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Update on my copperhead snake bite


MotherGoose
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I thought I'd update you on my snakebite experience. I was bitten by a copperhead, twice, in my garden, on October 5. I was barefoot, because it's my garden, where my children played. It was a warm day, and I had been working in the garden for awhile, making lots of noise and vibrations, and so it was agitated when it struck, twice, on the top of my foot, dispensing with any warning and fully loading me with venom. It was under a bush and I never saw it until it was too late. Long story short, I ended up in the hospital for five nights, including three in ICU, ten vials antivenin, and a bill for $199,000 before insurance. 😱😱. Thank God for good insurance. The antivenin is about $10k a vial.

 

My foot is much better, although I still have some swelling on the foot, and pain up and down my leg. I can walk, and do normal things, but Im not doing any exercise. I do expect to make a full recovery, eventually.

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Thanks for the update. I am do glad to hear you are doing better. 10k a vial is crazy expensive! I read your original post to my 8 year old and 10 year old boys because they play baseball in a canyon where there are rattlesnakes. They sometime jump a fence to get baseballs that were hit over the baseball fields. I tell them not to jump the fence and to be cautious at the beginning of practice. An adult is supposed to do a sweep of the fields before practice and games but it doesn't always happen.

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I thought I'd update you on my snakebite experience. I was bitten by a copperhead, twice, in my garden, on October 5. I was barefoot, because it's my garden, where my children played. It was a warm day, and I had been working in the garden for awhile, making lots of noise and vibrations, and so it was agitated when it struck, twice, on the top of my foot, dispensing with any warning and fully loading me with venom. It was under a bush and I never saw it until it was too late. Long story short, I ended up in the hospital for five nights, including three in ICU, ten vials antivenin, and a bill for $199,000 before insurance. 😱😱. Thank God for good insurance. The antivenin is about $10k a vial.

 

My foot is much better, although I still have some swelling on the foot, and pain up and down my leg. I can walk, and do normal things, but Im not doing any exercise. I do expect to make a full recovery, eventually.

 

 

The common wisdom about noise and vibrations scaring off snakes doesn't hold up in reality. Biggest copperhead we ever saw crawled within 5 ft. of DH who was wielding a chainsaw!  It thick and long. 

 

I have a friend who was bitten in her garden as well. Very similar scenario with 2 bites. She was in the hospital too, but not for as long as you were. Glad to hear that you are on the mend!

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Thanks for the update!

 

What did you do when you were bitten? Did you call 911? Was someone home to take care of you?

I was home alone with my kids, oldest 11, youngest 2. I didn't know how long I had, so I called dh and 911. Within ten minutes I was so confused and ill I couldnt dial the phone.

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The common wisdom about noise and vibrations scaring off snakes doesn't hold up in reality. Biggest copperhead we ever saw crawled within 5 ft. of DH who was wielding a chainsaw! It thick and long.

 

I have a friend who was bitten in her garden as well. Very similar scenario with 2 bites. She was in the hospital too, but not for as long as you were. Glad to hear that you are on the mend!

Is she okay now? Yes, the noise etc, just made this snake mad!! She had plenty of time to leave.
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Thank God you are okay. This is just scary as hell! Maybe I missed it, but how did you know it was copperhead? If I am understanding correctly you didn't see it bite you.

After it bit me and I pulled back the bush to see what sort of wild animal had bit me ( my first thought was a cat or a possum or something, although that would have had its own set of problems as it could have been wild and diseased) I saw it coiled there and have seen copperheads before and knew immediately. And I quickly got sick, which doesn't happen with non venomous snakes.

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Oh how awful and scary!  If you don't mind me asking, where do you live?  We're in the country but have only seen non venomous snakes here.  You said you started getting sick soon after it bit you.  Were you throwing up??

 

 

 

ETA:  My mom was bit by a water moccasin when she was around 12 (she's 88 now).  She said it was the worst pain she has EVER experienced, even after having 6 children naturally.  She described it as feeling like millions of needles and a burning sensation.

 

 

Edited by 1GirlTwinBoys
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Is she okay now? Yes, the noise etc, just made this snake mad!! She had plenty of time to leave.

 

Exactly. I have seen copperheads set up for a strike when they see a human coming (several feet away) rather than leave. Others seem pretty passive. Ds stepped on one barefoot without a bite, for instance.  The one in the chain saw scenario was just cruising by really close and not at all avoiding all the noise. Our kids were right there, too.  Maybe there is more than one type of copperhead temperament. 

 

Yes, she is fine. I don't think there were residual effects. And the bite was years ago. 

