Anti-Venom Required

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I want to preface this entry by saying it serves as a fitting warning to anyone that doesn’t take snakes seriously. I had just recently completed my venomous snake-handling course, had a few callouts under my belt and was full of bravado. The kind of bravado that makes you a little over confident. I was camping with a friend ironically enough, wasn’t even on a callout. It was about 7pm and I saw a snake crossing the creek we were sitting on. I got close to it and identified it as a Keel back. Here’s the catch though. The Keelback is a non venomous inoffensive species of Colubrid which looks almost identical to the Rough Scaled Snake, a deadly species of Elapid. The difference between the two? One scale known as the Loreal scale located in between the nose and the eye. A scale that a seasoned professional would be forgiven for missing. In my naivety and heightened bravado, I could see this scale clear as day. I held the snake for two minutes before I was bitten a solitary time on the end of my index finger.

I knew right away i made a mistake that could end my life. My heart pounded like a drum and I became hyper-aware of my heartbeat. My vision became blurry within minutes and I suffered from unbelievable local pain. The snake was under half a metre long, meaning I likely suffered a severe envenomation. I calmly told my friend he would need to drive me to a hospital. I applied a pressure bandage and marked the bite site. By the point we got to the car I could not see 3 feet in front of me. The drive to the hospital was an agonizing 45 minutes long. For some people, thinking about death may only serve to panic them, but in a sense I embraced it. I never felt I was going to die, and I kept telling myself this. I was so calm because of this. I convinced myself it would all be okay. I arrived at the hospital and by this point I was vomiting profusely and was in immense pain. They ran a venom detection kit and determined I had ‘severe Tiger Snake envenomation’. I was transferred to the PA where I received anti-venom specific to Tiger Snakes and in a few days I was released.

What people don’t often think about with Snake bites is the mental aftermath. My head was shot for weeks, I suffered mild depression but thankfully no PTSD which a lot of snake bite victims suffer from post bite. It took a long time to overcome the mistake I had made and forgive myself for making it, and to this day I still try not to think about it. I try to take it as a learning experience, and I learnt a lot. Snakes are not toys, and you cannot treat them as such. No matter how much you know, there is still more to learn. But most importantly I learned that in this line of work, there is no room for ego.