Tiger snake bites catcher

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Dec 31 2018
By TYLA HARRINGTON

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ECHUCA snake catcher Tania Corby has survived a Christmas Eve tiger snake bite that ended in an emergency flight to St Vincent’s Hospital in Melbourne.

And the most excruciating pain she has ever known.

Now she faces a wait to see if the snake’s venom has any necrotic impact around the puncture wounds on her thumb.

It was the first time she had been bitten but Tania doesn’t blame the snake, she just considered herself lucky she was not bitten multiple times after sticking her hand in the box in which the snake was trapped. She said that mistake was “human error”, not the snake’s fault.

Tania, who lives between Tatura and Undera with her extensive, and in some cases deadly, collection of snakes, was on a call-out in Shepparton with another experienced catcher and friend Craig Bergman from Kyabram.

She thought she heard Craig tell her to reach into the box and grab its tail because he had the head but he didn’t.

“So I reached in and the little bugger got me on the thumb,” Tania said.

Fortunately Tania, 47, was “10 steps” from her car and not far from the Shepparton hospital.

Even better, Tania said she remained calm throughout and put everything she had been trained to do into action.

But the best executed response to the dangers of a snake bite couldn’t stop what was to follow.

And that was pain. A lot of pain.

The worst pain of her life; pain she could not believe could be so bad.

“Within three to five minutes I felt a headache come on, and that quickly turned into a migraine,” Tania said.

“My vision became blurry and then I started feeling very hot (and later pressure on her chest).”

Tania was given anti-venom and flown from Shepparton to St Vincent’s Hospital in Melbourne.

She said the bite itself felt similar to being pricked by a prickle and would not have thought she was bitten if she did not see it with her own eyes.

Although hospital staff gave Tania drugs, including morphine to stop the pain, she said it was so intense she felt “lucid” the entire time.

“The pain was excruciating. They kept on checking my pupils to make sure I wasn’t overdosing. It (the drugs) wasn’t stopping the pain.”

While the worst is hopefully over, Tania said tiger snake’s venom can be flesh damaging so her thumb could rot.

“My thumb is numb but I do get shooting pain,” she said.

Tania said she had caught between 20-25 snakes this season (from late August) which she said was “more than ever” because of dry conditions.

“There’s not much happening in the bush so the wildlife is coming into town ... people need to be more vigilant,” she said.

Tania has been a snake catcher for five years and covers Echuca to Yarroweyah. She owns five of her own — two tiger snakes and three pythons.

And is adamant this bite has not changed her love for her pets – or any other snakes.

“Not at all,” Tania said.

“This was user error. The poor bugger had no other choice, I’m surprised he didn’t bite me more.”

Tania said the snake was released into the bush and she encouraged people to stay out of the personal space of any snake they encounter.

Tania can be phoned on 0409 575 164.

“But I’ll be having a couple of weeks off until the feeling comes back to my thumb.’’
 
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