When Sea Urchins Attack

This post is sponsored by MedEx from UnitedHealthcare Global. All thoughts, opinions, and sea urchin stories are my own.

In honor of #ThrowbackThursday, I’m going to tell you a story full of pain, swearing, and a whole lot of hobbling around. So sit back, grab a drink, and let’s talk sea urchins.

A few years back, I traveled down to Haiti with a non-profit called Mission 29.2. {You can read more about our trip here.} Because Ouanaminthe, Haiti is much closer to the airport in the Dominican Republic than it is Port-au-Prince, our group flew into the DR, crossed the border into Haiti, and then returned to the DR for a few nights before flying home. The two nights in the DR were a bit of a celebration for a job well done: we had raised more than $20k for our school in Haiti!


A group of adorable kiddos on the outskirts of Ouanaminthe

After hiking to a nearby “mountain,” a few of us headed down to the beach to soak up some sun before returning to snowy Colorado. I had been warned that the beach at our Dominican hotel wasn’t the best with a rocky bottom and strong rip tides. But, it looked relatively calm that day and I have calluses on my feet that are thicker than steel; I could handle a few rocks!

{Famous last words…}

I decided to take a quick dip in the ocean before the team enjoyed our final dinner together, and headed into the ocean. Sure enough, the sandy floor was littered with rocks and shells, and I found myself carefully picking my way into deeper water. I took my final step before diving in and felt a sharp pain in my right foot. What in the world?!


Downtown Ouanaminthe

Before I could even process what happened, the sharp pain turned into a terrible combination of burning and stabbing. I tried to take one step, two steps, and the pain shot through my foot and up my ankle. Naturally, this is when the yelling and swearing ensued, but I’ll save you from my colorful language. Needless to say, it was *not* PG-rated and I’m slightly ashamed that I yelled such language in a public location!

It took me a couple minutes to piece together what happened, but I immediately swam back to shore to assess the damage, flopping my useless right foot behind me. As I stepped back onto the beach, my best friend ran down to the surf, asking if I needed help. “I’m pretty sure I just stepped on a flipping sea urchin!” I responded.

I hobbled up to a lawn chair before collapsing into the welcoming plastic. I then hoisted my foot onto my leg to survey the damage. Well, shoot.


Yeah, that hurt.

In addition to being a violent shade of red, my foot had immediately ballooned to double its usual size. Upon further inspection, it was clear that the sea urchin had worked me over: at least a dozen spines were visible in my foot, buried beneath my wicked calluses. They had clearly broken off in my skin, making themselves comfortable for the long haul.

Bless her heart, my best friend is a nurse practitioner, so she set to work picking at my foot with a pair of tweezers, trying to pull the spines out. After 30-40 minutes of her diligently working and me not-so-quietly trying to avoid kicking her in the face, we threw in the towel. These spines were not coming out with a pair of eyebrow tweezers; I needed to see a doctor.

Here is where the entire point of this sponsored post comes into play: like an idiot, I did not purchase any travel insurance before leaving the States. This meant that any doctor’s visit was likely going to cost an arm and a leg {or a foot, as the case may be}, and there was no safety net in regards to quality medical care.


I debated my options and eventually decided that without the necessary insurance, I could sit tight until we got back home the following day. How bad could it be?! I drugged myself up on some Benadryl and spent the next 24 hours in a delusional state, even going as far as to see small elves dancing in the bushes. {Seriously, this was my first time on Benadryl and I learned that it does NOT sit well in my system!}

Of course, as luck would have it, our connecting flights on the return trip got royally jacked up, and we ended up missing our flight out of DC, calling for an overnight layover. Angela and I spent the night sleeping in the play area of the DC airport, my foot throbbing the entire time. After it was all said and done, I didn’t get back home for a full three days after the sea urchin attacked my foot. When I finally did make it into urgent care, the doctor had to use a scalpel to cut through my foot calluses and remove the spines. Apparently, the spines themselves are only painful, and not dangerous. But, if they are left in your body, they can fester and become infected, causing serious problems. Thankfully, nothing like that happened and my foot healed quickly.

Why am I telling you this three-year-old story? Because travel insurance. I learned my lesson {twice actually, but that’s a story for another day} and I think it’s important that other fellow travelers realize travel insurance is an affordable option.


So why is having travel insurance important?

  1. It helps you find quality care wherever you are {as opposed to using a pair of eyebrow tweezers, for example}
  2. It keeps costs in check. Without insurance, you typically have to pay up front. What happens if you don’t have enough money? Apparently, in some situations, they will hold your passport until you can provide payment!
  3. It gets you home from a medical emergency, should it be a severe situation
  4. Travel insurance can help with non-medical problems. I’ve never used it for this feature, but apparently they can help with a lost passport or other situations of that ilk
  5. It safeguards your investment in your trip. In addition to the medical coverage, you can also add coverage for lost luggage or a trip cancellation.

The factor that really resonated with me was the price. Travel insurance really isn’t that expensive; it breaks down to a couple dollars per day if you’re going on a week-long trip. And with an insurance policy through a company like MedEx, that insurance will include stuff like transfer of medical records {which is important if you are like my husband and allergic to penicillin!}, continuous updates to family and employers back home, transfer of funds, and even translation services if the language barrier becomes too much to handle.

The bottom line is this: in this day and age of blogging, I know readers get tired of sponsored posts, and I really try to stick to topics that I believe in. Travel insurance is one of them, and I continue to be surprised at how many people either don’t know about it or just don’t care enough to book it before travel. Y’all, play it safe: get some travel insurance before heading to Bali on that surf trip!

If you want to learn more about MedEx and their offered travel insurance plans, click on through the hyperlink. 


Do you typically buy travel insurance before you go on trips? Why or why not?



  • Reply Mary Anne Surcouf at

    I did buy travel insurance for my Grand Canyon trip. The hike was through the Grand Canyon Field Institute and although I knew I would be in good hands, medical rescue in the canyon is expensive! It was my first long hike! I shopped online for prices and actually bought it through my neighbor. She had actually used the company and had a good experience with them. I missed the “cancel for any reason” option, but I did buy the medical emergency one and it was very inexpensive. Thank goodness I did not need to use it and had a wonderful time with a great group of women from across the country. I would do it again in a heartbeat!

  • Reply Rachel @ Betty LIVIN at

    UGH! I stepped on a sea urchin in Hawaii as a teen and my foot hurt for almost a month! Travel insurance is always a great idea because you just never know!

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