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Chronicle of Recovery from the Bite of a Texas Coral Snake
Bite from a Texas Coral Snake

On November 29, 2010, I was bit by a Texas Coral Snake (Micrurus tener) at Aransas National Wildlife Refuge on the Gulf Coast. This page provides a table of contents as I chronicles the event and my recovery. Follow the links for more photos and additional text.

101129

Day 1, November 29. Early morning.

Like any day destined to end in disaster, today started out calm and quiet. Liz and I packed early and drove out to Aransas NWR and were greeted by a flock of Wild Turkeys at the Visitor Center. After photographing Great Kiskadees and watching a Crested Caracara harass roosting Black Vultures, we started walking trails. 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, we spotted a beautiful snake on the trail -- and our travel plans suddenly changed.

snakebite

Day 1, November 29. The rest of the day.

Liz raced me to a small hospital about 1/2 hour away. After stabilizing me and providing some relief with not enough morphine, they flew me to San Antonio where doctors, nurses, and other staff made sure I didn't die that day. Early on today, the burning pain was quite extreme.

snakebite

Day 2, November 30. They let me out of the hospital before lunch under the condition that I stay within 30 minutes of a major hospital in case I start having breathing difficulties. To that end, we spent the afternoon in San Antonio with an old friend from the Yucca Mountain days, then drove about an hour to Austin where we convalesced at my sister's house for a few days.

snakebite Day 3, December 01. We spent a quiet day in Austin relaxing, shopping for fabric for Liz who is doing a project for Cathy, and walking the dog around a local park for an hour. My hand is getting better -- I can type 2-handed and the swelling and stiffness are down enough so I can make a loose fist.
101202

Day 4, December 02. We spent another quiet day relaxing in Austin. The hand is almost fine, and if I leave it alone, I feel nothing. If I poke and prod it to see if it still hurts, it will when I stop messing with it. Also, I've learned to offer my left hand when shaking hands with people. I'm wondering how long this nerve sensitivity will last.

coral snake bite

Day 5, December 03. The hand is little changed and seems to be progressing well, but there still is numbness and some itching on the top of the finger. I did experience a bit of hysterical behavior during an evening encounter with a black, red, and yellow beetle.

coral snake bite

Day 9, December 07. The finger continues to improve, with some of the numbness dissipating. However, as of today I have small bumps at each of the fang entry sites that itch -- not sure what to make of it.

coral snake bite

Day 10, December 08. The bumps have enlarged and the distal one is red. They are still imbedded in the numb area, but the bumps hurt when touched.

Coral Snake Bite Day 11, December 09. The bumps have enlarged and the distal one is more red. They are still imbedded in the numb area, and the bumps hurt when touched.
coral snake bite Day 12, December 10. The bumps have enlarged and both are red. They are still imbedded in the numb area, and the bumps hurt when touched.
coral snake bite

Day 13, December 11. The distal bump is enlarging, but the proximal one is getting smaller. Itching and burning associated with the bumps persists, and the area around them is still numb.

coral snake bite Day 14, December 12. The bumps have ceased enlarging, but the itching and burning associated with the bumps persists, and the area around them is still numb.
Coral Snake Bite

Day 15, December 13. The finger continues to improve. The recent swelling continues to subside. The right injection site shows some redness, but little swelling. The left injection site is still swollen and red, but less than before. The itching still comes and goes, but the numbness is almost entirely confined to the swollen area at the left injection site.

Coral Snake Bite

Day 16, December 14. The finger and hand itch more than usual, and there are some small sore spots on the finger and hand.

coral snake bite

Day 17, December 15: Little ache in the hand today, but the finger aches with some itching. The swelling at the injection sites is little changed, but the top of the finger is more sore today than usual.

coral snake bite Day 18, December 16: The finger is considerably better today with little ache in the finger, none in the hand, and numbness only around the injection sites and a little bit on the last finger bone.
Coral Snake Bite

Day 19, December 17: A bit of a setback today with some pain in the finger and distal portions of the hand. The entire finger aches a bit and the dorsal surface of the last phalanx (individual finger bone) hurts, especially when touched. In addition, the knuckle on the little finger aches and hurts when touched. There is occasional itching on the finger that comes and goes.

