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Thursday, April 24 2014 @ 09:33 AM EDT

Bitten By A Fer-de-Lance In Cerro Azul...

Animals & Pets By DON WINNER for Panama-Guide.com - The following account was posted to the "Zonelink" Yahoo email group today;
  • My friend Karen was bitten a few days ago by a small fer-de-lance snake up by Cerro Azul. Here's what happened in her own words. (Maggie is their Collie dog).

  • ~~~~~~~~~~~~~

  • So, it all began with a ride in the Jeep down to the Romeo & Juliet falls. We wanted to show our friends from Seattle the best of what Cerro Azul has to offer. But, the dry season hasn't been quite so dry up in the hills, and we quickly discovered that the Jeep was sliding on the red clay, there being no traction, and the road only got steeper, sooooo, we abandoned the car and decided to walk in. We made it in only 25 mins or so, took some pictures, Steven had a swim and began our ascent out. I being the most out of shape, okay, fat, went first! As I crossed a small stream, I stepped on a flat paving rock, and felt the bite of the snake that I had tread on. He was small, about 12-14 inches, and totally camouflaged. Picture included. I saw that notorious diamond pattern, thought, "oh shit", told my 3 companions I had been bitten, told Steven to take a picture of it, and continued climbing out.

  • I knew it may hit me quickly, and was not sure a car could get down to me, so thought it best to get as far up the hill as I could. In all honesty, I thought it was a pseudo, as there was no pain or swelling. We all quickly headed up the hill, but, it was very steep and warm, and I wasn't doing too well. The boys abandoned me to get back to the car, leaving me with my girlfriend. I finally had to sit down, feeling winded and slightly nauseated. And then a car came. All the family jumped out, asked for the woman who had been bitten, I raised my hand, they turned the car around and gave us, including Maggie (not sure they wanted to bring Maggie with them, but, I wasn't leaving her in the jungle, with snakes!!) a ride up to our car. The boys had lowered the air pressure in the tires, and we zoomed out, sliding all over the place. Twice into the ditch, but Steven was determined to get me out of there, and we made it.

  • We went to see the resident vet, who said, yip, looks like a fer-de-Lance, get her down the hill to a hospital. Without stopping at the house to get our things, and just stopping for 30 secs. to leave Maggie with friends on the hill, we bolted down the road. The vet, or friends, had already called and the gate was open, police were waiting at the corner to escort us down the hill, and we made it to Paitilla Hospital in record time. Including a 60 second stop at the gas station to put air back into the tires, it was the best of Indy!!

  • Steven had called ahead, and 3 doctors plus the ER doc from the Darien, were waiting for us in the emergency room with the anti-venom. I did fine on the way down the hill, recovering from the hike up, the foot not swelling, bleeding or too painful. So I still wasn't too sure, but the folks in the ER took one look at the picture, and said "Yep". Then they drew my blood, and already my coagulation studies were like someone on a double-dose of coumadin!! Totally out of whack. I was immediately given a first dose of anti-venom, and then they waited, for side-effects. None. Nothing. So they proceeded to give me 9 more vials over the next 7 hours while transferring me to ICU to monitor. And then the foot began to swell, but not until that evening! I had double IV's going, heart, pulse-ox, and BP monitors and felt pretty darn well, and lucky, laying in ICU that night. Of course, you can't sleep there, but I was pretty much fine. But my blood work was amazing. As an ex-Medical Technologist, I was agog at my own labs. The hematologist seemed to enjoy telling me what my values were, as I understood.

  • The next day they transferred me to a private room, removing all the tubes and wires, and allowing my system to revert back to normal. My labs are now basically normal, although I used up half of my supply of platelets, and my hematocrit dropped within 12 hours from a high of 46% to a border-line anemic value of 29%. But I feel pretty darn good, considering, and have a hell of a story to tell. So I am home now, hopping around the condo on 1 leg, and using Sally's walker. I should be back to normal soon as the swelling goes down and I can bend my ankle. Steven fortunately has been here with me through all of this, a great help, but I had no idea how worried he was. When you go on-line and read up on the Fer-de-Lance, you find that it is one of the most poisonous pit vipers in the world. I had the gods on my side on Tuesday, and possibly a smaller snake than most, who only wanted me off of him, not for dinner! Thanks to all of you who helped, and to the rest of you for you kind thoughts and well wishes.

Wow. Thank God... These people did everything right. They took a photo of the snake to confirm the culprit (which determines the anti venom to use). The went straight to seek medical assistance. They used their cell phones to call ahead to alert the ER that they were on the way in. They moved as quickly as possible in a safe manner, without panicking. Anyway, fer-de-lance snakes are experts at camouflage, and we all should remember we don't have to travel very far to enter "their" territory. Be safe out there, folks...

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Bitten By A Fer-de-Lance In Cerro Azul... | 4 comments | Create New Account
The following comments are owned by whomever posted them. This site is not responsible for what they say.
Bitten By A Fer-de-Lance In Cerro Azul...
Authored by: Anonymous on Saturday, February 20 2010 @ 10:00 PM EST

hey karen, sure glad you're ok ---a scary moment---wishing you well for your next trip up to altos de cerro azul. rob & nubia & max

Bitten By A Fer-de-Lance In Cerro Azul...
Authored by: Anonymous on Sunday, February 21 2010 @ 09:31 AM EST

Thanks for posting this Don, Karen is a good friend of ours but since we live in the US now I hadn't heard the news. I think it probably also helped that Steven is fluent in Spanish. By the way, Maggie is a black lab not a collie.

Bitten By A Fer-de-Lance In Cerro Azul...
Authored by: Anonymous on Sunday, February 28 2010 @ 09:56 PM EST

Would you mind telling how much the medical care cost? Thanks.

Bitten By A Fer-de-Lance In Cerro Azul...
Authored by: Anonymous on Wednesday, March 03 2010 @ 06:30 PM EST

This is even more amazing considering that a young fer-de-lance has even more concentrated toxin than a mature snake (especially one that has just eaten).
Fer-de-lances are also known as "shade snakes" (just find a shady, cool, place to die) and "two-steppers" (take two steps and fall over). Prayers are with her for a full recovery.
--Jay Lewis