William recovering after snake bite
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.