It took 24 doses of anti-venom, four days of hospital intensive care, and two weeks at home for 16-year-old Vera Oliphant to recover from six rattlesnake bites.
Oliphant, who is from El Cajon, Calif., was visiting her uncle in Jamul in San Diego County on Oct. 27 when she went up a hill from his house to try to get a cellphone signal to contact her mother.
“I thought I heard rattles behind me so I ran away. But then I stepped into the snake nest under a pile of leaves. First the mother snake bit my right foot… the baby snakes bit me after that.”
Oliphant tried to call 911, “but I didn’t have any phone signal. So I had to run down the hill back to my uncle’s house,” she said.
She said she was in a fog, her eyesight and her consciousness fading. How she got to the house, she cannot fully recall. “I was feeling numb and paralyzed. I had black vision and I saw bubbles. It felt like needles were stabbing me… it burned so hard and it felt like a bomb just exploded in me. It’s really hard to describe,” she said.
“I struggled to get my key out, and I was too weak to ring the bell. I desperately tapped at the window and cried, ‘Help me,’ and that’s when my uncle took me to a hospital 15 miles away,” said Oliphant.
On the way to Sharp Grossmont Hospital in La Mesa, Oliphant was somehow able to put a post on her Facebook page: “i got bit by a rattle snake & now i,m about to go to l.C.U .. it hurts like a ___ & my leg is paralyzed ._.”
Soon after, she went into anaphylactic shock twice and lost consciousness four times. She arrived at the hospital in the nick of time.
“The doctors told me that I need two to three months to completely recover from the bites. But I will feel a weird sensation when stepping on my right leg for years,” she said.
Oliphant’s father David, who is a former occupational nurse, was more worried about her response to the treatment than the amount of venom that was in her bloodstream. ”I am used to dealing with patients, but when it’s your own daughter it’s different,” Oliphant’s father told ABC News.
“The majority of people suffering from snake bites survive them if they’re treated on time,” Dr. Donna Seger, Executive Director of Tennessee Poison Center and an assistant professor at Vanderbilt University Medical Center, told ABC News.
“Sometimes it’s hard to tell how bad the bites are because 25 percent of them are dry and sometimes the snakes miss the main vein.” Seger said.
But Oliphant had been bitten badly. “Snakes in the West, including California, are usually nastier than the ones in the East and are much more toxic,” Seger said.
Oliphant said that she feels lucky to be alive. She also thinks that had her phone worked, she would not have suffered as much. She said she wishes there are more cellphone towers. “I mean, there was literally no reception where I was and if I had one I would have called for help.”
Oliphant hopes to go back to Chaparral High School in Santee next Wednesday.