Nurse bitten by venomous snake saves own life with medical training

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Flaviemys purvisi

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Oct 28, 2017
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Yahoo7 News
9 June 2018

A Perth nurse used his medical training to remarkably survive being bitten by one of the most venomous snakes in the world.

As an emergency nurse Christian Wright is used to dealing with life and death situations, but he never expected to be at the middle of one.

The 33-year-old was bitten on the foot by a brown snake, in a remote part of Karijini National Park.
This picture was taken just after Christian Wright was bitten on the foot by a brown snake, in a remote part of Karijini National Park. At the time he wasn’t sure if it was a snake bite. Source: 7 News

“I looked at my foot, there was no puncture marks. No blood, no swelling, no nothing.

“I started losing my vision. I knew I was going to pass out.”

Injected with deadly venom, time was stacked against him.

At the bottom of a gorge, getting him out proved tricky. It took hours and a team of SES volunteers and other tourists.
It took hours and a team of SES volunteers and other tourists to get him out of the bottom of the gorge. Source: 7 News

Despite drifting in an out of consciousness, Mr Wright’s medical training kicked in.

“I could hear the ambulance officers saying there’s no blood returning to his foot… at that point I thought ‘oh I’m going to lose my leg’.

“So I was giving them instructions on how to pressure bandage my leg. And then I think I passed out again.

“[The paramedic] said I was convulsing, I was sweating pools of sweat and I was vomiting everywhere.”

The emergency nurse gave paramedics instructions on how to pressure bandage his leg before he passed out again. Source: 7 News

He was initially driven to the hospital in Tom Price. Doctors worried about his survival, so the patient was then put on an emergency flight to Port Hedland, where finally the anti-venom started to kick in.

The following night he was well enough to walk out of the hospital and continue his holiday.
Christian Wright thanked those who helped save his life. Source: 7 News

On his way out, he thanked those who helped save his life.

“Yeah I said ‘thanks guys, really appreciate it. You did a wonderful job, really appreciate it.’ And we drove back to Karijini. It was beautiful, actually.”

Mr Wright also extended thanks to others involved. “You saved my life. Thank you,” he said.
Rhianna MitchellThe West Australian
Saturday, 9 June 2018

Stars align for Perth nurse bitten by a snake in Karijini National Park

When Christian Wright’s life hung in the balance, every-thing that needed to go right, did.

The 33-year-old nurse’s first trip to Karijini National Park could have ended in tragedy if not for the kindness of strangers — and a bit of luck.

If he had not spotted the long, skinny brown snake slithering along the path moments after he felt a bee-sting-like prick on his foot.

If his friend, Alex Chia, had not caught him 15 minutes later when, chest constricting and vision fading, Mr Wright passed out in the depths of Dales Gorge.

If two Austrian tourists, armed with a satellite phone they had rented at the last minute, had not been in the area and heard the desperate calls for help.

And if Mr Wright, a King Edward Memorial Hospital midwife, had not instructed those tourists to bandage his leg to prevent deadly venom from spreading around his body.

But the stars aligned on May 15, and Mr Wright and those who rescued him that day have recounted the story for the first time.

The two mates were walking to Circular Pool in Dales Gorge on the second morning of their holiday at the national park in WA’s north.

Mr Wright was wearing thongs and felt a sting on the side of his left foot just after 11am. He initially dismissed it even after his eye caught a metre-long juvenile brown snake nearby.

“I was really second-guessing myself and think-ing maybe I stood on something sharp,” he told The Weekend West.

“We were having a great time, laughing, carrying on, jumping off rocks. Then 15 minutes later, I started getting this frontal headache.

“I thought, ‘Oh, I’m just dehydrated’. I had a drink, something to eat and kept walking.

“Five minutes later I felt my chest tighten and as soon as that happened I just knew, ‘I’ve got this wrong’.”

Mr Wright shouted to his friend, who was walking up ahead: “Chia, I’m about to pass out, I can’t see anything. It was a snake.”

Mr Chia ran to his mate and grabbed him as he passed out, and gently lowered him down.

A blow to the head could have caused major, potentially fatal, internal bleeding — brown snake venom is not only highly potent but also contains toxins that interfere with blood clotting.

“His eyes were rolling back in his head, he was shaking and sweating, and then he went totally limp and heavy,” Mr Chia recalled.

“We were down a deep gorge, 30m tall, there was no one in sight. The hardest part was being in front of his lifeless body.”

Austrian husband and wife Andrea and Richard Pausa responded to the cries for help and, armed with the satellite phone, proved the ideal saviours.

Dr Pausa said she and her husband had not initially planned to be in Karijini that day but a flat tyre at Tom Price changed their plans.

“Shortly before arriving at Circular Pool we heard someone screaming ‘help’,” Dr Pausa recalled.

“Christian really looked bad, he was barely responsive, had no colour in the face. It seemed like he was sweating and, to be honest, we really thought that he would die.”

They called emergency services and got to work bandaging Mr Wright’s leg, under instructions from their semi-conscious patient.

“I was just coming and going. I started getting really agitated as the neurotoxins started getting to my head, I was writhing all over the place and yelling out from the pain in my head,” Mr Wright said.

A ranger arrived shortly after and about two hours after the ordeal began St John Ambulance paramedic Claire Fennelly arrived, closely followed by volunteer ambulance officers and State Emergency Service volunteers.

“He was complaining of a headache, feeling unwell in the stomach, and was in quite a bit of pain,” Ms Fennelly recalled. “I wanted him out (of the gorge) as soon as possible.”

That in itself represented a huge challenge. Ms Fennelly, who was on secondment from Perth, said the following hours were “like nothing she had ever seen before”.

The ranger rounded up more than 20 tourists to help.

“It was an amazing team effort, everyone worked really hard,” Ms Fennelly said.

Mr Chia said it was “heartwarming” to see the group of strangers come together.

“We had to go up and down head-height rock, sometimes passing him through above our heads, all while trying to keep his head higher than his leg,” he said.

Mr Wright said he “didn’t feel like he was in his own body”.

“At one point there was no blood returning to my feet with the bandage on. I could hear them saying, ‘It’s better that you lose your leg, than let poison get into you’ so just knowing what was going on, that was stressful,” he said.

It took more than an hour to get Mr Wright to the ambulance, which took him to Tom Price Hospital about 75km away. There he received antivenom after doctors concluded he was bitten by a brown snake. Brown snakes are responsible for the most snakebite deaths in Australia.

Mr Wright said he was indebted to everyone who came to his aid.

“It was so organised and efficient, it was beautiful to watch,” he said.

“For all that stuff to line up, it was uncanny.”
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