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Thanksgiving in Texas -- Nov. and Dec. 2010

Day 16, November 29. Like any day destined to end in disaster, today started out calm and quiet. Liz and I packed early, got delayed by the family of cats prowling around the motel, and we stopped for coffee at the gas station. We drove out to Aransas NWR and were greeted by a flock of Wild Turkeys at the Visitor Center. After visiting the VC, photographing Great Kiskadees, and watching a Crested Caracara harass the roosting Black Vultures, we started off onto trails across the street.

The first trail was open and grassy, but the only things flying were butterflies and dragonflies, and alligators were nowhere to be found. We then ventured onto a trail in the dark woods, and after less than a minute, in the dim light we spotted a dark-and-light banded snake among dead leaves on the trail (see black-and-white photo below that reveals something like what my eyes perceived among the leaves). Leaving out the embarrassing details, within a few seconds of being bitten and in better light, I knew it was bad -- a coral snake. Related to cobra snakes and with similar venom, these snakes cause death by paralyzing the muscles that control breathing. With directions from a park ranger, Liz drove us at great speeds to the nearest hospital in Port Lavaca, and they flew me to San Antonio, where I now languish in a hospital bed. I will be fine -- and a bit more cautious in unfamiliar woods.

Coral Snakes are related to Cobras and have similar venom. Fortunately I got it off quickly and didn't get a large dose. The venom contains a neuro-toxin that causes great burning sensations that come and go in an oscillatory manner -- burning like hell, then subsiding to only burning like regular fire. Early on, the oscillations were rapid with extreme peaks, but after a few hours, the period had lengthened and the peaks had diminished. Fortunately, most of the helicopter ride coincided with a trough, and I was able to enjoy the flight and take photos. By now (2 AM), it usually is just an ache, and the bandaging is as much of a pain as the finger. They let me eat after midnight, and I expect to go home tomorrow. I had no problems with breathing, not even during the worst of it early on.

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Tivoli Motel; old but clean, and mouse free
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Wild Turkey at the Visitor Center
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Marsh with clouds and morning colors
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Liz looking for birds and alligators on the Heron Trail
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Great Kiskadee
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Banded snake in the leaves along the trail
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With some help from Photoshop, this is a beautiful snake.
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Damn! That really is red against yellow...
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9:45 AM. Two or three minutes post-bite, heading for the car
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10:45. Huge burning pain, but stable in Port Lavaca hospital ER
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12:00 noon. Port Lavaca from the air
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1:00 PM. San Antonio from the air
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On the ground, heading to ICU
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1:30 PM. Minor swelling, but lots of burning pain
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8:00 PM. The swelling and redness has subsided, and a doctor outlines the reaming color to mark the progress.

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Late at night in a hospital bed with my arm tied up because I can't keep it elevated enough, but I can still type with one hand!

Note: All distances, elevations, and other facts are approximate.
copyright; Last updated 101215

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