Coral Snake Bite

Day 20, December 18: After a not-so-good day yesterday, I have had almost no pain, itch, or ache today, at least not until I pressed on it while doing dishes after dinner. Maybe the nerves are still cycling between pain and no pain, but now with a very long period.

101219

Day 21, December 19: This was a good day with numbness confined to the injection sites and essentially no pain, itch, or ache today.

Day 22, December 20: Another good day (two in a row!) with numbness confined to the injection sites and essentially no pain, itch, or ache today unless I hit the top of my finger against something, which unfortunately includes my coffee cup if I hold it in my normal fashion by the handle. The distal phalanx feels almost normal.

101221

Day 23, December 21: Another good day (three in a row!) with little change from yesterday. Hopefully I am on the home stretch. Now, I could just quit banging it against things ...

 

Coral Snake Bite Day 24, December 22: A mostly good day with a bit of ache in the entire finger from time to time during the day, but not all the time.
101223 Day 25, December 23: In the morning, the finger was much like yesterday with a bit of ache in the entire finger from time to time. Then I went to the dentist and required a fair bit of local anesthetic. After I got home, I experienced burning sensations on the affected finger. I also had burning on the same phalanx on my middle finger and on the proximal phalanx on the ring finger of my other hand (see shaded areas on photo). I'm not sure what any of this means, but I suspect that the dental anesthetic had some odd interaction with the snake bite and its affect on my perception of pain.
101224 Day 26, December 24: The multiple sensations are gone, but there is a bit of ache in the affected portion of the finger that comes and goes. We spent the day outside in cool temperatures, and the affected finger seemed more sensitive to cold than the other fingers.
101225

Day 27, December 25: The affected portion of the finger aches and experiences slight burning sensations from time to time, and as I type, the distal phalanx on the affected finger hurts from time to time. Numbness is confined to the injection sites.

101226 Day 28, December 26: The affected portion of the finger aches and experiences slight burning sensations from time to time, mostly when I bump it or check it for pain. Numbness is confined to the actual red spots at the injection sites. The affected finger seemed more sensitive to cold than the other fingers.
101227 Day 29, December 27: The affected portion of the finger burns a bit from time to time today with occasional bursts of burn up the finger and into the hand along the same finger bones.
101228 Day 30, December 28: Probably the best day yet with no pain in the finger during the day except once when I tucked my shirt into my pants and the waistband rubbed hard against the finger.
101229

Day 31, December 29: The affected portion of the finger experienced a bit of burning in the morning, especially along the lateral edges of the fingernail (which seems like an unusual location). During the rest of the day, I noticed no pain or other affects.

Day 32, December 30: The tip of the finger experienced a bit of light burning in the morning, and the injection sites still burn when bumped against something or when I check to see if they still burn. Otherwise, there is very little pain in the finger.

101231 Day 33, December 31: No pain in the finger today.
110101

Day 34, January 1: The affected finger experiences a bit of light burning from time to time during the day and seemed quite cold sensitive (light burning when I was outside in the morning at about 35 degrees).

Day 35, January 2: No pain in the finger today.

110103

Day 36, January 3: No pain in the finger today.

Day 37, January 4: The affected finger experiences occasional light burning from time to time, mostly when I bump it or when I'm out in the cold, but I think the affects are diminishing.

110105

Day 38, January 5: The injection sites are still red and inflamed, but the affected finger experienced nothing bad today, not even when I fiddled with it to see if it would hurt. The affects continue to diminish.

Day 40, January 7: After several days of feeling nothing bad in the affected finger, tonight I experienced a few short bouts of burning on the dorsal surface of the affected phalanx and a few sharp pains along the distal side of the fingernail on the affected finger.

110109

Day 42, January 9. Redness and slight inflammation persist. If I massage the injection sites, I can cause burning sensations on the dorsal surface of the affected phalanx. Otherwise, there is no pain, and for the most part, I don't even notice the finger these days.

