AUSTIN (KXAN) — A vacationing Denver man’s trip down a Texas trail quickly turned into a trip to the trauma center after a venomous snake bite. So now Jay Middleton is warning others to pay attention to their surroundings while on trails.
“When you’re hiking in snake country, Chaco sandals, any type of sandals or flip flops, are not what you want to be wearing.” Middleton said. He learned that lesson the hard way while recently visiting Austin.
Middleton is one of the 353 people bitten by a snake in Texas this year, according to the Texas Poison Center Network.
He and his wife were hiking on July 31 in northwest Austin when the snake struck.
“I sort of looked back to say something to my wife, and I felt a sting on my foot,” he said. “I turned to say something to my wife about it, and she’s like, ‘Oh look, a snake.’ And I’m like, ‘I know. It’s a copperhead. It just bit me.’”
According to veterinarians, snake sightings have been on the rise recently, likely a result of this summer’s wet Texas weather.
However, last year, there were significantly more bites. Texas Poison Center Network reported 520 bites in 2020.
“It’s always something to worry about in Central Texas, kind of from spring through fall,” said Kristen Hullum, St. David’s Round Rock Medical Center trauma injury prevention coordinator.
Hullum said there are some steps you can take if you’re bitten, but the most important one is to remain calm and call for an ambulance.
“We don’t want to get your heart rate up,” she said. “We don’t want to be moving and circulating your blood because that just circulates the venom.”
According to Hullum, snake venom can cause severe damage to your kidneys and heart if it circulates through your blood. On top of that, the venom can break down the tissue around the bite. As a result, you could lose skin and muscle if enough venom gets injected. If you do get bit, anti-venom may be required to prevent damage to your organs; anti-venom, however, is very expensive.
“It’s kind of hard to say be calm when you’ve been bitten by a snake,” Middleton said. “But I’ve been practicing meditation this entire year.”
Luckily, the venom did not spread. First responders reached him on the trail and took him to St. David’s Round Rock Medical Center for treatment.
The bite still caused serious damage.
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“My entire foot looked like a giant sausage; I couldn’t even get a finger between my toes,” he said.
He spent several weeks on crutches and is just now starting to recover.
“Easily one of the most painful things I’ve ever experienced in my life. I’ve been hit by a car on my bike. I’ve broken numerous bones. … I thought I knew pain until I got bit by this snake.”
Despite the encounter, he said he’ll return to Austin.
“I love Austin, and it’s a beautiful city, and I’ll be back with the proper hiking shoes.”
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