By Audrey W.
Johnny opened the refrigerator in the DeSotos’ kitchen and took out a carton of colored Easter eggs. Roy and Joanne had asked him to come over Easter morning, while they were at church with the kids. Johnny was to hide the eggs in the back yard. A big ham dinner later in the afternoon was in the deal for Gage.
With the eggs carefully placed in a bowl, Johnny opened the back screen door and stepped out onto the patio. It was an exceptionally warm day for the time of year, and even with the awning over the patio, Johnny could feel the warmth of the outdoors.
Gage stared out into the grassy yard, trying to get ideas where to hide the twelve eggs. A large Maple tree was in the left rear corner. There was a swing set in the middle and a shed in the right corner.
Johnny decided to start at the tree and work his way over to the shed.
After Johnny had finished at the tree, an egg sat perched up on the crease of a lower branch. Another was down on the ground near the trunk. Continuing on to the swing set, he set an egg by one of the front poles and another next to a rear pole. Also one egg was hidden in the glider swing between the floorboard cracks. The slats were close enough together to hold the egg safely in place. Johnny stuck an egg under the slide that was attached to the swing set, before going on to the next hiding spot.
With six eggs left to hide, Gage studied the yard for remaining hiding spots. Grinning at his own cleverness, he put an egg under the shed in a tiny hole. If anyone looked directly at the hole, it was easy to see. Just glancing at the shed, however, the egg remained more hidden.
Next, Johnny stuck an egg in a nearby wheelbarrow, and another on the ground at the right front corner of the shed. With just three eggs left, Gage looked at his watch.
Roy and his family were due back by and Johnny wanted to be relaxing in the house like nothing was up, before they pulled into the driveway.
Johnny hurried over towards the chain link fence that lined the yard. There was small shrubbery growing along the fence in spots. As he quickly stepped over to the fence, Johnny heard a familiar sound; one he had hoped he would never hear again. Alarm setting in, he stepped back, when he caught sight of the neighbor kids playing with the rattle off of a rattlesnake. Taking a deep breath, Johnny stood still a moment to compose himself. Memories of the time he had been bitten by a rattlesnake while on a call, had him shaky.
The paramedic stepped back over near the shrubbery. Taking an egg out of the bowl, he squatted down and placed it in the grass, just under the plant. His hand bumped against an object in the grass and a slight motion caught his eye, as he felt a sharp pain in his right hand. Johnny quickly pulled his hand back and looked in horror at what was attached with a firm grip.
Oh man! Just the head?
Johnny had heard that a rattlesnake head could bite and
inject venom, even after it had been off of the snake for awhile. His
grandfather had taught him never to touch one. The head should be buried, as it
wouldn’t die before sundown. Now here he was, with a head of a rattlesnake
someone else had carelessly tossed in
The DeSotos walked to their
station wagon after getting out of church.
As the kids climbed in, a friend of Joanne’s came running towards the car.
“Joanne! I need to ask you about the Girl Scouts’ meeting tomorrow!”
“Do we have time for me to talk with her about this?” Joanne
Joanne smiled and greeted her friend before the woman started asking questions.
Although Johnny felt the urge to rush into the house, he knew that moving at a slow pace was better. The less exertion, the slower the venom would travel through his system. Not having anything close by to use as a tourniquet, he needed to slow down his movements as much as possible.
The paramedic hoped that maybe it had been a dry bite this time, but the pain in his hand told him otherwise. He could feel a continuous burning sensation and the tissue around the fang marks was all ready swelling and discolored. If he had the right equipment available, Johnny figured he could make a couple of incisions in the bite and try to get some of the venom out. But the paramedic knew using just any knife or sharp object, and then sucking on the wound by mouth, could cause a serious secondary infection later. He had enough of a problem as it was.
Johnny held his hand down near his hip as he walked steadily
towards the house. It was strange how all of a sudden
As he made it to the patio, Gage felt relief. The back door wasn’t far from reach and he knew the telephone was right inside in the kitchen. Johnny reached out with his left hand and opened the screen door. As he stepped inside, he grabbed for the telephone receiver on the wall.
“No dial tone?”
Johnny leaned against the wall and closed his eyes. The pain in his hand was severe and he had a feeling the rest of the symptoms from the venom weren’t going to be far behind.
Man, either the phone’s out of order or off the hook somewhere in the house.
The next option was driving himself to Rampart or getting
the kids next door to help. As quick as the venom seemed to be taking effect,
and remembering how fast he faded last time, Johnny figured driving wasn’t a
good idea. As far as the neighbor kids went, if he felt like he could walk all
the way back out to the fence, he would. But not only would the extra motion
speed up the effects of the venom, he also already lacked the energy to give it
a try. He looked at his watch. Less than 10 minutes and
The two kids were busy chattering in the back seat, trying to decide who had gotten the best Easter surprises earlier in the morning and what candy they were going to eat first when they got home.
“What do you say we take a detour and give Johnny some extra time?”
