El Cajon teen survives 6 rattlesnake bites

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Vera Oliphant was given 24 doses of antivenin after she stepped on a rattlesnake nest in Jamul.

EL CAJON, Calif. — A 16-year-old girl bitten six times when she stepped into a rattlesnake nest in Jamul says she is lucky to be alive.

Vera Oliphant was bitten Oct. 27 and given 24 doses of antivenin to counteract the poison.

“In a scale from 1 to 10, the pain was 45,” Oliphant told FOX5 News.

The young woman, a junior at Chaparral High School in El Cajon, was visiting her uncle in Jamul two weeks ago when she decided to walk up a hill searching for cell phone reception.

“I heard them all over.  I heard the rattles — then I ran,” Oliphant said.

As she ran back toward  her uncle’s house, she stepped into a rattlesnake’s nest. She saw an adult rattler and four babies bite her right foot. Oliphant was bitten at least six times.

“My entire body started swelling,” the teen said.

She hobbled back to her uncle. who drove her to the emergency room at SHARP Grossmont Hospital in La Mesa.

“The doctor’s told me I was lucky to be alive,” said Oliphant. She spent the next four days in intensive care.

Experts say that it’s very important not to panic after you have been bitten by a rattlesnake.

“If you get bitten by a snake, the first thing to remember is that you have more time than you think you do,” said Dr. Jordan Cohen, from SHARP Grossmont Hospital

Cohen, who’s seen his share of snakebites, explained that when it comes to this type of injury, many of the well-known first aid techniques often used in the wilderness don’t work.

“If you’re ever bitten by a snake, the most important thing is to get to the ER fast,” he said.

  • In the meantime you should try to stay immobile.
  • Don’t use any suction. It can worsen future infections.
  • Don’t use a tourniquet. It can cause more harm than good.

Oliphant said her recovery will take several more weeks.

She said she has learned some lessons from her brush with death.

“I’ll never go out in the desert by myself, and I’ll be sure to wear boots,” she said.