Family vehicle breaks down on way to hospital; officials offer tips for what to do if bitten
April 21, 2012 (Deerhorn Valley) –San Miguel Fire has issued a reminder to the public about the importance of calling 9-1-1 if you or a family member is bitten by a rattlesnake. The warning comes after a two-year-old boy was struck by a rattler while playing in the yard at his Deerhorn Valley home today.
His parents put the boy in their car and his mother dialed 9-1-1 on her cell phone while heading to a hospital. But a flat tire en route could have ended in tragedy.
“The emergency dispatcher asked the family to pull over onto the side of the road and wait there for paramedics to arrive,” Leonard Villareal, public information officer at San Miguel Fire District, said, adding that the family disregarded those instructions and kept driving.
Entering Jamul, they spotted Fire Station 36 and pulled in for help, but the driver hit the curb so hard that his tire blew out.
“As it turns out, the crew form Station 36 had been dispatched to another emergency,” Villareal disclosed. The parents continued west on Campo Road/Highway 94 on the blown-out tire instead of waiting for help. A few minutes later, the vehicle broke down in front of a restaurant.
San Miguel Fire District Division Chief Gary Croucher was monitoring the emergency traffic and sent a unit to assist at 3:39 p.m. The crew spotted the broken-down vehicle and prepared to assist—but the parents flagged down a van and asked for a ride instead.
Chief Croucher dispatched another engine to Highway 94 and Avocado. As the van passed, the crew of Engine 22 spotted the vehicle, pulled it over and offered immediate first aid. Two San Miguel firefighters traveled along inside an ambulance with the child and mother to Children’s Hospital.
Fang marks on the child’s arm were about one and a half inches apart, suggesting this was a more mature rattler. Rattlesnakes are out and active now as the weather warms up, Villareal noted.
“While the child ultimately made it to the hospital without additional injury, the San Miguel Fire District stresses how critical it is to listen to the well trained emergency dispatchers,” he concluded.
A medical team traveling with lights flashing and sirens blaring can navigate much faster and safer than a civilian vehicle.” In addition, each unit cares the necessary equipment and medications to treat bites.
If a snake bites you:
· Call 9-1-1.
· Remain calm.
· Immobilize the bitten arm or leg, and stay as quiet and still as possible to keep the poison from spreading through your body.
· Remove jewelry before you start to swell.
· Position yourself, if possible, so that the bite is at or below the level of your heart.
· Cleanse the wound, but don't flush it with water, and cover it with a clean, dry dressing.
If a there is a delay in emergency medical treatment
· Apply a splint to reduce movement of the affected area, but keep it loose enough so as not to restrict blood flow.
· Don't use a tourniquet or apply ice.
· Don't cut the wound or attempt to remove the venom.
· Don't drink caffeine or alcohol.
· Don't try to capture the snake, but try to remember its color and shape so you can describe it, which will help in your treatment.
"Rattlers are a fact of life out here, but it's hard to snake-proof a 2-year old." Deerhorn Valley Antler editor Kim Hamilton told ECM. "The spring bites are often the worst-- the venom is actually more paralyzing (neurotoxic) early in the season. Also last year's babies are out, and they usually give a full dose of venom. Older snakes often give a dry bite to scare enemies away without wasting their venom."
She also offered pointers for pet owners. "My dog was grazed with a couple of fang marks a couple of months ago during a warm spell. Luckily I treated him with benadryl and prednisone, and he was fine. When our other dog was bitten a few years back, she was envenomated, so she got antivenin at $600/dose (took 4 doses). There is a rattlesnake vaccine now for dogs," she advised. "It's a lot cheaper than the antivenin at about $30 a shot. Takes two to begin with, then yearly boosters."