Here is part II of my snake bite story. Part I can be found here.
After the ER staff learned that I had a snake bite, I was swiftly taken into the first examination room. Two nurses promptly began examining my foot. They made two sets of pen marks on my foot and ankle, and measured the circumference where the marks were. They asked me for the first time to rate my pain, using this scale that turned out to be posted in every room:
Just FYI, I felt and looked like #10.
I took this picture of my feet in the examination room. This was about 30 minutes after the bite. My foot was already very red and starting to swell.
The nurses asked me some standard health history questions and gave me a hospital bracelet. In the middle of telling my health history, I heard a knock on the window of the examination room. I turned around and saw that it was Daniel. We let him in and I was SO glad that he was there. His presence helped me calm down some.
I was then put into a wheelchair and taken into a back examination room. Again, I was so scared that all of these events seem like a blur. At this point, I was still unsure of what kind of snake had bitten me and whether or not it was venomous.
I took this picture shortly after getting into the second room. This was about one hour after the bite, and it was slowly getting more swollen.
Soon after getting to the room and settling into the hospital bed, a doctor came back and began examining my foot and asking me questions. The doctor, Dr. Nguyen, was AWESOME – he helped me calm down and feel reassured. Dr. Nguyen said he would keep me there for a couple hours to watch the swelling and see if I experienced any other effects from the bite; this would help to determine if the snake that bit me was venomous. He wanted to see how bad my reaction was before deciding whether or not to give me anti-venom.
In the meantime, Dr. Nguyen decided, they would try to get me comfortable by giving me some pain killers (morphine – HELL yeah!) and anti-inflammatory medication. He also wanted to take some blood samples. Snake venom can affect the ability of blood to clot so they wanted to ensure I wasn’t having any problems with that. They also wanted to check my kidney and liver function through the blood work.
Once enough blood was drawn, the IV was set up to start giving me drugs. I was given some anti-nausea medicine (nausea can be a side-effect of morphine), morphine and an anti-inflammatory med. The effects of the meds kicked in almost immediately, and I was able to relax the most that I had since the bite occurred. From that point on, I pretty much relaxed while my foot, ankle and leg puffed up like a balloon. Dr. Nguyen and the nurses came in periodically to check on my swelling and ask me to rate my pain.
Soon, my foot was very swollen and so was my shin and calf, and my foot and lower leg were painful to the touch. After seeing the progression of the swelling, Dr. Nguyen told me he believed it was a copperhead snake that bit me. He said that copperheads are the most common venomous snakes in this area, and my bite was consistent with other copperhead bites he had treated.
I was shocked. I never got a very good look at the snake, but (as I mentioned in the first post) I for some reason thought it had been a small, green snake. At this point I realized how incredibly inaccurate my memory was.
Dr. Nguyen then said he did not want to give me any anti-venom. Whenever I tell this story to people, many are often perplexed that I was never given anti-venom. Well, here was Dr. Nguyen’s reasoning:
- The swelling was getting pretty bad, but I was not experiencing any necrosis (here is a picture of what necrosis looks like – don’t click the link if you’re squeamish!).
- I was bitten by a copperhead which has the least aggressive venom of the venomous snakes in this area. Had I been bitten by a rattlesnake or a cottonmouth, I probably would have been given the anti-venom.
- Anti-venom is extremely expensive. It runs $3,000-$4,000 per vial, and Dr. Nguyen said I would probably need several vials.
- While anti-venom makes the swelling go down and greatly speeds up recovery time, it usually makes people very sick as a side effect (kind of like what chemotherapy and other cancer drugs do to cancer patients).
Considering all of these factors, we agreed that I could go without the anti-venom. Dr. Nguyen said he would keep giving me some anti-inflammatory and pain meds and keep an eye on my swelling. Everything was going fine, and around 12:15 am-ish Dr. Nguyen said he would go ahead and release me.
WELL, I ended up having to stay in the ER for another six hours. I’ll explain why in the next installment.