First Hand: Bitten By A Northern Copperhead

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Northern Copperhead
Northern Copperhead. Photo by Edward J.-Wozniak D.V.M PhD

Here is a “first hand” (sorry for the bad pun) of being bitten by a Northern Copperhead and the ensuing envonmation treatment & therapy from M. Christie Kroll [email protected]:

John –

The bite happened while relocating the snake from a neighbor’s yard, where it was not wanted. The snake was released in a less populated area.

A 16″ neonate Northern Copperhead, Agkistrodon contortrix, bit the inside of the tip of my right thumb. The immediate sensation was of hitting my thumb with a hammer. There was a small blood blister and a waxy spot and sharp local pain. Throbbing began in less than 15 minutes,as did swelling.

Within 1 hour the hand was 3 inches thick, fingers did not bend and thumb had lost feeling. Within 2 hours I was at the ER receiving anti-venom and swelling was past the elbow. The whole hand had a deep gnawing pain like being caught in a leg hold trap. I would gladly have chewed my own hand off at the wrist.

After initial treatment I was airlifted to Jacobi Medial Center where I got more anti-venom and painkillers…. which did absolutely NOTHING for the pain. In two days I was released. Pain extended up to the armpit, as did bruising.

The entire thumb blistered and had partial thickness destruction, with a thumb nail sized area having full thickness tissue loss requiring a skin graft. 6 weeks later it is almost healed. I have 50% to 75%, range of motion back in the thumb. While rough motor skills are fine, I may not recover the ability to write legibly with that hand and have in essence, become left handed.

The billed expenses will be in the range of 12,000 to 15,000 dollars for two days of treatment and follow-up surgery.

I handle snakes in order to save lives.. the snakes’ lives. It is enough to know my woods is full of them. I cannot imagine wanting to keep one in the house.

If you want pics, send e-mail with your snail mail address.

– Christie