Joanne noted the time on the clock. If they went straight home, they would arrive exactly at . If Johnny took longer than planned, things wouldn’t work out right.
“Okay,” Joanne whispered, nodding. “Let’s give him until .”
Johnny was feeling weaker. He had sat down in an easy chair in the livingroom to wait for the DeSotos to come home. When he stood up after several minutes to look out the window at the street in front of the house, a woozy feeling came over him. The familiar metallic taste in his mouth, and the increased difficulty in breathing, told Johnny he needed medical attention fast. Now laying on the couch, Gage looked at his watch. It took a few seconds for him to focus, but once the face became clear, he could see it was already .
While he still was focused on his watch, Johnny did a quick check of his respirations and pulse.
“Respirations . . .18. . .pulse. . .90,” the paramedic said between breaths to no one. Lying still, Johnny stared at his surroundings. His mouth was numb and his eyelids felt heavy. It was becoming increasingly difficult to stay awake. Johnny closed his eyes and gave in to the drowsiness.
Chris gazed through the windshield from the back seat. “Why is Johnny’s car at our house, dad?”
“I don’t know,”
“I think he brought us more candy!” Jennifer squealed.
“Like you need anymore,” Joanne said, grinning. “I guess
we’ll all just have to see when we get to the house.” She winked at
Johnny tried to fight his way back to consciousness. He was aware of sweat on his body, but he felt chilled at the same time. He shivered slightly, as he fought to open his eyes to look around. But Johnny was once again succumbing to the drowsiness. The paramedic drifted back to a deeper level of unconsciousness.
“Hey, Junior what’s up?”
“Jo, call the fire department and an ambulance!”
“I’m on it!”
The kids stood watching as their dad began to assess Johnny’s condition.
“Johnny. . .Johnny! Can you hear
“Johnny, c’mon. I need to know
Joanne was already back in the livingroom
and running up the stairs. “
“Why’d you guys do that, mom?” Chris wondered.
Blushing slightly, Joanne answered as she got to the top of the stairs.
“The day we think you’re ready to know, your dad will explain it to you, Chris!”
If he hadn’t been so concerned about his partner,
This looks like a snakebite. But where. . .? In our backyard? A snake?
“Dad, what’s wrong with Johnny’s hand?”
Jennifer punched her brother in the arm. “Dummy, dad was with us! How would he know?” She turned a worried expression back to her father. “Is he gonna be okay, Daddy?”
“I hope so.”
“The back yard?” Chris screwed up his face in puzzlement. “Why not? What’s up, Dad?”
“Just trust me for now. Stay out of the back yard ‘til I say you can go out there.”
“Johnny was supposed to be out there hiding Easter eggs for
you two to find,”
“In our yard?” Chris shook his head. “No way, Dad!”
“Well, I know he wouldn’t have come over here like this. Johnny can be a nut at times, but he knows about this kind of danger first hand. He’s been through it before.”
“Wow! I wonder how big the snake is?”
“Christopher!” Joanne scolded, as she came down the steps. “Forget the snake and think about Johnny.”
“Why don’t you two go upstairs,”
“Okay,” Chris said, not sounding pleased. He took the hand of his six-year-old sister and led her up the steps. “We’ll play Tip It, okay, Jen?”
Jennifer looked back at Johnny one more time before agreeing. She knew her dad and brother wanted to get her mind off of what was really going on. Johnny was close to dying if he didn’t get care soon.
“The ambulance and paramedics are on their way,
Sirens of the approaching emergency vehicles could be heard outside in the distance.
“When they get here, let them in, okay?”
“The paramedics will be handy.”
“That’s not very funny, you know,” Joanne admonished.
“It’ll give me a warning if I get too close. Don’t worry.”
Walking through the yard,
A rattlesnake head?
He reached to pick it up, when he suddenly remembered what Johnny had once told him.
‘A rattler doesn’t die easy. You can shoot it, beat it, even decapitate it, and the thing can still bite. Since the venom sacks are in the head and the bite may last longer, it can be even more serious than a live snakebite.’
Joanne stood back and watched the paramedics work on Johnny.
“Rampart, this is squad 110, how do you read?”
“110, we read you loud and clear,” Brackett replied. “Go ahead.”
“Rampart, we have a male, 26 years of age, appears to have been bitten by a rattlesnake.”
“110, do you have the vitals? And do you know how long ago the bite occurred?”
“Affirmative on vitals, Rampart. BP 110/60, pulse 95, respirations 16. The tissue around the bite area is swollen and discolored. Victim is unconscious. No sure time on when it happened. The victim was alone.”
“Tell Brackett, it was a severed snake head that bit Johnny.”
“A severed rattlesnake head. It’s
in the back yard.”
After passing the word on to Rampart, the paramedics from 110 waited for instructions.
“Okay, get him on an IV with Ringers Lactate and bring him in now! If the ambulance isn’t there, bring him in on the back of the squad. He might’ve gotten an exceptionally dangerous level of venom from the bite, if the head hung on and didn’t release right away.”
