Be careful and don’t ever try to handle a rattlesnake – even the pros get bitten.
It’s Snake Season: Clarkdale snake catcher bitten by rattlesnake
CLARKDALE — Mother’s Day had been a really good day for Kevin and Katie Keller’s family of Clarkdale. Kevin wasn’t thinking about rattlesnakes. Sometimes he does because Kevin has a sideline business of catching them for other people. But Sunday afternoon he was simply adjusting a drip-head on an irrigation line next to a rose bush.
He didn’t feel anything. But he did notice a little blood on his ring finger. Then he noticed a couple of bite marks. He’d been struck! Without knowing the snake was there.
Within 10 minutes Katie had Kevin at Verde Valley Medical Center’s emergency room. In about an hour, the medical personnel had the anti-venom powder mixed with saline solution and flowing into Kevin.
With rattlesnake bites, Kevin has been told, “time is tissue.” He was being treated about as quickly as any rattlesnake bite victim could be.
Even so …. “It was gut-wrenchingly painful,” Kevin said. “I was in the ER and got seven shots of morphine.”
Kevin said the excruciating pain lasted for about 12 hours. He said the medical staff at VVMC was awesome. “I started out in the ER, and they moved me to ICU for two days.” He said the pain was the worst part of the ordeal. “I had no sweats, no nausea, no hives, no nightmares.”
“One thing they were watching for was edema,” Katie said. If the swelling gets bad, it’s likely VVMC would fly Kevin to Phoenix. Katie said swelling could cause a snakebite victim to lose an arm or leg.
Wednesday morning Kevin was home. But he isn’t entirely out of the snakebite woods yet.
“For the next three weeks, he has to get his blood checked every 48 hours,” Katie said.
She explained that Kevin is being watched for either a reaction to the anti-venom or — once the anti-venom leaves his system – for a reaction to the original snake venom. “He could have to go in for more anti-venom,” Katie said.
Robert Barth, director of Emergency Services for VVMC, said snakebite victims are sometimes transferred to Banner Poison Control Center in Phoenix if symptoms are serious. Initial treatment takes place at VVMC. In Kevin’s case, he was able to stay at VVMC.
The Kellers have lived in the Clarkdale foothills for three years. Rattlesnakes are common in the area. “The first year we were here, we had 17 rattlesnakes on this property,” Kevin said. The second year wasn’t as bad, but the Kellers saw the first rattlesnake this year in February.
“All of our neighbors are getting them in their yards right now,” Kevin said. “Lately, I’ve been seeing 48- and 50-inch snakes.”
The one that got Kevin was small, only about 12-inches long. And contrary to popular belief, that little, hard-to-see snake didn’t rattle until after it bit Kevin.
Kevin catches snakes for his neighbors and for other local people. He has all of the safety equipment, a snake pole, boots and gloves. When he’s called to catch a snake, he doesn’t worry so much about being bitten.
“I believe that at least 50 percent of the risk factor is just knowing they’re there,” he said.
“I’ve got to be more careful,” Kevin said, “that’s what I learned.” But he doesn’t intend to quit catching snakes for a fee. That isn’t where the danger is. “If you go to remove a snake, nine times out of 10 you know where the snake is.”
Kevin warns that snakes are more aggressive in the spring and in the fall. He recommends keeping brush and junk cleared from property near a home. He and Katie are taking out all of their rose bushes and non-native landscaping. Kevin said the snakes love water, and irrigation systems tend to attract them.
He also warns that it is a myth that rattlesnakes always rattle before striking. His didn’t rattle until after Kevin was bitten. “Out of all the snakes I’ve seen and removed,” Kevin said, “only one of them rattled.”
Kevin’s “Snake Catcher” service can be reached at (949) 636-1841.
|What to do after snakebite
|Robert Barth, RN, MSN, and director of Emergency Services at Verde Valley Medical Center refers snakebite victims to a website at Banner Poison Control Center for information about what to do after being bitten by a poisonous snake. The control center is part of Banner Health in Phoenix. The site can be reached at www.bannerhealth.com. Go to Rattlesnake Bite Treatment.
A few guidelines to help if you are bit:
• Don’t panic: Stay as calm as possible. If bitten on the hand, remove all jewelry immediately before swelling begins.
• Don’t apply ice to the bite site or immerse the bite in a bucket of ice.
• Don’t use a constricting band/ cloth/ belt or tourniquet. Do not restrict blood flow in any manner.
• Don’t cut the bite site or try to suck out the venom. Leave the bite site alone.
• Don’t use electric shock or stun guns of any kind.
• Don’t try to capture the snake to bring to the hospital. Time spent capturing a snake delays arrival at the emergency department, and may result in additional bites.
Identification of the snake is not necessary for treatment. The physicians treat the symptoms as they occur and modify the anti-venom and treatment as needed. Treatment is not snake specific.
Each year, more than 150 rattlesnake bites are reported to the Banner Poison Control Center.