Five things to know first before you start SVT:
- Don’t Do It! (as If you didn’t already know 😉
- It hurts like Hell! (worst pain of my life!)
- There will be other drugs that go with it (hope you’re not allergic to any of them!)
- Make sure you are near a hospital with the appropriate drugs first
- If you are going to go this route do not be a pansy get at least 4 or 5 “injections”
- Did I mention it hurts!
I was bitten by a copperhead snake in June. The snake has gotten bigger with each retelling and I am sure I will eventually make it up to Titanoboa portions, but I will try to give one last accurate attempt. First, the picture here is much bigger than the snake that bit me; I just grabbed a picture from wikipedia I did not take a picture of the snake while it was biting, wrestling with ;-), me. I do think that the snake that bit me was a young copperhead, though I did not notice a different color on the tail nor did I take the time to get a ruler, etc.
I went outside to investigate a snake and upon seeing it deemed it ok for throwing over the fence. The snake quickly called out my ability to identify safe snakes by biting five times across both hands. After the first bite it was quickly clear it was a venomous snake because while not immediately a level 10 pain it quickly ramps up to a 10+ pain. It caused some bonus side effects like trouble walking, even though it was all in my hands, and disorientation (could be the pain). So eriksgirl called 911 and the paramedics arrived. The one treating me was apparently about as much as a snake expert as I am as he gave us the “good news” that it had to be a rat snake and not venomous because there are no venomous snakes where we live. He did think I should be checked out at a hospital because it is an animal bite. 🙁 All I wanted was pain medicine and I stil do not know how I did not go in the house and empty the entire bottle of Motrin, I am ambivalent if that was for the better or not more on that below. It seemed like hours, my judgment of time is probably a little off, but eriksgirl eventually got us going to the nearest hospital.
Eriksgirl drops me off at the entrance of Hospital 1 and I stumble in and sign myself in and sit down. Eriksgirl comes in and asks me have I been triaged to which I had to say no. She proceeds to march back up and inform them they can triage me in a couple minutes or we are leaving for another hospital. Eriksgirl has a persuasive way because I was immediately called back directly to the emergency room. 😉 The doctor called poison control for advice. In the mean time they were having a very difficult time getting an adequate IV into me. The doctor tried the Jugular but that failed too. While no one ever said I am always an excellent stick this had to be something with the snake venom. All I really wanted was some pain medicine but it was not forthcoming. After what seemed like another couple of hours poison control says I need anti-venom, CroFab, but the hospital pharmacy does not stock it. I now need to be transported to another hospital that has CroFab. 🙁
Hospital 2 is where I am now going and where Eriksgirl and I had discussed starting but settled on Hospital 1. I am being transported by private ambulance to hasten my arrival time. I arrive at Hospital #2 and they resume talk with poison control, or so I understand. I am informed that to take CroFab I must have two IVs inserted for the CroFab and one is in case I have an allergic reaction to the Crofab. I have one IV in from Hospital 1 in my left leg and they proceed to have a very hard time getting an IV in my right leg. Bad news CroFab, like every other drug made, is not a magic injection and I continued to get worse for a couple of days. Day 1 in the hospital was spent getting a second IV, CroFab, eventually dilaudid for the pain, and a room in which to stay. Very glad Eriksgirl is there to help because I cannot undress to go to the bathroom. So every time I have to go it is a lot of work, I am still weak, but Eriksgirl has to help me undress. The major hit is my right thumb, you take for granted how important that is in almost every task. Unfortunately, that was where the very first bite was and is the worst of all locations and I cannot unbutton/button with my left hand, not that it is much better but the damage there is mostly around the pinky. Also on day 2 the swelling continues to get worse with no explanation Eriksgirl is very concerned about compartment syndrome and we are told it is not that but no explanation of why it is getting worse. I believe it was that night that one of the residents popped in and checked on me so I asked about my swollen arm and he said it is “just swelling.” No doubt he will make a fantastic doctor making statements that mean nothing, obviously I knew it was swollen but what type of swelling would have been great. Day 3 they wanted to discharge me but Eriksgirl said the swelling continues to grow and move into my chest and we do not have an explanation. I try to maintain my pain levels mostly with Tylenol which is good because the dilaudid drugs me off to sleep. They also will not give me Motrin because it is a blood thinner and the snake venom is a blood thinner. I do not know if that was function was related to why they had such a hard time putting an IV in me or not, but
back to the beginning if I had taken the Motrin it does not sound like it would have helped me much. 🙁 Also on positive note I am able to go to the bathroom by myself. Sometimes it is the small things that are the big victories. That night a doctor came in and was discussing the swelling with the nurse and discussed it as lymphedema. Eriksgirl had to explain lymphedema to me in a way I could understand so she used grandma’s legs swollen and bruising as a typical case. Lymphedema was the missing cause for the swelling and bruising in my arm so I can now leave with Eriksgirl’s blessing. Day 4 it was all about the discharge. I will note that my pain went up much higher when I was out of the hospital and moving around more. I could mostly control with Motrin, nice to have Motrin back and no more blood tests, with the occasional hydrocodone.
I decided to ditch the surgeon who was overseeing me at the hospital and switch to a hand surgeon. His medical assistant was horrible at wrapping my fingers. She saw what I came in with and then replaced it with an elastic bandage so when we got home Eriksgirl had to redo it the wrappings. Also, the doctor would never touch my hands, maybe he was afraid snake bites were contagious. In fact going to the hand surgeon accomplished nothing because he did nothing. Four months later and having necrosis in all three fingers and there being some personal concern over whether my left little finger would make it and losing a couple nails I am mostly recovered. In reality this might be as good as it gets my right thumb I cannot bend all the way down almost like there is swelling also along those lines I have lost significant sensation in my thumb. With the loss of sensation it is bad enough and the hand surgeon thinks it will take years to come back if it comes back at all. I guess I come back to the swelling in my hand which was significant and the doctor did not do anything. He refers to the trauma causing my problems but I wonder if most of what I am left with could have been abated if the swelling had been dealt with.
How many snakes does it take for me to learn my lesson? -I hope just one! About a week ago my daughter came in saying there is a snake in the yard so I have to go and check it out (I suspected just a stick I have investigated a few of those post-bite). I am nervous this time, a good sign. 🙂 Regarless, she points to this point in the grass and says there it is. I did not see anything. She finally got out a branch and showed me and it must have been the smallest snake I had ever seen. I asked her how she saw it in the grass like that, but there was never a good answer. The snake was dead which I discovered while carrying on a stick while holding it away from me. I had to set it down to get a picture and I asked my brother-in-law what it was and his $.02 was that it was a “rounded nose.” I think by that he means bullsnake but they all look the same to me. 🙁 I also think it was my cat that killed the snake, the cat needs to be a lot better going forward no mistakes.