VENTURA COUNTY, Calif. - As a reporter, I have covered my share of health stories, but I am usually not the subject of the story, or in this case the cautionary tale.
While teaching a visiting exchange student to surf, at my favorite surf spot south of Santa Barbara, I felt a surge of pain, like a shard of glass, underneath the arch of my left foot.
I didn't tell the student, I didn't want to alarm her since she was already afraid of sharks. I put my foot in a Jacuzzi before heading to work. I ignored the pain and discomfort for more than a week.
When my pain seemed out of proportion to the wound, avid surfers I work with urged me to go to urgent care to see if some of the stingray's spine was still in my foot.
Dr. Julie Jacobs took care of me at the Sansum Clinic Urgent Care in Santa Barbara. She made me feel comfortable by saying she had treated plenty of patients with similar stingray wounds.
Dr. Jacobs said people who have been stung need to come in right away even if they were only scratched by a stingray's spine.
I learned some stingrays have serrated spines containing venom that can cause cuts and puncture wounds.
As she worked on my foot Dr. Jacobs said, "I have opened up a little channel here so there probably is some infection in there and now the infection can get out."
She gave me a tetanus shot and prescription for antibiotics.
Registered Nurse Specialist Genevieve Jacques wrapped up my wound and said they are seeing more stingray stings lately.
She said the first line of treatment is hot water. About 2,000 Californians are stung each year, usually in calm water.
Surfers recommend doing a shuffle that usually leads to stingrays swimming away. People often joke about urinating on ocean wounds, but doctors say it doesn't work.
I hope my story will convince others not to wait to get medical attention after a sting. My foot is on the mend and I may buy surf booties before going surfing again, but booties aren't foolproof,
Stingrays can sting through wetsuit material, too.