SHINGLE SPRINGS, CA - ER doctors prep for more snake bite victims this summer after a mild winter means more snakes survived their hibernation.
A Shingle Springs woman had her first snake encounter in place where she always felt safe.
"Clipped it, it fell, I felt a nick, I thought I felt a nick by that weed, I looked back and saw a perfect coil," Terri Kalem said.
Kalem returned to her backyard feeling somewhat nervous. A Northern Pacific rattle snake was hiding under some high weeds that she was trimming when it bit her middle finger.
"I ran in the house shaking, calling the hospital," Kalem said.
She made it to Marshall Hospital as her finger and hand quickly began to swell. It took 16 vials of antivenin treatment to save her.
"It was swelling and tingling, face tingling," Kalem said.
"I think we are gonna have a more active season treating snake bites," Emergency Physician Dr. Rudd Gwinup said.
Gwinup, a surgeon and several nurses treated Kalem that day. She spent two days in ICU before being released.
It unnerved her knowing she never found the snake that bit her. So, she hired Ramirez Removal to look for it by removing rocks and clutter in her yard.
"Clutter is what I tell people is the killer, people need to make certain to get rid of clutter," Ramirez Rattlesnake Removal owner Bruce Ramirez said.
When she was bitten, Kalem said she never heard the rattle sound. Although nearby traffic might have muffled the sound.
"I want to be the master of this snake, I can't believe how much damage they do, and they're so little," Kalem said. "I'm a young senior, if this can happen to me, a child can be playing out there."
Fortunately, Kalem has insurance. Each vial cost $2,000 each, which equaled to$32,000.
Rattlesnake awareness and protection tips include:
- Never go barefoot or wear sandals when walking through wild areas. Wear hiking boots.
- When hiking, stick to well-used trails. Avoid tall grass and rocks where snakes can hide.
- Step on logs and rocks, never over them. Be especially careful when climbing rocks or gathering firewood. Check out stumps or logs before sitting down, and shake out sleeping bags.
- Never hike alone. Always have someone with you who can assist in an emergency. Carry a cell phone.
- Do not handle a freshly killed snake. It can still inject venom.
- Be careful when stepping over the doorstep as well. Snakes like to crawl along the edge of buildings where they are protected on one side.
If bitten by a rattlesnake, physicians advise seeking medical treatment immediately. Do not try to remove the venom yourself. Keep the bite even or below the level of your heart.