drill) to relieve the pressure of a blood blister under the nail, but a burning hot paper clip! Thats fucking lunacy.

mick63's picture
mick63's picture
mick63 commented Friday, 12 Jul 2013 at 5:26pm

The hot paper clip is for real. I had a trip to the emergency ward awhile back after dropping a lump of timber on my big toe and the doctor heated up a hypodermic needle til it was red hot and used it to pierce through the nail and release the pressure and she said that the heat melts the toe nail like. Years ago a mate copped a pretty big splinter in the thigh and couldn't get it out as it went straight in and was pretty deep. He was in the bush at the time so his remedy was to get pissed to deaden the pain and dig it out. So there ya go Stu, a bottle of rum, red hot paper clip what can go wrong?

woohcs's picture
woohcs's picture
woohcs commented Friday, 12 Jul 2013 at 6:22pm

Paper clip thing is definitely real...had a marshall head drop on my toes during a particularly lively gig. Drank myself stupid for the rest of the night, and when I finally woke up, my big toe looked like a cucumber and the pressure felt like a vice! went to the quaks, and after he looked at it he started fiddling with a paperclip all casual like...asked if I smoke, and wanted to 'borrow' my lighter...next thing there was all sorts of fluids spurting out of places fluid should not spurt from. Sent me home with a band aid and a stern talking to

patty's picture
patty's picture
patty commented Friday, 12 Jul 2013 at 7:24pm

"Hi, everybody!"

Hi, Doctor Nick!"

singkenken's picture
singkenken's picture
singkenken commented Friday, 12 Jul 2013 at 9:36pm

Yes it's all true Stu, no home remedies here.I had forgotten this little trick from the ER, but no one can remember everything from training can they? ,works quite well and the guys are not yankin' yer chain.

evo62's picture
evo62's picture
evo62 commented Saturday, 13 Jul 2013 at 7:52pm

I'll take a cunjevoi facial from Burleigh anytime over a sea urchin.

The paperclip is the go for heamatoma under the nails. Feels so good once it's done.

arnie's picture
arnie's picture
arnie commented Monday, 15 Jul 2013 at 11:02am

I had a sea urchin spine in my toe which i couldn't dig out. It would hurt like a bastard when pressure was put on it. It eventually rose back to the surface 18 months later and i was able to pull out a a 0.5cm long spine.

Arnie

Shatner'sBassoon's picture
Shatner'sBassoon's picture
Shatner'sBassoon commented Tuesday, 9 Feb 2016 at 7:17pm

I woke up this morning and noticed a blood blister/pimple type of protuberance on my left pinky. There's been a weird little bump there for a forgotten period of time but this was definitely different. I vaguely remember knocking it whilst body surfing on Sunday.

Anyway, I squeezed it as you do...and out came some pus and a fragment of sea urchin. I then squeezed further and a longer bit came out. About half a centimetre for both pieces all up.

Where the fuck did this urchin encounter occur? When did it occur? I racked my brain for urchin hot-spots I've visited of late. None round my parts. Rote last September?? I can't remember crossing paths with any sea-life. Bukit last year? No.

Kuta Lombok September, 2014?? G-Land same year earlier???

Maybe, some dim memory at low-tide Mawi...

The only real bonafide urchin incident I do recall happened in Morocco at this gnarly paddle-out spot called Draculas. Paddling out I duckdived straight into a rock, scraped my face, and urchined my hand. But I couldn't even remember what hand (sick waves, by the way). Oh yeah, that was in the festive season of 2009/2010!!

Surely an urchin couldn't secrete itself and fester away for that long a period?!

Possible??

stunet's picture
stunet's picture
stunet commented Wednesday, 10 Feb 2016 at 9:23am

I've currently got an urchin needle that's sequestered itself in the side of my foot. It's been there since last autumn, doesn't hurt but has grown a nice little lump to keep reminding me of its presence.

I was chatting to Mick the Podiatrist about my little invader and he rattled off a few stories of guys having urchins and even a piece of metal (lodged during an accident) pop out of feet many, many years later.

So yeah, entirely possible, at least in your feet where there's a bit more flesh for things to get lodged and less nerve endings to make a man wince. In a pinky..? Maybe...

tux's picture
tux's picture
tux commented Wednesday, 10 Feb 2016 at 11:06am

I'v had a quite a few over the years but never under the finger nail..method I was taught was to hit around the urchined area with the flat side of a knife to break up the spines and stop them going deeper..then dig the ones out that you can depending on pain tolerance...leave the really deep ones and your body will reject them over time

Willow995's picture
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Willow995 commented Wednesday, 10 Feb 2016 at 10:01pm

Was surfing in Hawaii a few years ago and ended up falling off my board in about two foot of water, somehow my knee was the only thing that managed to get the reef. Paddled back out into the line-up and sitting on my board when I noticed this clump of about 10 spines probably a centimetre long sticking out from the front of me knee. I then shat myself for a better expression thinking I was going to be in trouble seeing's I was there for a basketball tour and had a game in 4 hours. Went past an ABC shop picked up a razor and started gouging my skin. Didn't really do much other then get the tops of them.

Ended up hearing vinegar breaks down the spines as they are made from calcium which is broken down via vinegar. So after two weeks of vinegar all the spines were removed and only a scar from where i hacked at the spot with a razor shows

Coaster's picture
Coaster's picture
Coaster commented Wednesday, 10 Feb 2016 at 10:47pm

stunet wrote:

I've currently got an urchin needle that's sequestered itself in the side of my foot. It's been there since last autumn, doesn't hurt but has grown a nice little lump to keep reminding me of its presence.

I was chatting to Mick the Podiatrist about my little invader and he rattled off a few stories of guys having urchins and even a piece of metal (lodged during an accident) pop out of feet many, many years later.

So yeah, entirely possible, at least in your feet where there's a bit more flesh for things to get lodged and less nerve endings to make a man wince. In a pinky..? Maybe...

I think I know the spot you were surfing. I surfed there for many years a long time ago. The way to remove sea urchin spines in the foot is to sterilise a sewing needle (hold it over a lit match) and then gently dig around the entry point, slowly opening up/widening the wound and then trying to pull the spine out with the needle. You've got to dig deep enough to get some leverage/purchase on the side of the spine so that you can push/pull it up. You should always be able to get them out of your foot.
But, as for removing them from under fingernails I have no experience there. Looking on the bright side, you were lucky not to get one in your head considering your hands were protecting your face.

blow-in-9999's picture
blow-in-9999's picture
blow-in-9999 commented Wednesday, 10 Feb 2016 at 11:08pm

Just remember that hazards --such as urchins-- keep your local from looking like snapper... I'd probably go some for SEQ.

freeride76's picture
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freeride76 commented Thursday, 11 Feb 2016 at 6:03am

I got a foot full winter last year , got most of them out and 6 months later saw what looked to be a little pimple on the top of my foot. Squeezed it and an urchin spine came out. Went through my whole foot.