110111 Day 44, January 11. I bumped the affected finger this morning and caused brief, but intense burning on the dorsal surface of the affected phalanx.
110113 Day 46, January 13. Photographs, but no comments recorded today.
110113 Day 48, January 15. Photographs, but no comments recorded today.
110113

Day 50, January 17. Photographs, but no comments recorded today.

Day 52, January 19. Despite periodically massaging the affected finger, I have experienced no negative effects from the snakebite during the last week. However, this evening I massaged the affected phalanx and generated brief burning sensations. The injection sites are still red, but the inflammation is nearly gone. Today I learned that the health care system will take less than a pound of flesh from my hide, so I am relieved and pleasantly surprised.

110121

Day 54, January 21. Photographs, but no comments recorded today.

110123

Day 56, January 23. Photographs, but no comments recorded today.

Day 57, January 24. For the most part, I've experienced no negative effects from the snakebite lately, but I can still generate brief burning sensations if I massage the affected phalanx, and this evening it did a little burning without any help on my part.

Day 59, January 26. The dorsal surface of the affected phalanx continues to experience light burning sensations that come at infrequent and irregular intervals without apparent cause. The sensations never last longer than one minute, but they lasted all morning.

110128

Day 60, January 27. The dorsal surface of the affected phalanx has experienced periodic light burning sensations in the afternoon and into the night.

Hospital bills are starting to work their way through the system. The 1-hour helicopter ride cost about $35,000! I'm glad I have health insurance because this alone far exceeds my annual deductible and annual out-of-pocket expenses.

Day 61, January 28. The dorsal surface of the affected phalanx has experienced light burning sensations all morning. This is the longest bout of uninterrupted burning in at least the last month.

110130 Day 63, January 30. Photographs, but no comments recorded today.
110205

Day 65, February 1. The dorsal surface of the affected phalanx continues to experience infrequent, but unprovoked, light burning sensations. Most bouts last less than a minute, but some last for several minutes.

Day 69. February 5. Photographs, but no comments recorded today.

110211

Day 75. February 11. Photographs, but no comments recorded today.

Day 76. February 12. Photographs, but no comments recorded today.

110212

Day 83, February 19. The dorsal surface of the affected phalanx continues to experience infrequent, but unprovoked, light burning sensations. The frequency of bouts has decreased over time, but today for the first time since early in the event, I experienced burning sensations along the inside of my affected forearm (probably the ulnar nerve) stretching from the wrist to nearly the elbow, and the "node" is again slightly enlarged (see 6th photo from day 2).

Day 84, February 20. Nothing unusual today.

Day 95, March 3. Since February 19, there has been no pain associated with the snake bite, and the redness at the injection site continues to diminish (but is still visible).

Coral Snake Bite

Day 97, March 5. I was hoping that I was over it, but alas, today the dorsal surface of the affected phalanx experienced unprovoked light burning sensations and minor soreness over the entire two distal phalanges.

Day 102, March 10, 2011. More than 100 days post event, and the dorsal surface of the affected phalanx continues to experience unprovoked light burning sensations that last for a few minutes.

Coral Snake Bite

Day 107, March 15, 2011. Since March 10, there has been no pain associated with the snake bite, but redness at the injection sites continue.

Day 112, March 20, 2011. Today the dorsal surface of the affected phalanx experienced unprovoked burning sensations that lasted for a few minutes. Unlike in the past, the burn seems to be focused at the distal injection site.

Day 221, July 7, 2011. I have had no effects since March. The proximal injection site still shows a small reddish spot.

Coral Snake Bite

Day 252, August 7, 2011. I have had no effects since July, but the proximal injection site still shows a small reddish spot. However, when a friend asked about it today, I fiddled with my finger, rubbing the injection area, and it once again began to burn. The burning sensation wasn't bad and didn't linger, but it is surprising that these effects continue.

Day 376, December 9, 2011. I have had no effects since August, but the two injection sites still show a small reddish spot.

 
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