SNAKEBITE IN THE OUTBACK
You know how you have those 'what if' moments in your head that you know you need to be prepared for but you hope never happen to you?
Well last night our 'what if one of us gets bitten by a snake' moment actually happened. And it happened right in our campsite at Karijini National Park.
Nathan was walking around in the dark in thongs after dinner, after having just had a shower. The full moon rose later last night so it was pitch black. Ryan and I were inside preparing him for bed. Suddenly we heard a shout from Nathan saying something had bitten him on the foot and he couldn't see what it was. I grabbed the torch and jumped outside but didn't spot anything. Nathan had felt something move against his foot, felt a piercing bite on his big toe, and heard a creature move away from him into the scrub.
We both knew it was very likely a snake. As is often the case with snake bite there was no obvious wound, and no pain at the site after the initial bite. But we both knew to take it seriously.
I told Nathan not to move and went to grab the first aid kit from the car (car was bloody locked. Cue mad scramble to find the key). Within about two minutes from the bite he had a double pressure bandage from toe to thigh. He knew not to move. And I knew that he'd likely have to be flown out to a bigger hospital, so quickly round up the kid, packed a bag (people always forget a phone charger!) and got Nathan in the car (I'm not strong enough to carry him but thankfully he was only a few metres from the passenger door).
We perhaps foolishly decided to call 000 en route to Tom Price Hospital (1 and a half hours away) so as not to waste any time. Karijini is one of few places in Australia that has Optus reception and no Telstra. But once we were in a moving car the already dodgy reception was even worse. And the sat phone doesn't work great in a moving vehicle either. Twice we got through and lost contact. Again we decided just to keep going. Nathan was stable, and had no signs of envenomation. But I wanted back up on the way in case he deteriorated. Fortunately we reached a patch of Telstra reception and managed to make a 000 call asking for an ambulance to meet us on the road. We were told to put our hazards on & pull over when we spotted the ambulance lights. But by the time we got through & dispatch got the vollies (volunteer ambos) out to us we were almost in Tom Price and could probably have saved them the trip. But I was still very grateful to see those lights and to handover responsibility!!
As expected Tom Price didn't have the services available to rule out envenomation so an RFDS flight to Port Hedland was required. Fortunately Nathan was stable and showed no signs of envenomation, but RFDS still managed to get there impressively quickly. Once the flight was arranged and I was confident he was pretty sweet Ryan and I made the 1 and a half hour drive back to our campsite in the dark. Nathan was bitten at 7.30pm. He was on a plane by 12.30am, which was about the same time Ryan & I got home.
Needless to say none of us got much sleep. Nathan was woken for obs and repeated bloods. And I had a killer headache and kept dreaming about bloody snakes (I'd also had a fall myself at Hancock Gorge that day, slipping down a 2 metre rock wall into Kermits Pool so i was feeling a bit sore & sorry). And I knew I had a massive day ahead of me packing up our very well lived in (in other words we had shit everywhere) campsite on my own.
I got up with the sun (no earlier, didn't want to offer Bitey McSnakeface any more toes in the dark) and got to work. I'd never packed the camper trailer up solely on my own before, let alone hitched up on my own. But I did it! 💪(With little pep talks from Ryan - 'you're doing very well on your own Mum' while he sat in the shade doing sweet f☆☆k all) I was covered in red dust and exhausted. And had 350kms to Port Hedland to cover to pick up a Husband who'd been sat on his ass all night.
Fortunately said husband is totally fine. No signs of envenomation (very often the case in suspected snake bite). Which means it either wasn't a snake at all, was a snake but a non-venemous one, or was a venemous snake who politely chose not to envenomate (they're good like that sometimes).
Well either those or the man made it all up to get a break from the kid and get out of packing up the camper. Who knows?
We're very glad to all be together again in Port Hedland (a town we had planned to bypass but plans change!) It's been a very emotional and exhausting 24 hours. And I'm pretty glad Nathan is all good. We do kinda like having him around. We've treated ourselves to a motel room and a takeaway. And we're all looking forward to a good rest.
We very much appreciate the fantastic Vollies who left their own families to come meet us at the roadside, and then again to take Nathan to the airport, all for no financial return. You guys are AMAZING.
Thank you to the excellent staff at Tom Price hospital (we all know Emergency Nurses are downright legends 😉) for their next level bandaging skills (that is not my handiwork - my meager effort was somewhat reinforced!) and for restocking my bandage supply as I was a little nervous of returning to camp with the kid when all my best bandages were en route to Port Hedland! And of course the Royal Flying Doctor Service of Australiaare worth their absolute weight in gold.
We're also very thankful no suicidal kangaroos decided to test out our bullbar on the drive out. Although I did (accidentally!) run over an unfortunate snake on the way to the hospital. The irony!
PS - this is actually not the first time Nathan has been bitten by a snake. When Nathan and I met I had a pet Childrens Python called Fluffy who was a sweet little thing that wouldn't hurt a fly. That was until Nathan plucked up the courage to stick his hand in there for the first time and it latched straight on! I think they must like the Kiwi blood 🤣🤣
And don't let this put you off visiting Karijini! It's a stunning place and well worth the visit. Check out more info about Karijini National Park here