A Palm Beach Gardens man is lucky to have his leg after he was speared by a stingray last month.
Doctors at St. Mary's Medical Center say 20-year-old Michael Goldstein will make a full recovery and could get back in the water in a matter of weeks.
The surfer says he first thought a shark bit him when he was on the water that day.
He never saw the stingray, but Michael says he felt something on the back of his leg and got out of the water.
Doctors say they don't know for sure, but they suspect a stingray pierced Michael in the back of his knee. When he came to St. Mary's, his trauma surgeon says they needed to operate right away or he could have lost muscle in his leg.
"I felt a punch so I thought I was in shock so I assumed the wound was much bigger," Goldstein said.
"We caught it just in time, by the time he came to the ER and he had a cat scan and they called me, we had him in the operating room in 15 minutes," said trauma surgeon Eugene Misquith, MD.
Stingrays are not usually aggressive unless they feel threatened and are usually on the ocean floor.
Doctors say if you are speared by a stingray apply pressure and first aid immediately and call for help. The southern stingray has a defensive venomous barb located near the base of the tail, according to the Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission. It suggests doing the 'stingray shuffle' which consists of shuffling your feet when you walk in shallow water.
When it comes to encountering stingrays, Loggerhead Marinelife Center chief conservation officer Tommy Cutt says, "Interactions with stingrays are relatively uncommon for the average beach-goer in Palm Beach County. However, it's important to be aware that there tends to be more stingrays in nearshore waters during the summer months and remember to take the necessary precautions to avoid an interaction. Stingrays are considered to be non-aggressive, docile animals and typically do not "attack" unless they feel threatened."
He says, "Encounters with stingrays are easy to avoid by doing the 'stingray shuffle.' This is done by simply shuffling your feet through the sand rather than taking steps. Stingrays buried in the sand are able to detect the vibrations and will move out of the way."
Dr. Charles Manire, director of rehabilitation & research and staff veterinarian at Loggerhead Marinelife Center says, "There are two issues with stingray spines causing injuries to humans. The first is the venom that is present that causes local tissue damage and pain, but not usually death. The second is the mechanical damage caused by the spine, similar to a stabbing, and this can be fatal is it involves a stabbing into the heart or a major blood vessel, either of which can cause one to bleed to death. Since most cases of stingray spine injury occur on the feet and legs from stepping on a stingray, they are rarely fatal, but are extremely painful. To help alleviate the pain, the area should be immersed in very warm water, and medical attention should be sought because infection is likely to occur."