July 8, 2013
Well, I hope everyone had a great 4th of July holiday, even though it was a wet one. I know we’re supposed to be grateful for all the rain we can get, but even the ducks have begun to complain. Just kidding…it was the frogs.
Lately, I’ve been seeing several pictures posted on Facebook of snakes that people have taken from around their homes. I even saw a video of one crawling down someone’s front door after hanging on a wreath from right here in Clay County. I also heard a story at church the other day about a lady finding three of them in her house. It’s very scary to me.
Anyone who has known me for a long time knows that snakes are my worst fear. Yes, I know there are good snakes that are supposed to kill the bad ones, but I don’t care. I hate them all. It’s just not natural for a creature to have no legs and still be able to hurt you. They make my skin crawl…even the good ones. The definition of a good snake to me would be a dead one.
My fear of snakes goes way back to my younger days. Many children are scared of snakes, but mine went beyond that. I was flat out terrified. I used to have recurring nightmares about being bitten by one. They were always so vivid that it would take days to get over them too. They say that dreams can come true, and for me, it did, and not in a good way.
The year was 1992. It was about 8:30 one Sunday night in early June and I had just finished clearing the table when I realized I had movies that needed to be returned by 9:00 pm to the local video store. So, I quickly grabbed the movies and left with my youngest daughter, Angela, who was only four at the time. I left in such a hurry that I didn’t even put on any shoes. BIG mistake…
When we returned home, Angela and I were climbing up the outside steps to our house when I felt something on the inside of my right foot that felt like a sharp prick. I couldn’t see anything because it was so dark, but I remember feeling a sense of alarm immediately that this was going to be bad. With that thought in mind, I quickly picked up Angela and started running. To this day, I thank God it was me that was bitten and not her. It would have probably killed her.
My husband was on the phone when I burst in the door and told him that something had bitten me. He didn’t seem very concerned when he looked at the area. He thought maybe I had stepped on a stick the wrong way and it had jabbed into my foot. By now, the affected area had two little splotches of blood and had started to burn. I told him there was no way it was a stick, or briar, or anything like that because it was burning too bad.
Because I was so adamant, he went outside and shined a flashlight down the steps. It was only a few seconds when I heard him say “Uh Oh”. I knew instantly what that meant. I said “Please don’t tell me that it’s a snake”. He said that it was. A small copperhead still lay there at the bottom of the steps. He told me to call the hospital and let them know we were coming while he went to find something to kill it with. I learned later that when a snake bites you, It requires a lot of their energy, and you will find it within 10 feet of where it bit you.
I was in a state of complete panic. I did as he said, and then sat down to gather my wits. My heart was racing and the slow burn that had started in my foot was now traveling up my leg that felt like a liquid fire. My mind struggled to remember everything I had heard about treating a snake bite. I recalled reading somewhere that in the event you were bitten, you should try to remain calm because the more panicked you were, the quicker the venom would spread through your body. Upon recalling this, I remember saying aloud “Yeah, right”. But somehow I did. I began to pray for God to help me calm down. After a few minutes, I felt a calm wash over me like nothing I had ever felt before. My neighbor told me she couldn’t believe how relaxed I was because she was freaking out.
After he had killed the snake, my husband came back in the house to get me. I remember thinking “This is it, this is how I’m going to die, I’m never going to get to see my kids again.” I hugged them and kissed them both and told them how much I loved them, trying not to cry. I remember looking back at them trying to form a mental picture of them in my mind.
The ride to the hospital from our home was usually about 8 minutes, but I think we made it there in five. I remember telling my husband I didn’t want to die in a car accident in the same vehicle with the dead snake. When we arrived at the ER, they quickly began working on me. I was given two skin tests in each arm, a tetanus shot, and had an IV ran. I remember telling the nurses the actual snakebite itself didn’t hurt as bad as having all those needles stuck in me. My leg turned a bright shade of blue and had begun to jump, as if the central nervous system had been affected. The liquid fire I felt was now all the way up into my hip.
People were coming in and out of the open room because in a small town, bad news travels like a brush fire. Everyone wanted to see what a snake bite looked like. At one point, the housekeeper stepped in the door timidly and said “Are you the one who got snake bit?” I replied “ Yes” and she moved closer cautiously, pointed to my foot and said “Is that where it bit you?”. I said “ Yes”. She then backed up a little and said “Where’s the snake?”. I said “ Behind you, in that sink”. She quickly turned around and let out a little scream when she saw the bag with the snake in it and ran out of the room. Guess there is someone out there who hates snakes more than me. It was hilarious.
Now, we have always heard to get to a hospital immediately when you are snake bitten, that minutes count. But I arrived at the ER a little after 9:00 pm, and I was not given anti-venin until the next morning. The reason explained to me was that over 90% of the people who are given the anti-venin experience such a strong allergic reaction, that is sometimes worse than the actual snake bite itself. Some even die.
I was admitted into Intensive Care and was not given anything for pain until after midnight. They lay a small measuring tape under my calf and would come in every 15 minutes to measure the swelling. They would mark it with an ink pen and I would scream every time they did this. It was a long restless night and the pain was excruciating.
Finally around 5:00 that morning, Dr. Rush came in and said they were going to have to give me the anti-venin because my leg was still swelling. He stayed by my bedside the entire time the anti-venin was being distributed through my IV. The only allergic reaction I had was my leg breaking out into bed red splotches. Dr. Rush was thrilled that it had went that well and told them to give me some Benadryl to take care of it.
I spent the next four days in the hospital. I had lots of visitors because everyone wanted to see what a snake bite looked like. I heard many horror stories about how my foot was going to rot off. But it wasn’t that bad. My leg did bruise, turning from blue, to purple and then yellow. It was a long time before I could put any pressure on that foot again. I walked with crutches for about three weeks. For about a year after that, I could predict the weather from that leg. I barely have a scar there now. So, don’t believe everything you hear.
Bottom line is, you can live through a poisonous snake bite. I remember someone telling me “Well, you were lucky it was a small snake that bit you.” Another myth. The younger the snake, the more pure the venom. It’s actually worse on you. Does it hurt worse than childbirth? In my opinion, yes it does. But the pain you feel during childbirth has a purpose with a beautiful end result. The pain I felt from the bite served no purpose, other than to remind me to watch where I was walking and always wear shoes.
On the plus side, I stopped having nightmares about snakes…Go figure…