An Australian woman has suffered hearing loss after she was speared in the ear by a rogue garfish. Julie Fison from Brisbane was swimming chest-deep at Port Douglas in September when the garfish leapt up and plunged a 2.5cm barb into her eardrum. Mrs Fison, 46, is still recovering from surgery. "It was excruciating - it hit me hard enough in the head to make me collapse and bleed out of my ear," the mother of two said.
She was left with facial palsy - unable to smile or blink on one side of her face - for more than a month after the barb perforated the eardrum and penetrated a facial nerve near her brain. It took three hours of surgery at Cairns Base Hospital to remove the barb and she has since made numerous trips to ear specialists, physio sessions, an ophthamologist and now a speech therapist - and yet she still suffers hearing loss in her left ear. Mrs Fison was unable to drive a car, take the kids to school, use a computer or work for weeks after the injury.
It is believed she is the first person in Australian medical history to be speared in the ear by a tiny garfish. "My hearing and ear has still not recovered. I'm told it could take up to six months," she said. But she feels lucky to be alive, with at least one recorded death of a Torres Strait fisherman fatally speared by a much larger specimen. North Queensland is renowned as frontier territory with a wide array of deadly and dangerous creatures such as crocodiles, tiger sharks and box jellyfish.
Mrs Fison said not even her wildest imagination could conjure such a "bizarre random attack". The fish had to leap out of the water to reach her ear. "There are lots of lethal things in the wilds of the deep north that are known to be dangerous - but a tiny garfish was not on my list," she said. "It is a bit of a war story, some people laugh. It is such a random thing, and it shows how in the blink of an eye, your life can change ... even if it is from being attacked by a tiny fish."