Nurse acts quickly after decapitated rattlesnake bites husband

A Texas nurse “jumped into professional mode” after her husband was bitten by a rattlesnake minutes after he had cut off its head in their yard.

The couple was preparing their yard for an upcoming cookout when disaster struck in the form of a decapitated rattlesnake.

According to the NPR story:

Jennifer Sutcliffe — who happens to be a nurse — told KIII TV she jumped into professional mode after her husband, Jeremy, was bitten. She got him into the car and called 911 to find the nearest hospital to Lake Corpus Christi in Southern Texas that had anti-venom medication on hand. It was an hour away, Sutcliffe told The Washington Post.

Eventually, he was flown to Christus Spohn Shorelines Hospital. According to a People article, “once there, Jeremy went into septic shock and doctors placed him in a medically induced coma that evening.”

“There was actually three different times in the first 24 hours that the doctors told me that they didn’t think he was going to make it,” Sutcliffe told the Washington Post. “As a nurse, knowing what they were talking about was scary. I kept talking to him while he was in a coma, and I kept telling him to fight it, and he made it through.”

According to the People article:

Jeremy came out of his coma on May 31, after receiving a total of 26 doses of antivenom, a massive amount considering snake bites typically require two to four doses, Sutcliffe says. As of Thursday, Jeremy remains in stable condition, though he is experiencing acute renal failure.

“He’s stable, but he’s still on dialysis because his kidneys aren’t working,” Sutcliffe said. “They’re doing a lot of wound care as he lost the skin on his right two middle fingers, it’s just a high risk of infection for that wound.”

How you can help the Sutcliffes

The couple has set up a GoFundMe page, which as of Friday morning has raised $1,380 of the $100,000 goal. According to the GoFundMe page:

He is still recovering with acute renal failure that requires dialysis and is getting aggressive wound care to his hand. He has Medicare Insurance due to disability from having Guillian Barre in 2011 that left him unable to work. With Medicare he has to pay 20% of everything and it has no max out of pocket limit like most insurances. So our portion will likely be an extremely high amount.

How to care for rattlesnake bites

The best data available indicates that about 9,000 people are treated annually for pit viper snakebites in the U.S., and pit viper snakebites account for six to seven deaths per year.

Because snakebites may go unreported to poison control centers, this number is probably underestimated. Though mortality is very low, victims can suffer significant toxic effects, loss of function, disfigurement or even amputation.

Most of these consequences can be linked to inappropriate treatment, delay in seeking appropriate help or inaccessible medical care. Misconceptions about the proper treatment of these emergencies abound. Healthcare professionals as a team need to monitor snakebite victims closely, even when they appear to be out of danger, and use the expertise available from local poison control centers.

As a healthcare professional, do you know what to do when you encounter a rattlesnake bite?

The Rattlesnake Bite course is meant to update clinical knowledge of nurses, fitness professionals and health educators about the recognition, care and treatment of patients who have snakebites. After studying the information presented in the course, you will be able to:

  • Recognize signs and symptoms of snakebites
  • Name four treatments that should not be used for rattlesnake bites
  • List three indications for antivenom administration and infusion precautions

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