Dr Mohammad Raafat Okelah with Claudia and her husband. Image Credit: Supplied

Dubai: Timely intervention by a Dubai surgeon saved the life and limb of a Swiss tourist and averted complications caused by a jellyfish sting.

Claudia, a 55-year-old tourist on a family holiday from Switzerland, was enjoying her day out at a beach when she was stung by a jellyfish.

The sting caused sharp pain, followed by a burning sensation. The sting was so severe that moments later it triggered a massive swelling of her left arm, blocking major arteries and impairing blood flow.

As Claudia experienced severe pain, which was not subsiding, she visited Al Zahra Hospital and was referred to Dr Mohammad Raafat Okelah, consultant vascular and endo vascular surgeon.

Dr Okelah told Gulf News: “The blocked arteries were caused from a blood clot in Claudia’s arm. The venom injected by the jellyfish could have led to gangrene, [death or necrosis of the tissue due to lack of blood flow] and eventually led to the loss of the arm. A venomous sting from a jellyfish with such complications is considered to be a rare case in Dubai, with most stings fortunately being minor and not requiring any medical intervention.”

Dr Mohammad Raafat Okelah

He added: “The patient was in a highly critical condition when she came to me; she required immediate surgery to salvage her arm. Due to her complex state, we had to perform multiple surgeries to guarantee that she healed properly without losing her arm. Once we performed the surgeries, and administered medication, the patient’s health started improving remarkably well and within two weeks of staying at hospital, she was well enough to be discharged.”

Among the procedures that the patient had to undergo were an initial surgical Thrombectomy (removal of clot from the arteries). This was performed with intra-arterial injection of medication to dissolve the blood clot, which took around six hours.

Dr Okelah said: “The aim of the procedure was to remove the blood clot from the arteries, allow the blood to flow freely and avoid serious complications including limb amputation. After the initial procedure, the patient required several more surgeries to ensure the vitality of her arm tissues and complex surgical dressing was done repeatedly to ensure proper tissue healing.”

In addition to the surgeries to salvage the limb and dressing to promote her healing, a skin graft surgery was also performed to cover the damaged skin and assist in quicker healing.

‘It was a miracle’

Claudia, who made a full recovery, who was able to fly back home two weeks after the surgery, expressed her gratitude to the hospital. She said: “The last thing that I expected to happen was that I would end up in a hospital during my vacation. It was an extremely stressful experience. Being tourists, we had no idea who to approach for help, or which hospital to visit”.

She added: “It was a miracle that I was referred to Dr Okelah. He not only took the right surgical decisions but went the extra mile, guiding me, as well as my husband throughout the whole experience and making us feel at home. I am very grateful for the care given by the entire medical staff.”

Jellyfish sting: What to do

• Try and avoid some sections of the sea during peak jellyfish season

• Follow the advice of local authorities to know concentration of jellyfish colonies

• When wading in the water, wear protective clothing to prevent the venom in the tentacle from being absorbed in the skin

• If stung, immediately get the infected wound cleaned

• If symptoms do not subside and the swelling persists, it is advisable to seek medical help