Boy Stabbed Stingray Barb Recovers

October 20, 2010 - Injury Free Coalition for Kids of Baltimore

Quentin Tokar will not be rejoining his classmates Monday on the first day of school at Thurmont Elementary. He's still recovering after being stabbed by a stingray's barb in a freak accident. But when he gets back, he'll have quite a story to tell.

The 10-year-old fifth-grader will remain at home recovering from the injury he suffered while on his family vacation in North Carolina's Outer Banks last week. Quentin was released from Johns Hopkins Children's Center last Saturday, said his mother, Candace Tokar.

Quentin says he's not too disappointed about staying home for a few days.

"I'm feeling fine," he said, "I don't really want to go back."

Still, he says he hopes people realize that stingrays are dangerous, even when they're out of the water.

He had gone fishing with friends and family at Avon Pier, where a member of his group caught a stingray. He and his companions were prepared to throw the ray back — it wasn't what they were fishing for — but another man who had been fishing nearby came over and asked to remove the ray's 4-inch barb so he could keep the fish.

"We asked him not to," Tokar said. In the past, when the family has caught stingrays, they throw them back in one piece rather than keep them, she said.

But Tokar said the fisherman insisted, and continued to tug at the stinger, causing it to snap off and fly through the air. It landed on Quentin's midsection, puncturing his skin and hitting his liver.

Tokar said no one saw the stinger, but Quentin started screaming and underneath his shirt, about an inch of the barb poked out.

"My husband started screaming, 'Take it out! Take it out!' " Tokar said. "I thought we are going to lose him."

With each breath the stinger worked its way farther into Quentin's stomach, she said, until it disappeared into a nickel-size hole.

It took about 20 minutes for an ambulance to get to them because of the remote location of the fishing pier, she said. Once Quentin got to the local hospital, doctors decided to fly him to Norfolk, Va., because of the severity of his condition, but bad weather forced the helicopter to land in Kitty Hawk, N.C. Quentin had to be driven the rest of the way, another hour and a half, to Norfolk.

"It seemed like it was days to Norfolk," said Tokar, who rode with him. After he was released from the hospital and returned home to Thurmont, Quentin developed an infection and was admitted to Frederick Memorial Hospital. He was later taken to the Hopkins children's center.

"He's doing really well now," Tokar said. Quentin is on several antibiotics to prevent another infection in the two holes in his abdomen — one from the barb and another from an incision to remove the barb. His mother or a visiting nurse must change the dressing every day.

"He gets so anxious," she said. She said she has to make sure Quentin doesn't roughhouse with his siblings or move around too much. She said that after their appointment Wednesday, they might have a better idea of when he can return to school.

While Quentin is forced to spend his last few days of summer vacation inside watching TV or doing crossword puzzles, he's not resentful or despondent, nor does he feel much, if any, pain.

His mother said the family is relieved that he's doing better, but she wishes they had not had to end their vacation so abruptly.

"We love the ocean. It's just so calming. At first we were never going back to the pier," she said. But, "we never got to say goodbye. We need closure. I'd want to go back."

Quentin said he is not afraid to head back to the water, or even of stingrays.

"What I've been saying is, it's not the stingray's fault," he said. Quentin thinks the man on the pier should not have attempted to remove the stinger.

But if someone attempts to pull the stinger off around him in the future, he said, "I'm running to a different side of the pier."