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Snake bite causes family agony

Letitia BusniakGeraldton Guardian
Camera IconJames and Elaine Carston share their message on how lucky James is to be alive Credit: Geraldton Guardian

A Geraldton mum has experienced what she describes as one of the worst days of her life, after her son had to receive emergency treatment for what was nearly a fatal snake bite.

Elaine Carston was at work last Tuesday when she received the call that her 28-year-old son James had been bitten by a baby gwardar three times on his right hand.

He had been trying to remove the snake from the laundry of the family’s rental property, by pinning the animal’s head with a broom.

While reaching to secure it, the snake reared up and bit.

But it was what happened next that was the cause of Ms Carston’s on-coming nightmare.

Neither her son nor the house’s tenant were aware of how to administer first aid to a snake bite and within five minutes, he had already begun to show signs of poisoning.

Half an hour later, he was really starting to look unwell and, despite his protests, was taken to Geraldton Hospital.

The snake was removed and brought into hospital so anti-venom could be administered and even though he eventually started to look better, it wasn’t until the next morning things really took a turn for the worse.

Ms Carston was on her way to pick up her son early the next day when she received the call that his left kidney had begun to shut down. He was immediately airlifted by RFDS to Sir Charles Gairdner Hospital, where he was admitted on Wednesday morning.

He was truly in a bad way by the time he was brought in, as it was soon discovered he also had fluid on his lungs and his blood pressure was “through the roof”.

For a week, Ms Carston’s son has been taken in and out of intensive care and he has only begun to show signs of improvement.

Arrangements were made yesterday with the family’s doctor to have him discharged and return to Geraldton under regular observation.

But the nightmare doesn’t end there for Ms Carston, who is stuck with the “what ifs” of the situation.

“When they put him on that plane to Perth, I thought to myself, this might be the last time I get to see my son, ” she said.

“It’s one of the worst things that has ever happened to us.

“I didn’t know if he was going to live or die and it’s not something I ever want to go through again.

“What if he had left it a bit later to go to the hospital?

“Neither of them knew how to treat a snake bite and James was trying to be tough and didn’t think he needed to go to hospital.

“It was left for just half an hour without treatment and this is what happened.”

It’s that fear that has left Ms Carston wanting to warn others of the risks of not knowing first aid.

“This is not something you can mess around with, people have to start learning first aid and know how to handle these types of situations, ” she said.

“Learn how to deal with injuries properly and it can make the world of difference.

“I can’t stress how important this is because I don’t want anyone else to have to go through what my family did. It’s even more important people don’t try to handle snakes.

“Call the snake catcher because it’s just not worth it.”

St John Ambulance offers a range of first-aid courses year round. For more information, visit the website at www.stjohn.org.au

Do not try to catch snakes yourself — call Mid West snake catcher Darren Darch on 0404 387 215.

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