“IV Ringers Lactate and transporting immediately, Rampart. The ambulance is at scene.”
“10-4, 110. We’ll be waiting for you.”
The paramedics acted quickly to get Gage taken care of. Once Johnny was set, Roy and Joanne followed
the stretcher with their friend on it. As Johnny was loaded into the ambulance,
“Uh uh, DeSoto. You’re off duty.”
“I wasn’t there when he got bit last time and nearly died. I almost did it again today. In fact it’s my fault he didn’t get help sooner. I’ll be damned if I’m gonna let him out of my sight now.”
Knowing it was more important to get Gage to Rampart than
argue procedure with
The ambulance backed up to the emergency entrance. The doors
of the emergency vehicle opened and
“The snakebite victim is Johnny?”
An ambulance attendant, and both paramedics from 110 were lifting the unconscious man onto the exam table.
“Yep,” one of the paramedics answered. “I hope he beats it again.”
“At least we know he can handle the antivenin,” Kel said, thankful they wouldn’t have to wait for a skin
test again. He examined Johnny’s right hand. “Did you bring the head in,
DeSoto felt like he was in a nightmare. He couldn’t believe this was happening to Johnny again. He shook off the feeling to answer. “No. But it was a Diamondback. No doubt at all.”
“Why’d he pick it up?”
“Well, we’ll know the prognosis in a little while. If the
antivenin doesn’t work quick enough, we may need to
increase the amount. We’ll do what ever it takes,
“Do you need us, Doctor Brackett?” A paramedic from 110 asked.
“No, you guys can go. Thanks.”
“Sure.” The medic gave
Brackett turned to the nurse assisting him. “Betty, I need
arterial blood gases; also look in his file for blood type and get a
cross-match. Just as a precaution,” he quickly added for
Betty acknowledged with a nod and went to work on the requests right away.
“What are his chances, Doc?”
“Don’t ask for odds now,
Later in the afternoon, Brackett approached
“Johnny’s taken a step in the right direction,” Brackett said, smiling. “The antivenin did its job. He’ll be out for awhile. He’s very weak. But his vitals are getting closer to normal range.”
Thank you, God.
Opening his eyes, he looked at the doctor.
“Can I go see him?”
“Yes. But don’t expect a two-sided conversation.”
“I won’t. How long will he be in here?”
Brackett folded his arms across his chest. “Well, we’ll need to keep up with a few routine tests for two or three days. Things like checking his urine for blood, and doing daily blood counts, hemoglobin, platelet count.”
“I can’t believe Johnny beat another serious bite. I’d better call the guys at 110. They wanted to know how he did.”
Kel motioned towards the phone. “Be our guest.”
“I’m sorry, Junior. If Joanne and I had any idea something like this could go wrong, we would’ve been home a lot sooner. Believe me, if I could take this morning back and change a few things, I would do it in a heart beat.”
Johnny continued to sleep, unaware of his visitor.
“Get lots of rest, partner. I’ll see you tomorrow, I’m sure.”
The sound of Johnny’s steady breathing was all
Two weeks later, Johnny was back visiting at
It was a Sunday again, and the DeSotos were making good on their promise to Johnny of a belated Easter ham dinner. While Joanne was busy in the kitchen, Roy and Johnny sat out on the patio watching the kids play in the yard.
“So, did the kids ever get to hunt for the eggs I hid?” Johnny asked.
“No. By the time any of us felt up to going in the backyard, the eggs were. . .uh. . .you know.”
Johnny looked at
“I hope so.” Gage paused in thought, before continuing with a tone of curiosity. “Hey, whatever became of the snake head, anyway?”
“Don’t worry. It’s gone. I buried it deep in the ground.”
“It’s good to know your yard is safe now, huh? And your neighbors know better than to throw certain things over the fence.”
“You can say that again,”
Just then, Jennifer came running up to the men, holding out a chocolate bunny ear she had been saving for Johnny.
“Here!” She offered, as she shoved it in Gage’s face.
The paramedic jumped back, his chair tipping over as he fell
back with it.
“I’m fine,” Gage mumbled, waving
“You were saying,
“I don’t think there is a safe place for you. How’d you make it to 26?”
Joanne calling them to dinner interrupted the conversation.
“You ready to eat, Junior?”
“Am I ever, Pally.”
The two friends followed the kids into the house. As he sat down at the dining room table with the DeSotos, Johnny knew he was nothing short of lucky to be alive to have this time with them. It was an Easter holiday none of them would ever forget.
for the betas, Kenda and Jane! Also to Carol D., for
pointing out a couple of things I missed.
And a big thanks to
*Author's note: In keeping with the 1970’s, I
used references to tourniquets and incisions. However, it's since been
discovered they aren't such a good idea. To learn more about the dos and don'ts
of snakebites, here is a good link to check out. http://wellness.ucdavis.edu/safety_info/poison_prevention/poison_book/rattlesnake_bites.html#which