Today marks an interesting day of remembrance for my mom and I. Tomorrow is her birthday, but every year she calls me on this day to let me know she is thinking of me and to wish me a happy anniversary. I grew up in the country, typical small towns look huge compared to my town. We have a general store/post office/gas station and a couple of schools, that's it. To give you a better idea of just how rural it is; almost everyone lives off grid, it takes 1:30-2 hours to reach the nearest grocery store and my graduating class of 15 students was the largest in the schools history.
On this day 28 years ago my parents, older brother and myself went to check out a property owned by a close family friend. We were considering a move but since like many of the properties in the area it was uninhabited and had no established set up for water, electricity, a sewer or any of the norm grid stuff, my parents had to make sure it would support us. Part of that was checking the natural spring to make sure it produced enough water for our family and agriculture. My brother and I played in the field above the spring while mom and dad scoped things out. We were told to stay in an area that they had already inspected for safety. Their main concern being rattlesnakes. At lunch time my mom came to wrangle us and grab our picnic from the truck. She said to walk behind her and keep an eye out for rattlers. But as we headed through the grass she started horsing around with my brother, being a kid I wanted some attention too. So I raced out ahead of her, before I made it ten steps I heard her scream "snake". I stopped in my tracks and spun around without lifting my feet. I looked to her so that she could point out the snake, not realizing that I was standing on his back. She grabbed me almost simultaneously and hurled us into the grass. We sat on the ground a little stunned and she asked if I was ok, "yeah, but I think I got a scratch on my leg when you threw me". That's all it felt like, a small scratch. I lifted my leggings (yes it was the 80's and although she tried to talk me into wearing thicker pants and boots I went with leggings and sandals), underneath my stretchy pants we saw two sets of bite marks. He was so quick that he got me twice and I didn't even realize it.
In typical "everything that can go wrong, will" Fashion, we didn't have enough gas in the truck to make it into town. So we had to drive thirty minutes out of the way to our friends house and borrow his car, then make the 2 hour drive to the hospital. I remember being really uncontrollably thirsty, but I couldn't drink because it would cause the venom to reach my heart quicker. I also remember the sensation of inflating, it wasn't pain at this point, just a feeling of expanding and like my skin was becoming too tight for my body. We reached the hospital and were greeted with panic, no one had treated a seven year old for a rattlesnake bite and they didn't know where to start. As another "you have got to be kidding me" blow I was allergic to the antivenom, at the time they were derived from horses and a lot of people were allergic. Poor horses :(
After causing the hospital to reach a state of total panic it was finally decided that I should be airlifted to San Francisco in hopes that they would know what to do. They did not know what to do. A mob of doctors filled my room, frantically debating what should be done. By this time my leg had swelled to the point that it looked like it might pop and had gone completely black. They also discovered that in a weird freak occurrence the snake that bit me was not a local, he was a Mohave Desert rattler. A neighbor collected snakes as a hobby and an angry girlfriend had released them all into the wild. This meant the venom was more potent and made the situation even more rare for the doctors, who at this point were debating over rather to amputate my leg. All within ear shot, my mom was furious. But she picked a small woman out of the crowd who was the most calm and knowing; and went with her advice. They elevated my leg and injected me with seemingly endless shots throughout the night.
My mom stayed by my side non stop, when I woke up in the morning her face was the first thing I saw. And I wished her a happy birthday. We were in the hospital for about two weeks before I got to go home. Oddly the most painful part of the whole experience was getting back on my feet again. I would feel intense shooting and stabbing pain throughout my leg, but my leg was still there and that was something to be immensely thankful for. My mom lives on that property to this day, she purchased it a few years later when my parents separated and it has been home since. The snake is probably long gone now, but when we first moved we often wondered if we would see him again. For years I would met people in nearby communities and they would say "oh you're the girl who got bit by the snake".
Pictures from my hometown.