TUCSON, Ariz. (KOLD News 13) - Eddie Wise sat in the intensive care unit of Banner UMC, hooked up to a bunch of tubes and his right hand in pain.
He was bitten by a rattlesnake as he replaced an underground water valve on Tucson’s far West side Thursday, Sept. 12.
He was cleaning out debris when the snake struck though a hole in the bottom of the metal case housing the valve.
“There was no warning he was coming,” Wise said. “No rattle, no nothing.”
The snake struck him on the right thumb with only one fang, a quick hit he described as “like a pin prick.”
“As soon as I got hit, I could feel the numbness on the thumb,” he said. “And as it spread, it just seem like a fire underneath the skin.”
Wise works for Tucson Water and has had training on what to do in an emergency.
“They tell you in any situation like this is to stay calm,” he said. “So that was my thing, I stayed calm and called 911.”
Northwest Fire was just a couple of miles away, but he was already swelling and in some pain by the time they arrived.
“It was like the inside of your hands were on fire,” he said.
Even though the rattlesnake was only about a foot long and hit him with only one fang, it was enough venom to cause serious damage.
“I can’t overstate it. If you are the victim of a snakebite, it is 100 percent you need to go to the emergency room to be evaluated,” said Brian Keeley, Deputy Administrator for Northwest Fire. “You have to.”
As the summer winds down and the nights become cooler, rattlesnakes will become more active. They will start looking for a place to hibernate so they will be more visible.
As hikers begin to descend on the desert to hike because of the cooler temperatures, the chance for encounters increase.
“I’m less likely when I’m walking through the desert to be staring at the beautiful horizon and the mountains,” Keeley said. “I’m more likely to be looking three to five feet in front on me because that’s where I’m going to find a problem.”
Wise needed only one dose of antivenom, but still may suffer lingering effects.
He will be monitored by poison control for several weeks to make sure he doesn’t have recurring problems.
“There may be down the road any thing from nerve damage to muscle damage,” he said.
And even though he’s had many rattlesnake encounters in the past because of his job, he has a renewed respect.
“I’m pretty cautious as it is because I know the kind of work I’m in,” he said. “Still its put me on guard 100 percent more than I was.”