Wil­liam re­cov­er­ing after snake bite

Southern Riverina news - - FRONT PAGE - By So­phie Burge

Look­ing after five chil­dren at one time takes a lot of ef­fort, es­pe­cially when one of them gets bit­ten by a snake.

On Fri­day af­ter­noon, Heidi Bullen and her chil­dren — Wil­liam, 8, Iso­belle, 5, Harry, 4, El­loise, 2 and four-month-old Ol­lie — joined friend He­lene Mort­lock and her labrador Max on an af­ter­noon stroll around Jer­ilderie Lake.

When they reached the north­ern side of the walk­ing track, be­tween the lake and Bil­l­abong Creek, Mrs Bullen heard Wil­liam, who had wan­dered off into the grass, shriek, ‘‘snake, snake’’.

‘‘Wil­liam had been en­joy­ing na­ture and we were pretty re­laxed up to that point be­cause it was a re­ally nice cool af­ter­noon and the grass wasn’t that long,’’ Mrs Bullen said.

‘‘We gath­ered the other kids and Max to go over and have a look. Max was act­ing quite wary and wouldn’t go into the grass which we thought was odd.

‘‘Wil­liam had jumped up a small sapling, too afraid to come down. At that stage we didn’t re­alise he’d been bit­ten.

‘‘We couldn’t see a snake but Wil­liam, who has autism, said ‘It’s go­ing to­wards you, it’s an east­ern brown (snake)’, and I knew he would be right as he has a fair idea about those sorts of things.

‘‘The dog came back and started bark­ing at Wil­liam, which again was quite un­usual. My other kids pan­icked as they hate dogs but I pro­ceeded to check Wil­liam for any signs of bites.’’

Wil­liam told his mum his left leg was ‘‘hurt­ing, sting­ing and burn­ing’’, and soon enough Mrs Bullen’s fear was re­alised when she saw two red marks on his shin.

‘‘I took a big breath as I was a bit shocked,’’ she said.

‘‘I quickly pulled out the baby’s car­rier which was folded in the pram, put the baby in the car­rier and Wil­liam in the pram. The other kids were hold­ing mine or He­lene’s hand so we could get quickly to the nearby Jer­ilderie Hospi­tal.’’

With the other chil­dren trav­el­ling slowly, Mrs Mort­lock grabbed the pram and went ahead to the hospi­tal with Wil­liam.

‘‘We had phoned 000 but by this time we were close (to the hospi­tal),’’ Mrs Bullen said.

‘‘Will wasn’t feel­ing well and said he was shaky. I had a sense of panic but I was try­ing to keep it to­gether given I had the other chil­dren.

‘‘When we got to the hospi­tal, he’d be­come pale, cold and wasn’t him­self — he was very thirsty too which is un­like him.’’

Like many other ru­ral hos­pi­tals, there was no an­tivenom or swab kits on site to de­ter­mine how badly Wil­liam had been bit­ten and by what species of snake.

Paramedics in­clud­ing Mick Wane ar­rived at the hospi­tal and rushed the eight year-old to Shep­par­ton where staff said it ap­peared he had re­ceived a “warn­ing shot” from the snake.

‘‘Brown snakes usu­ally give off a warn­ing bite be­fore a sec­ond bite that con­tains all the venom,’’ Mr Wane said.

‘‘The warn­ing bite, which grazes the skin, could have venom on it so it’s al­ways rec­om­mended you treat it like any snake bite.

‘‘Wrap a com­pres­sion ban­dage over the bite, wrap­ping it down the limb and back up to the top of the limb. Do not take the ban­dage off un­til a med­i­cal pro­fes­sional at­tends to you.’’ Mr Wane praised both Mrs Bullen and Mrs Mort­lock for their quick think­ing and ef­fi­ciency.

He said it was the sec­ond snake bite in the lo­cal area in as many weeks.

‘‘They did in­cred­i­bly well. Pro­vided the vic­tim is im­mo­bilised with a pressure ban­dage put on cor­rectly, you’ve got time on your side.’’

Mr Wane ad­vised peo­ple to ‘‘al­ways ex­pect to see a snake’’ in warmer months.

‘‘Keep an eye out, par­tic­u­larly in warm spots near rivers or where there’s some­where they can hide. Gen­er­ally they’ll only bite if they feel threat­ened.’’

■ Wil­liam Bullen a few hours after he was taken to Shep­par­ton Hospi­tal.

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