A sports student has been left paralysed after treading on a sea urchin while on holiday in Greece.
Callum Hall, 20, stepped on the creature after jumping off a boat into the sea off the island of Skiathos while holidaying with his girlfriend, Ailish Wilkinson.
According to The Sun, the trainee PE teacher said: "It felt like a bee sting. I pulled three black spines out of my toe and thought no more of it."
But three weeks later, back at home in Leeds, he developed a harmful infection, thought to be a reaction to the creature's venom, and an abscess twice the size of a tennis ball grew on his spine then burst, reportedly leaving him close to death.
He said: "My legs just stopped working. The infection was compressing my spine.
"I was told I had only hours to live and needed a life-saving operation."
He underwent the surgery to remove the abscess at Leeds General Infirmary, but was left paralysed from the chest down.
Callum now plans to defy doctors who said he has little chance of walking again, and also plans to take part in the 2016 Paralympic Games in Brazil.
According to news.com.au, he said: "There is still time and hope... but I will need financial help in order to get the right equipment, physio and resources I need to walk."
He has so far regained some movement in his abdomen and can wiggle his toes, and told the paper: "I have accepted the process is going to take time but I am determined to prove the doctors wrong who said I have a small chance of being able to walk again."
He added the he is just grateful to be alive: "I was incredibly unlucky. There is only a one in 50,000 chance of an abscess like that on your spine and it's almost unheard of for a sea urchin to cause it. But I am just glad to be alive."
A sea urchin's spines, long and sharp in some species, protect the urchin from predators. They inflict a painful wound when they penetrate human skin, but are usually not dangerous.
Experts are not clear if the spines are venomous, unlike the pedicellariae - small claw-shaped structures commonly found on sea urchins between the spines - which are venomous, and could have been the cause of Callum's infection.
Boy stung by deadly tropical creature on beach in Cornwall
Couple stranded in Bolivia with flesh-eating parasite infection