Clinic Stories

The 5 T's – Name That Snake Bite Victim

The first is simply unlucky. They walk along some where; a snake is in their path and bites them on the leg when they get too close. The second group is unlucky in a different way – they have impaired judgment. Seeing a snake, they try to pick it up and get bitten on the hand or wrist. Doctors list five risk factors of amateur snake wranglers – the five T's. They are – Teen, Testosterone, Tequila, Trailer Park and Tattoos. In other words, young drunk males from a lower socioeconomic strata. These are also risk factors for other animal attacks and trauma including being killed by a crocodile, in a motor vehicle or by a bullet.

So a young drunk male sees a rattlesnake and thinks, “I'm going to pick it up!” Fortunately emergency rooms stock antivenom in areas where snakes are common and few people die of snake bites in this area. In other areas the threat is much greater.

I met someone just after he had been bitten by a taipan snake in Australia, a highly poisonous snake. He was walking along, saw a “baby” snake, and tried to pick it up. “I never would have tried with a big snake” be announced, reassuring me of his sound judgment. Young snake bites, however, are often worse than adults because they cannot control their venom and release a full dose. He quickly began hallucinating and going in and out of consciousness. The first emergency room did not have the antivemon. They applied a very tight wrap to his arm, gave him morphine and put him on a plane to another hospital. When the morphine kicked in he felt so good he wanted to skip the trip. His request was ignored, he was treated and released the next day when his blood work showed stabilization of muscle damage.

So how did he score with the five T's. That depends if you ask him or me. He was not a teen though he was in his 20's. He was of course male. He claimed he had no tattoos. The last two T's are more controversial. He said he did not live in a trailer park but I think he was too literal. He not only presented as rough around the edges but was so broke that he was trying to sell his computer tablet because he had no money for food. He also said he was not drunk when the snake bit him but the first time I met him he boasted of having ten beers the night before and the effects were still apparent. The next night he was drinking heavily again after selling his tablet for $130. He would score himself as one T, I give him three – testosterone, tequila and trailer park.

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