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Vet Attacked by Lionfish While Cleaning Aquarium; 'I was Having Seizures and Convulsions' News Service
February 9, 2006 10:19 EST

GETZVILLE, New York -- Kevin Freels has been a vet for three years. He has seen his share of injuries, but he never thought he'd be on the receiving end of a potentially deadly attack from his own pet.

“I was just doing the routine weekly maintenance on the (saltwater) tank,” Kevin recalls. “Apparently she didn't like what I did."

The “she” Kevin is referring to, is his lion fish, named Lily. Lily charged Kevin's hand and jabbed six of her poisonous spines into him.

"I was just screamin,” Kevin said. "I just remember her stinging and then I remember crawling around on the floor."

Not realizing how serious his situation was, Kevin dialed his girlfriend Karen at work.

“All I heard was screaming,” Karen said. She raced home and found Kevin lying on the floor writhing in pain.

“I was having seizures and convulsions," Kevin said.

“I realized then when I saw the fish tank being changed he probably got stung," Karen said.

And that's what she told 9-1-1. When paramedics arrived, it took eight paramedics to restrain Kevin on the stretcher. All they knew to do was give him benedryl and get him to the hospital, where doctors were also stumped.

“They'd never seen such a thing," Karen said. “They had to call poison control."

Kevin realizes now he could have died. “The specialist there at the hospital said that it would've taken maybe another hour and I would've been in cardiac arrest,” Kevin said.

That's because Lily' s venom would have slowly paralyzed Kevin's heart .

“They compared it to getting stung by multiple scorpions,” Kevin said. “I knew she was venomous, but I didn't know she was this bad."

“To think that a fish, something so beautiful could do something so fatal. I still can't believe it," Karen said.

Now that they know just how dangerous Lily is, Kevin is selling her. In fact, they already have a buyer, but she'll come with a stern warning.

“Just don't let this happen to you,” Kevin said.

And although Kevin bought this fish out of state, he says he's seen plenty of her kind in salt water shops around buffalo. Doctors say Kevin will be fine, but it could take weeks, even months for him to fully recover.