By Ann King, Fort Hunter Liggett Staff Action Control Officer
One thing I never expected to happen was to be bitten by a rattlesnake.
It was a hot sunny day in July 2019. I got home early to begin packing for a weekend of camping, and I took off my shoes and put on flip flops. I went to our garage to get the camping gear off the shelves, and at some point I felt a tap on my foot.
Immediately, I knew I had been bitten. Not because it hurt, but because I just knew. I looked down and saw a baby rattlesnake. It was not coiled, but stretched out, about 12-14 inches long. It never even made a sound. Not that it could have, because it didn’t have any rattles.
I wasn’t scared. I wasn’t even mad at the snake. It wasn’t its fault that I stepped on it. It was just defending itself. I probably passed by it twice without it noticing me. I was definitely mad at myself because I usually wear boots, but on this day, because it was so nice out, I wore flip flops.
My husband jumped into action and dispatched the snake. I called 9-1-1 right away. I told the dispatcher that I had just been bitten by a Pacific rattler, the type of snake native to this region.
Within three minutes of getting bit, I could feel my upper lip and my tongue getting numb. I got off the phone with the dispatcher and my husband rushed me to Mee Memorial Hospital in King City. Within approximately five minutes, my foot started to itch as a reaction to the venom.
I kept my foot lower than my heart, to keep the poison from circulating faster, so I didn’t elevate my foot, which had begun to swell.
Because I called 911, they were able to contact the hospital, which was waiting for us. The medical professionals put me in a room and immediately hooked me up to an IV. By then I felt a tight squeeze around my chest. I had contractions in my upper torso, and severe itching on my foot, which had doubled in size. The nurse drew lines on my foot with a marker to gauge if the swelling increased beyond the lines, which it did not, thankfully.
Within minutes after they gave me the antivenin, the contractions went away and I started feeling much better. The photo shows the extent of the swelling at its worst. If the first dose of antivenin didn’t work, they could have given me more, but I responded quickly. The medical team seemed way more worried than I was, but as soon as the first dose went to work I knew I was going to be fine. From the time I was bitten until the time I received Benedryl and antivenin in the hospital, about 45 minutes had elapsed. They kept me overnight for observation.
Other than swelling, and pain due to nerve damage I didn’t experience any other residual symptoms, although it took five months for the nerve pain to disappear.
The cost for the treatment was more than $112, 000, but thank GOD for insurance! Don’t let the expense keep you from seeking treatment, though. If you have been bitten by a snake, even if you don’t know it was a rattler, call 911 immediately. Do not wait! And tell them, if you can, what type of snake bit you.