James Bertakis was boating on the Intercoastal Waterway yesterday, near his home in Lighthouse Point, Florida, when a 5 foot (1.5 meter) wide, 30 lb. (13.6 kg.) spotted eagle ray Aetobatus narinari jumped into the 16 foot (5 meter) boat.
When Bertakis attempted to throw the ray back into the water, it lashed out with its tail and planted a venemous barb in his chest, puncturing his lung. Surgeons successfully removed the barb, but a fragment is believed to have migrated to the victim’s heart.
The Sun-Sentinel reports:
After five hours of heart surgery and a three-hour operation in the afternoon to remove his spleen, Bertakis improved to critical but stable condition at Broward General Medical Center’s intensive-care unit, said Dr. Eugene Costantini. “His heart is functioning well, his lungs are functioning well,” Costantini said. “God willing, he’ll survive this.”..
Costantini said doctors repaired puncture wounds in Bertakis’ heart after the barb entered the left side, pierced the septum separating the two chambers of the heart and then bore through the right side. Doctors saw the barb sticking out of his heart when they began surgery, he said, and pulled it through. They will now monitor Bertakis’ heart, lungs and kidneys.
Doctors removed Bertakis’ spleen as a precaution after tests showed possible internal bleeding, Costantini said Thursday night. He added that in addition to sedatives, Bertakis was also on antibiotics to fight possible infection from marine bacteria. Bertakis was unconscious throughout Thursday, the doctor said…
Costantini said that in 20 years, he has never pulled a stingray barb from a man’s heart.