Cairns’ mother, who was taken to hospital after falling on a poisonous plant, said the pain was worse than giving birth

A mother of four from Cairns who was hospitalized because of the excruciating pain of the poisonous gympie gympie plant said the vomiting-inducing sensation was worse than childbirth.

She was mountain biking down a rainforest trail when she fell into the stinging tree and was covered in its subcutaneous, needle-like hairs laced with neurotoxins.

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Naomi Lewis said she knew exactly what plant she encountered when she flew off her bike into an embankment of Dendrocnide moroides known as gympie-gympie, or the stinging tree.

According to Queensland Health, she felt like her legs were on fire.

“I had four kids and had cesareans and a lot of stuff, but it’s nothing compared to that,” Lewis told the department.

“It got on all my legs, from the thighs down, basically anywhere I wasn’t wearing shorts.

The leaves and stems, covered with tiny needle-like hairs and hollow in the middle, had covered her entire lower body and were injecting toxins into her body.

The Cairns mother-of-four said the pain from Gympie-Gympie venom was worse than childbirth. Credit: delivered

“We went to a pharmacy and everyone was trying to wax my legs and get the burning hair off me while I was waiting for an ambulance,” Lewis said.

“The pain was so bad that I started throwing up. I remember thinking I was completely done. The pain was just unbearable. It was really, really awful.”

Lewis was taken to the emergency room at Cairns Hospital and stayed in the hospital for a week afterwards – but the effects of the plant would last much longer.

“I was on nerve-blocking drugs for months,” she said.

“I lived with heat packs strapped to my legs for a very long time. And I had to have her covered.

“Even now, when I walk into the produce aisle at the grocery store, it feels like someone is ripping rubber bands on my skin on a part of my leg where it’s obviously gotten worse than anywhere else.”

The hypodermic needles look like hair, but inject pain-receptor-altering venom once they penetrate the skin. Credit: The University of Queensland

The effects of the plant’s toxins were compared to those caused by the venom of spiders and conefish.

“The toxins permanently alter the sodium channels in the body’s pain receptors, which could explain the long-lasting pain,” the University of Queensland said.

The Gympie-Gympie is sometimes referred to as the “suicide plant.”

This nickname could be linked to a story originally told by hollyhock expert Dr. Marina Hurley was reported after receiving a letter from a soldier who fell into one of the poisonous plants on the Atherton Plateau in 1941.

“The soldier had to be tied to a hospital bed for three weeks because of the severe pain. The soldier claimed that (another) officer shot himself as he could not bear the pain,” the report reads.

East Coast Gympie Gympie Hotspots

The stinging tree is a protected and endangered species and grows in the rainforests between Cape York and northern NSW, according to Queensland Health.

It is known to grow in Nymboida National Park and Washpool National Park in NSW and south-east Queensland from Burleigh Heads to Byron Bay. It is also reported to be found inland as far as Toonumbar National Park.

However, according to a recent study published in Emergency Medicine Australasia, some locations are known to be particular hotspots for the fearsome tree.

“Crystal Cascades, a popular freshwater swimming spot in Redlynch, a Cairns suburb, was identified in the study as a key site for stabbing tree injuries and contributed to 42 percent of all presentations,” it said.

There is a warning sign at Crystal Cascades on a bush trail by the parking lot, well away from the main entrance, the study said. “There are no warning signs along the main trail to the Crystal Cascades.”

Crystal Cascades stinging tree warning sign on a bush path by the parking lot, well away from the main entrance, the study said. Credit: Australasian College of Emergency Medicine

Of the 46 Gympie-Gympie stab patients studied at Cairns Hospital over a three-year period, 96 percent had their limbs stabbed, the study reports.

Others weren’t so lucky. “One patient was simply stabbed in the face and one patient who was wandering naked in the forest was stabbed in the buttocks,” the report reads.

More than half of the patients were visitors from Cairns and the entire cohort had received a total of 13 different treatments prior to their hospitalization.

There are several ways to treat the effects of gympie-gympie, but the study found that there is no clear first aid or definitive treatment.

The Cape Tribulation Tropical Research Station recommends a 30-minute soak in 3 percent diluted hydrochloric acid before waxing the area to remove hair — this treatment option was used in 29 of the patients included in the study.

“Two patients had a dilution error that resulted in worsening of symptoms,” the report said, adding that there was insufficient information to recommend this treatment option “without clinical oversight.”

“The traditional aboriginal treatment was to apply crushed green ants to the sting, releasing formic acid,” the report said.

The most common treatment for ED was pain relief, the study said.

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A cow escapes from the slaughterhouse and runs onto the streets of Brooklyn Cairns’ mother, who was taken to hospital after falling on a poisonous plant, said the pain was worse than giving birth

James Brien

James Brien is a 24ssports U.S. News Reporter based in London. His focus is on U.S. politics and the environment. He has covered climate change extensively, as well as healthcare and crime. James Brien joined 24ssports in 2021 from the Daily Express and previously worked for Chemist and Druggist and the Jewish Chronicle. He is a graduate of Cambridge University. Languages: English. You can get in touch with me by emailing:

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