Erizo de Mar-Sea Urchin

I’m not that bad-ass.  But then again I’m not in Indonesia.  So, since my parents have  jobs and Obama Cares (even in Puerto Rico) I got to expand my PR cultural studies into the realm of Health Care via sea-urchin-spine extraction.

Yesterday, a friend invited me to go swimming with him in the sea.  He’s an avid open water swimmer and I’m an avid … learner, so I went with him to check out this whole thing.  I should probably mention that I’m an avid experiential learner.   Especially when it comes to warnings.  If I have one person say, “don’t ever enter the water because there’s a chance that you might step on a sea urchin,” and another person say, “come in the water’s warm”… I’ll probably (and I did) trek, albeit cautiously, across the petrified sand to deeper water where adventure and excitement awaits.

And I had a great time:  body surfing massive waves, getting some exercise, being a part of nature, looking back at the beach from a different perspective.  And.  After about half an hour, one of my contacts started to cause me some trouble.  So, I started back to shore.  I located our things on the beach and began swimming back, being careful to exit the ocean the same way I had left it.  It turns out the ocean had other plans.

Spikes in wrist

While attempting to climb over the rocks, I was knocked off balance by a wave, and used my had to stabilize myself on a sea urchin.  It’s spikes entered my flesh and broke off, it sounded like the lead in a mechanical pencil breaking and felt like… Spikes entering my flesh and breaking off…

So, when I went to stabilize myself, I danced on top of two more urchins, and shook hands with another.   I got out of the sea and when I walked to the shore, blood dripping into the sea, you can image what I was thinking: am I going to die?  I sat on the shore, assessing the damage, extracting the needles, feeling the prior warnings that I ignored staking themselves into my stomach, I decided I was indeed not dying, just really ashamed. But then I laughed.  What I thought was our stuff on the shore… was trash.

Anyways, my friend helped me get extract some spines, but then we drove back to his place to ask his landlady what to do.  She said three things can happen:

  • Your body will expel them.
  • Your body will absorb them.
  • Or you’ll get an infection.

I decided not to risk it, so I went to the hospital. Here’s how it works:

  1. Enter your name in the electronic registry system.
  2. Take a seat in the waiting room.  There was no muzak, but there was a mentally challenged woman singing worship songs… Alabaré (alabaré) Alabaré a mi Señor.
  3. After about 15 minutes they took my vitals and assessed the situation.  (Here they confirmed that I was not dying… just tonto)
  4. Then I moved to billing to make sure that I had insurance.  She was excited to process an out-of-state territory health insurance policy.
  5. She sent me a hallway to wait for Doctor #2.  While standing in the hall, some other patients waiting in line were saying things like: “I wonder what happened to the this Gringo-I don’t know but he’s cute-I wonder if the Doctor speaks English.”  When I (in Spanish) asked a passing nurse for a wheel chair to sit down because the spikes in my feet were bothering me, they laughed out of embarrassment (I think…)
  6. Then the nurse wheeled me into the doctor’s office.  After about 5 minutes of the doctor contorting her face like the Scream (or someone seeing the price for the Scream for the first time)while she gave my wounds the look-over, before she took me to the Extraction Room. (self-titled)

That was in my wrist.

The room had 3 other patients-or onlookers, who used me as a painkiller-or entertainment, but eventually became cheerleaders… She pulled out a 25 G 5/8 needle and some … extraction device… and told me to let her know when I wanted a local anesthetic.  She stuck the needle into the wounds and pried the spikes from their resting place, some where as long as a 1/4″ in.  The most painful ones were the ones that got stuck underneath my finger nails…

We lost track after 30.

So, after extracting them she swabbed iodine on the wound and gave me some blue booties for my feet.


She then wheeled me down the hall to hook me up for an I.V. spiked with antibiotics.

Now I was free to head home.

She told me to:

  • Wash the wound 3 times a day
  • Not to use antibiotic ointments or antibiotic soap
  • Take antibiotics

All in all, I have to say that I was really satisfied with the quality of the services.  The staff was friendly.  The facilities weren’t out of this world, but they weren’t “3rd world“, either. All in all a 8/10.  So, while traveling/living  in PR, don’t be afraid to go to the hospital.  And most people were bilingual, so don’t let that scare you either.

Recovery Day 1


5 pensamientos en “Erizo de Mar-Sea Urchin

  1. You chose wisely…medical care over whiskey and pounding foreign objects into your body :). Thanks for the pictures so I can semi-see-for-myself that you are ok…love the blue booties! Praying you heal quickly….keep living the paradox-safe adventures! Mucho love, mom

  2. Congratulations on your adventure! I was in PR a couple weeks ago with a class from UNL . . . It was my first time snorkeling, and being that I’m not exactly what you’d call a “swimmer”, you can imagine the panic I was feeling as I was floating over a nest of these things, clinging to my life-vest-now-boogie-board . . . Experiental learning is not for the feint of heart!

  3. diiiiiiiito marcus!!!!! next time, wear full-body urchin repellent armor. i hear you can get it at the mr. especial. 🙂

  4. you are getting the 100% typical puerto rican experience. i’ve never dealt with an urchin, but a lot of my family out west has! your assessment of our medical facilities is interesting. we should discuss. remember though, who we are in the politico-economic context.

  5. Ouch! I pretty much winced the entire time I was reading this post. But I´m glad you had fun swimming!! Think you´ll go back?


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