 

A neighbor, however, who was bitten, iced the bite and had some permanent tissue damage. Apparently icing does keep the venom from spreading, but it dissolves tissue, so it's better dispersed. She was only given antibiotics and pain killer and sent home (after all the interns and residents were paraded in to view the bite.) 

 

We live in an area with a lot of copperheads, as you might have guessed. I am super careful when out at dusk or dark. Never walk around without a flashlight and "snake eyes" on alert. I avoid walking on dead leaves totally. Unless they are moving, you can't see them.. Since I hate the cold and clouds and darkness of winter, I keep a list of things I do like about it: one of them is not having to be on the alert for copperheads! 

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Oh how awful and scary! If you don't mind me asking, where do you live? We're in the country but have only seen non venomous snakes here. You said you started getting sick soon after it bit you. Were you throwing up??

 

 

 

ETA: My mom was bit by a water moccasin when she was around 12 (she's 88 now). She said it was the worst pain she has EVER experienced, even after having 6 children naturally. She described it as feeling like millions of needles and a burning sensation.

We live in the southeast US. I was throwing up, felt just horrible, and felt terribly confused. I could barely speak. My fingers and lips started feeling numb before I got to the ER. Yes I agree it's the worst pain I've ever experienced, especially because it encompassed my entire leg. Edited by MotherGoose
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Exactly. I have seen copperheads set up for a strike when they see a human coming (several feet away) rather than leave. Others seem pretty passive. Ds stepped on one barefoot without a bite, for instance. The one in the chain saw scenario was just cruising by really close and not at all avoiding all the noise. Our kids were right there, too. Maybe there is more than one type of copperhead temperament.

 

Yes, she is fine. I don't think there were residual effects. And the bite was years ago.

 

A neighbor, however, who was bitten, iced the bite and had some permanent tissue damage. Apparently icing does keep the venom from spreading, but it dissolves tissue, so it's better dispersed. She was only given antibiotics and pain killer and sent home (after all the interns and residents were paraded in to view the bite.)

 

We live in an area with a lot of copperheads, as you might have guessed. I am super careful when out at dusk or dark. Never walk around without a flashlight and "snake eyes" on alert. I avoid walking on dead leaves totally. Unless they are moving, you can't see them.. Since I hate the cold and clouds and darkness of winter, I keep a list of things I do like about it: one of them is not having to be on the alert for copperheads!

It sounds like you have quite the population! How awful! I'm also glad for the arrival of cold weather and I hope we have a really cold winter (although this is unlikely!)

 

The current advice to treat snakebite is to remain calm (ha!) and to do nothing to the bite, just get to ER ASAP. I think mine will heal without any scarring. Just need this swelling to go away!

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I saw this come through on DD's herpetology pages, and thought about your experience. According to some of the folks who do field work, they use similar fences to funnel snakes into traps, so it should work if well installed.

https://www.kickstarter.com/projects/atroxsnakebarrier/atrox-snake-barrier-keeps-snakes-away

 

I'm glad you're feeling better and that you have good insurance. Antivenin is expensive, and I'm guessing part of the reason it was so much in your case is that they likely had to fly some in since you needed so many vials. One thing the speaker who did the talk at the conference said is that if you are bitten, try to get transferred to the biggest hospital in a city with a big zoo if you can, because they will both have more antivenin on stock and also know better how to manage it. He said the cost of the helicopter ambulance to take him from the rural hospital to Vanderbilt medical center was largely mitigated by the cost of the antivenin, because it was 75% less at Vanderbilt since they had it in stock and didn't have to get it expressed in.

 

Which is kind of frustrating-because my guess is that snakebites in cities are a lot rarer than in rural areas!

 

 

There is work on an "epipen" for snake bites that could be carried and used immediately to stabilize and reduce the need for antivenin (and allow transfers to larger hospitals more readily), but it's only in clinical trials now. I hope it works, and that it's actually affordable for people who live in areas where snakes are common to have on hand.

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I saw this come through on DD's herpetology pages, and thought about your experience. According to some of the folks who do field work, they use similar fences to funnel snakes into traps, so it should work if well installed.

https://www.kickstarter.com/projects/atroxsnakebarrier/atrox-snake-barrier-keeps-snakes-away

 

I'm glad you're feeling better and that you have good insurance. Antivenin is expensive, and I'm guessing part of the reason it was so much in your case is that they likely had to fly some in since you needed so many vials. One thing the speaker who did the talk at the conference said is that if you are bitten, try to get transferred to the biggest hospital in a city with a big zoo if you can, because they will both have more antivenin on stock and also know better how to manage it. He said the cost of the helicopter ambulance to take him from the rural hospital to Vanderbilt medical center was largely mitigated by the cost of the antivenin, because it was 75% less at Vanderbilt since they had it in stock and didn't have to get it expressed in.

