That Summer I Became Really Good Friends With the People at 911

I recently had yet another occasion to call the nice people at 911. Earlier this summer, I had to call 911 when Will locked himself in my car. This time, it wasn’t Will but the husband.

After dinner and the daily bath and bedtime negotiations with the tiny dictator toddler, I crawled into bed due to pregnancy induced misery and my husband took the dogs for their nightly walk. About 30 minutes later, my phone rang with a number I didn’t recognize. I ignored it and kept reading. The caller hung up and then my phone immediately rang again with the same number. After two rings, the person hung up and called back. I answered it this time, and (shockingly enough) it was my husband. “I got bitten by a snake. I need you to come get me and take me to the hospital.” I’m going to be honest and admit that my first thought was, “Okay, easy killer, we’ll see.” I definitely did not realize how serious snake bites are, at all. Fortunately, I had the good sense not to say any of that out loud and asked where he was. He had stopped at a house in the neighborhood to call me because he didn’t have his phone. He described the location of the house, I threw on some clothes, tossed the baby monitor at my parents and said, “Trey got bitten by a snake. I have to go get him.”

When I pulled into the driveway, he was sitting on the ground with the dog leashes in one hand and the dead snake dangling from the other. After getting him and the dogs (and the lovely dead snake) into the car, I called my dad to meet us outside and help me get the dogs in the house before leaving for the hospital. (Seeing the degree of pain he was in convinced me that we were definitely going to the hospital.) My dad and I ran the dogs into the house and I ran upstairs to grab my husband’s wallet with his driver’s license and insurance card. As I was sitting at the red light to pull out of the neighborhood, it occurred to me that perhaps I should call 911 and make sure I was doing the right thing.

The dispatcher told me to pull over and wait for an ambulance (and to get the makeshift tourniquet off his leg). The ambulance showed up really fast, much faster than when Will locked himself in the car. The EMTs were in heaven, talking about how exciting this is and so much better than picking up elderly ladies off their bathroom floor. They threw the dead snake on the ground, took plenty of iPhone pictures, confirmed that it was a (venomous) copperhead, and gleefully chopped his head off with some kind of ax, before bundling him up in a biohazard waste bag.

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(The husband has still not gotten over the fact that I let them take the snake instead of keeping him as a trophy.) The EMTs were deeply impressed that he was able to kill the snake after being bitten. After it bit him, he realized he needed to figure out what kind of snake it was so they could determine if it was venomous or not. He poked it with a stick to see if it would rattle. It didn’t so he decided he just needed to kill it and bring it with him. He beat it with a stick until it was basically stunned and then PICKED IT UP AND BROKE IT’S NECK. Hell to the never ever no would I attempt that. That snake picked the wrong person to bite.

The EMTs told me to follow the ambulance to the hospital. After several stressful false starts requiring the EMTs to call me on my phone and change the hospital to which we were heading, they settled on one and I made my way there. By the time I got there, I was about 15 minutes behind the ambulance due to all the turning around and rerouting. I approached the guy at the front desk, told him my husband had been brought in on an ambulance with a snake bite and could I please see him now. “What’s his name, please?” he asks.

Okay, I know he probably has to ask that but sir, have there been several snake bite victims through this door in the last 15 minutes? He told me he’d go back and check. 5 minutes later he comes back up front, makes no eye contact whatsoever, and sits back down at his computer and starts typing. Up until this point I wasn’t freaking out but now I started to envision a million terrible scenarios. Maybe the venom from the snake triggered his a-fib and he is in cardiac arrest. Maybe they had to amputate his leg. After about 10 minutes of freaking out, I walked back up the desk and asked again if I could see him. The guy says, “Hold on, let me check.” He disappears again, comes back, and says I can follow him back to the room.

I got back there and everything was fine. It turns out that the reason he couldn’t bring me back sooner was that every doctor and nurse in the ER was in the room crowded around the bed because they had never seen a snake bite before. If you have the misfortune to be bitten by a snake, you will quickly find out that no one has seen a snake bite before and they have no idea what to do, so they’ll just keep calling the National Center for Poison Control. Fortunately, they recommended against giving my husband the anti-venom because his body seemed to be responding to and fighting the venom on it’s own and the anti-venom is apparently some really nasty stuff with unpleasant side effects. And also, it can cost up to $20,000 per dose. Many of the people who require it also require multiple doses. Wouldn’t that be awesome? A mortgage payment to payoff your anti-venom bill? We were so grateful not to have to use it!

Unfortunately, Poison Control said that a venomous snake bite requires 6 hours of monitoring even under the best of circumstances. As a result, we weren’t discharged until 3:30 am. I kept trying to pull the tired and pitiful pregnant woman card in hopes someone would bring me something other than a metal chair in which to sit/lay down but alas. No dice. Finally, at 3:30 the attending told us we could leave and to follow up with our primary care provider in the next 48 hours. (Of course, we don’t exactly have one of those here, but minor details.) We crawled into bed at 4 am. Mercifully, my mom got up with Will in the morning and I got to sleep until 8. Thank God, because I really was not into the whole adulting thing at 6:30 when Will started crowing to be retrieved from his crib.

There was about a week of no driving and no walking, just hobbling on crutches. That week gave me a real appreciation for how much my husband does. When I was suddenly responsible for everything- taking the dogs out on leashes 3 times a day, driving the husband to and from work, chasing Will every single time he bolted, etc., I gained a new appreciation for single moms. I thought I was going to die and it wasn’t even long term.

There really is nothing that can be done for snake bite, other than anti-venom if absolutely necessary (but from all accounts, that brings a whole other set of symptoms with it) and antibiotics if the wound site becomes infected. If you don’t know when your last tetanus shot was, you get a booster and that’s pretty much it. You also get to go to physical therapy twice a week for a couple of months to work on mobility. They do give you any painkiller you want, however. Upside!

It takes a lonnnnnng time for the swelling to completely go down. We are about 4 weeks out and there is still some swelling. Here’s the foot when we were in the ER (not yet fully swollen, that took a couple of days):

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He seriously wants to get a snake tattooed on there with the fangs positioned over the spots where the puncture marks are. Help. Me.

I’m going to really need Blythe to resurrect One Hot Mess, because I think this definitely qualifies.

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