LOOK AT ALL THE PICTURES AFTER YOU READ THIS.
On July 21, just after my 13th birthday, I was bitten by a Northern Pacific rattlesnake. The snake was originally identified as a Western Diamondback rattlesnake, but that species is not found nearYosemite. I was located on a trail in a hiking area near Yosemite National Park , California . The bite occurred when I was sitting on a small boulder at a distance of 4.5 miles from the trail head with my cabin group at camp. I had my arms dangling at my side, and a five foot long rattlesnake bit me in the middle of my left palm. From this point, an amazing rescue took place, taking four hours to transport me the 4.5 miles to the trail head.
The camp director had previously called the hospital, and a helicopter was waiting at the trail head. During the 30 minute helicopter ride, I was going in and out of consciousness, having trouble keeping my eyes open. We arrived at the Modesto hospital, where the doctor in the emergency room decided that my case was too severe to treat at that medical center. He told me this, which was the last thing I heard before going unconscious. Although I was unconscious for approximately the next 24 hours, I have heard about the following events from my parents:
I was taken from the Modesto hospital to the UC Davis Medical Center in Sacramento , the trauma center for Northern California . My snake bite was determined to be too severe for Modesto to deal with. At the UC Davis hospital, I underwent a fasciotomy, which involved the doctors cutting open my arm from the palm up to about the middle of my biceps. This was to relieve the extreme pressure that had built up in my arm from the rattlesnake venom, making my arm as hard as a rock until the fasciotomy.
I spent the next 35 days in the UC Davis hospital, had eight surgeries performed for cleaning out the dead tissue from my arm, and finally had a skin graft from my leg to close up my arm, which had remained open for 30 days after the fasciotomy until the skin graft surgery. That is 10 surgeries in total at UC Davis.
I was released from the hospital on August 24, had four months of intense physical therapy, and flew to Duke University Medical Center in North Carolina for a follow-up surgery. This was a vascular flap surgery, during which they took a chunk of skin and muscle from my back, attached it's blood vessels to the ones in my arm using microsurgery, and then stitched it to my arm. Although 2 emergency surgeries were required within 24 hours on account of blood loss, the vascular flap was a success; and, after six more months of physical therapy, my hand had a significant improvement in mobility from when I left UC Davis and could move each finger only 2-3 millimetres.
My hand, now, has fully mobility and is about 80% as strong as it was before, thanks to my Dad and I resuming our rock climbing after a one year break due to the lack of strength in my left hand. I use it for about 90% of the things I used to do with my left hand. (I am right handed). After 13 surgeries, $700,000 worth of helicopter flights, surgeries, and hospital stays (paid by my insurance, of course), and 20 months later, I am very happy with the outcome of this experience and my good fortune of getting through all this without any significant loss.
This is the reason you don't ever want to be bitten by a rattlesnake!!!
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