LPAPA Artist Member Lynn Berkeley shares her frightening encounter with a rattlesnake and her tips for staying snake safe.
“Two days before Mother’s Day, I was bitten by a large Pacific Rattlesnake. After air Medi-Vac and five days at the Regional Trauma Center and ICU, I feel lucky to be alive, home and recovering. While I was hospitalized, and the initial danger had passed, I had the opportunity to speak to some of the experts; and this is what I learned.
- Carefully select your painting location. Check your surroundings. Stay clear of rocks and dense brush or high grass. Give you and your equipment 6-10 feet of clear visibility.
- Snakes usually bite between the ankle and mid-calf (mine was on the ankle). I had jeans and shoes to no avail. Consider “snake gaiters”—fang-proof coverings that fit below the knee to shoe. They are easy to wear and are readily available online.
- Things to pack with your paint gear: alcohol swabs, an Ace bandage, a roll of light gauze, fully charged cell phone with GPS location turned ON, cell phone travel battery, list of all current medications you are taking and emergency contact information. A quality snake bite (extractor) kit, ONLY if you are familiar with how to use it. Put this all in an easy-grab 1 gallon Zip-loc bag.
If you are bitten, the first thing to do is immediately move away, because if the snake feels threatened, it may strike again. Try to safely get a look at the snake for identification. Move to a safe place where you can sit with the bite below your heart/torso. Do not lie flat.
Call 9-1-1. Clean bite area with gauze and alcohol swab. Using the Ace bandage, wrap the extremity to apply light compression above the bite to slow blood flow to the heart. Try to remain calm. Breathe slowly, keeping your heart rate as low as possible. If a bite occurs at a remote location, immediately request a helicopter medical evacuation, if available. Otherwise, wait quietly for help or get to the nearest Emergency Room.
The doctors all agreed: Don’t do anything you’ve seen in an old Western! Do not drink whiskey or other alcoholic beverages (this goes for caffeine). Do not cut the wound or try to suck out the venom. In the event of a less likely bite to the hand, all of the above apply.
My hope is that sharing my experience may help each of you to stay safe while pursuing your plein air passion.”