Rattlesnake season is upon us, beware and be aware

This harrowing story happened in Yosemite but every year people get bit by rattlers in San Diego county. They are around us in the brush and rocks, even in urban environment. With the rain and now warm weather, they are out early and likely in higher numbers so beware and be aware, this could happen to you

Near fatal rattlesnake encounter

When Kyle Dickman set out on a month-long road trip with his wife and infant son last spring, he was fueled by a carefree sense of adventure that had defined his entire life. Then he got bit by a venomous snake in a remote area of Yosemite National Park, and the harrowing event changed everything.

We climbed for three miles from El Portal, through meadows and granite blocks toward 50-foot Foresta Falls, a cascading drop just beneath the community of Foresta. It felt like hiking through a Renoir. Garrett and Erin named off blooms of all colors, and we snapped pictures of the valley and flooded waterfalls. At 11:45, we reached a bridge that crossed a sliding waterfall, and Bridger chirped his need for milk. Turin stopped to nurse him on a granite outcropping.

Snacks were passed around. My parents grazed. Erin lay on the bridge’s downstream rail and napped. She was the only one besides me who saw the snake. “Brown and big” is how she remembers it. I recall seeing a dust-red coil in new grass, but to me the snake was more of a sensation: a light tap just above the sock on my right ankle. Then I passed out.

When I awoke, and after I’d finished my first bout of violent vomiting, I heard my parents already talking through the options to get me out. My mom had been an emergency-room nurse and a physician’s assistant for 35 years. But on the 700 missions she and my dad had conducted as volunteers for the Bend, Oregon, search and rescue team, neither had ever dealt with a rattlesnake bite.

Lying on my back in the grass, I thought maybe that was all the venom would do—make me sick. Or maybe I was dying. I didn’t know it then, but in the medical community, the rule about rattlesnake bites is “time is tissue.” How many minutes or hours elapse before you get the antivenom, usually in a hospital, determines your fate: an afternoon in the ER, amputation, or perhaps, in my case, death on a stone bridge.

I threw up every few minutes, in intensifying waves. “I’ve never seen anybody that sick,” Garrett would later tell me. He was already running back toward El Portal to get cell service and call dispatch. On a map, Crane Creek Road, where I was bitten, looks drivable. It isn’t. Two wildfires had recently burned the area, and it’d be generous to call what was left a two-track. The dispatcher didn’t know this. She ordered a Life Flight helicopter, standard procedure for rattlesnake bites, and an ambulance stationed in Yosemite Valley, then asked Garrett to run to Foresta to guide the incoming paramedics.

Correction on the article though, a quarter of a teaspoon is 1.25 millilitter

Read more