 

Which is kind of frustrating-because my guess is that snakebites in cities are a lot rarer than in rural areas!

 

 

There is work on an "epipen" for snake bites that could be carried and used immediately to stabilize and reduce the need for antivenin (and allow transfers to larger hospitals more readily), but it's only in clinical trials now. I hope it works, and that it's actually affordable for people who live in areas where snakes are common to have on hand.

 

Interesting that the costs are so different.  Our neighbor is an ER nurse at a nearby hospital and they had a copperhead bite patient in this past summer.  Antivenom was $20,000 per dose.  He said he felt a little shaky even handling something that expensive - didn't want to drop it or mess it up!

 

Now the cost makes more sense.  We don't get many snakebite victims around here.  There aren't that many venomous snakes around.  This one just happened to be under a piece of garbage the gentleman was picking up (bare handed) and obviously got scared.

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I saw this come through on DD's herpetology pages, and thought about your experience. According to some of the folks who do field work, they use similar fences to funnel snakes into traps, so it should work if well installed.

https://www.kickstarter.com/projects/atroxsnakebarrier/atrox-snake-barrier-keeps-snakes-away

 

I'm glad you're feeling better and that you have good insurance. Antivenin is expensive, and I'm guessing part of the reason it was so much in your case is that they likely had to fly some in since you needed so many vials. One thing the speaker who did the talk at the conference said is that if you are bitten, try to get transferred to the biggest hospital in a city with a big zoo if you can, because they will both have more antivenin on stock and also know better how to manage it. He said the cost of the helicopter ambulance to take him from the rural hospital to Vanderbilt medical center was largely mitigated by the cost of the antivenin, because it was 75% less at Vanderbilt since they had it in stock and didn't have to get it expressed in.

 

Which is kind of frustrating-because my guess is that snakebites in cities are a lot rarer than in rural areas!

 

 

There is work on an "epipen" for snake bites that could be carried and used immediately to stabilize and reduce the need for antivenin (and allow transfers to larger hospitals more readily), but it's only in clinical trials now. I hope it works, and that it's actually affordable for people who live in areas where snakes are common to have on hand.

I was actually at one of the biggest hospitals in the state, and there is a zoo there, with snakes. I mean it's not a major city by US standards, as there are none in our state, but it's definitely not rural. I don't know if they had to fly any in or not.

 

I understand that part of the cost is also that it's highly perishable, and some poor soul has to milk the venom from the snakes!!😱😱😱😱 I'm thankful someone is willing to do that.

 

ETA do you know anything about a dog snake vaccine? I know it exists, because I had it for my dog and it saved his life as well as a lot of money...instead of antivenin he only needed some Benadryl. He was bitten and then I didn't know it until many hours later.

Edited by MotherGoose
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Interesting that the costs are so different. Our neighbor is an ER nurse at a nearby hospital and they had a copperhead bite patient in this past summer. Antivenom was $20,000 per dose. He said he felt a little shaky even handling something that expensive - didn't want to drop it or mess it up!

 

Now the cost makes more sense. We don't get many snakebite victims around here. There aren't that many venomous snakes around. This one just happened to be under a piece of garbage the gentleman was picking up (bare handed) and obviously got scared.

One of the other factors is probably how complicated the production is. One of my friends worked in production for a while. It's ages since I chatted to her but I think they milk snakes and inject the sheep over here to produce the blood with antibodies then it gets flown to U.K. For some processing and then flown elsewhere for further processing. I'm sure it's different for the different types of venom though.

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One of the other factors is probably how complicated the production is. One of my friends worked in production for a while. It's ages since I chatted to her but I think they milk snakes and inject the sheep over here to produce the blood with antibodies then it gets flown to U.K. For some processing and then flown elsewhere for further processing. I'm sure it's different for the different types of venom though.

I've read that too. And it's not something that ever gets cheaper, like making a pill. It's always extremely dangerous and perishable.

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That must have been so frightening. You were so brave to pull back the bush to look for the snake. I hope your healing continues to go well, and I hope you can enjoy your garden again without fear.

Thanks, but I also think I was slightly stupid! I could have been bitten again! It was completely a reaction, to look to see what on earth had caused such pain. I needed to know what hit me, but in hindsight, I really put myself at risk in the way I did it. If it had been a rabid cat, say, it could have leaped on me. Or the snake could have gotten me again too.

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