As Dana Sanders prepared shooting lanes for the upcoming bow season, he felt a strong, sharp thump on his lower left leg.
Sanders was clearing limbs on the edge of a food plot, walking through brush on his farm in Claiborne County, Mississippi. When the thump hit his leg, he had a feeling the situation was not good. “As soon as it happened, I knew what it was,” the 47-year-old Sanders said. “I looked at my dad and said, ‘Dad I just got bit by a rattlesnake, and it was a big one.'”
Checking his wound, Sanders looked down, slid up his jeans, and saw two holes in his leg about 1 inch apart, both pouring blood. He peered under the brush into the hole where the snake curled, confirming it was a timber, or canebrake, rattlesnake.
“My dad was freaking out. Surprisingly, I was calm through most of it. My training kicked in, and I knew what I needed to do,” said the wildlife consultant and volunteer firefighter.
With the pain increasing by the minute, Sanders and his father took a buggy back to their truck. They were 30 minutes from the nearest hospital when Sanders called 911. “I started thinking ahead of what was needed to get me the best and fastest treatment possible. I informed the dispatch what happened and told them to notify the hospital that they were going to have a snakebite victim at their ER in 30 minutes. This would give them time to find anti-venom and be ready for me. “I also asked them to send a deputy to intercept my dad so I could get faster transportation to the hospital, saving vital minutes.
I stayed on the phone until I was able to meet the deputy.” Sanders continued, “Three miles from the hospital I was able to get an ambulance. The pain was intense; my mouth was dry and tingling. I was starting to perspire and could feel the venom effects. They were able to get an IV in me in the ambulance, which saved a few more minutes when we got to the hospital.”
With the hospital ready for arrival, doctors immediately began treating Sanders. An hour after the bite, Sanders began receiving his first dose of anti-venom. Doctors told him he might need up to 20 doses. The venom worked its way from his foot all the way up to his hip, swelling his entire left leg before slowly calming.
After a four-day stay in the hospital, Sanders was released after eight doses of anti-venom. He is home, still recovering. “I’ve got to stay in bed for another week,” he said. “The bite region is still very painful.” A half-inch deep hole sits in his leg where a surgeon removed dead tissue killed by the venomous fang piercing. An indentation and scar will be left with Sanders, forever reminding him of the incident.
The hospital bill could also take a toll, as anti-venom is known to cost between $10,000 and $20,000 per dose. In the end, Sanders wants everyone to be aware of the dangers rattlesnakes pose for hunters and those in the outdoors. “Snake boots, gaiters or chaps can be had for around $100, and is an easy and cheap alternative to what I’ve just experienced.”
Will the snakebite keep Sanders away from the outdoors? Like a true sportsman, he was back in the woods opening day of bow season. He hunted from tents on the ground, and eventually worked his way back into stands.
Update (10/19/14) – We received this from Dana: “My recovery has been good. I attribute my recovery to the early intervention of CroFab anti venom. I still exhibit swelling below the knee and my hole is healing nicely. I count myself very blessed. It could have been my dad, my wife or my son.
The biggest takeaway for me from this experience is that when working by myself in the woods, I should always plan ahead, have a charged cell phone, tell others where I’ll be and always look for an exit plan. Within 15 minutes of my bite I could not walk or help myself. Venom is bad stuff. I hope I never have that feeling again!”
Update (9/20/15) – “2 years later and I still have issues with swelling and itching. The nerve damage from the venom is going to be with me for a long time. It all could have been avoided! Now I wear Turtle Skin Snake Armor gaiters everyday when I hit the woods. Everyday I put on my field boots, the gaiters go on! God forbid, if you’re ever bitten, leave old snake remedies alone….call ahead and get to the closest ER.”