It is not every day that you hear about somebody surviving a skydiving mishap, let alone surviving a skydive gone wrong that involves being repeatedly stung by fire ants. This is exactly what happened to a woman named Joan Murray back on September 25, 1999. Then aged 47, the adrenaline junkie was eagerly anticipating what she believed would be a normal skydive. What it turned into, however, was a 2-week coma stint in the hospital and a very near death experience.
From Euphoria to Emergency
Based in North Carolina, Murray, a bank executive, had previously released her parachute over spectacular settings on numerous occasions. With over 30 skydives to boast about, Murray was confident and had no idea that her main parachute would fail on that fateful day in September. Plunging toward the ground at 80 miles per hour, Murray was forced to think fast in order to save her life.
Every skydiving aficionado knows that when the main parachute does not activate, the secondary chute must be opened. By the time Murray had done so, she was just 700 feet from the ground. Adrenaline coursing through her veins, fear, and panic set in, causing her to spin uncontrollably while airborne. Constant spinning prevented the secondary chute from inflating properly, resulting in her surrendering into a fire ant-breeding mound.
Fire Ants are Alkaloid Venom-Injecting Insects
Not only did Murray hit the ground with a huge impact on one side of her body but also, she disturbed the territory of some rather angry fire ants. Fire ants are considered one of the top 10 insects on the planet with the most painful sting. In fact, the Schmidt Pain Index is somewhat of a ‘sting-o-meter’ and according to biologists, the fire ant’s pain rating varies from 1-3. Worker ants, these insects will construct their colony in a dome-shaped mound, which may vary in size. They live in huge colonies of 250,000 or more and their sting is extremely painful.
Fire Ant Stings Potentially Saved Murray’s Life
In rare cases, allergic reaction can cause death and from the moment a human is bitten by a fire ant, its toxin-filled venom will instill an immediate feeling of pain. Murray’s unfortunate landing spot might have actually been what saved her life, however.
Barely conscious when the paramedics found her, the doctors at Carolinas Medical Center (where she received treatment) determined that the repeated fire ant stings shocked her heartbeat and stimulated her nerves. Without the insect assault, Murray’s heart might not have kept beating, nor her organs functioning properly.
During her comatose state, which saw her unconscious for two weeks, the shattered bones in her right leg were being supported with metal spikes. Joan Murray truly is lucky to be alive. These metal spikes were inserted through both her legs and pelvis.
Once a skydiver, always a skydiver
They say that life begins at the end of your comfort zone and this saying rings true in Murray’s case. Despite her two year-long recovery, Joan Murray took the plunge once more when she had recovered completely. Thankfully, that skydiving incident did not end in disaster and the courageous lady landed firmly on both feet.
She does take life more seriously nowadays though, saying, “I have learned to take time for the important things in life. I say ‘I love you’ and ‘thank you’ a lot more since the experience”.