Reunion – Part III: Ambulance Chasing

Our cabins were in the wilderness of northern Tennessee, accessible by gravel roads.  It was about 20 minutes to the nearest town – which was a pretty small town.  We were in the proverbial boonies with a fairly urgent medical situation.

Jumped in my car, BJ loaded up, and we were off to town.  It was around 10:30pm.  We had absolutely no idea what we would find when we got there.

i asked him to plug in my GPS to see if he could get it to bring up ‘emergency medical facilities’.  That led us to the county hospital.  Both of us were pretty relieved to see the sign out front for “Emergency”.  That relief vaporized the instant we saw this:

Ceased Operations?  Call 911?  Fuck.

i called 911, and was instructed to “wait right there for the squad to arrive” – and they did within two minutes.  They did triage, as i showed them the pic of the snake on the iPad.  They needed to transport him to the larger regional hospital, another 30 miles away.

Medic [sizing up me - and my ride]:  Can you follow the ambulance?

daisyfae [looking with mild trepidation at 2005 4-cylinder Oscar Mayer Wienermobile]: Absolutely!  Let’s go!

Medic:  I’m going to call ahead to make sure they have the anti-venom on hand.  Stay with us!

Traffic through town at night was light.  We got on the main road toward the interstate.  The ambulance was chewing up pavement, through serious hills and twisties at about 80 mph. On the bigger hills i turned off the air conditioner to avoid compressor drag on the engine.  Otherwise, they’d have shaken me. The Wienermobile held up.

Bootlegged a text to Studley – “Call if you’re awake”.  He called just as my phone battery showed signs of dying.  Gave him the update, mentioned that BJ was uninsured and in need of treatment. He started to work the internet get me information.

Studley [via text]:  Definitely needs emergency care – you made a good call.

Studley [via text]:  Conflicting information.  Between $300 – $1,000 / vial of anti-venom.

Studley [via text]:  Fuck!  Hide your credit card – multiple vials needed.  Can be up to $15,000 to treat!

We were now doing 95 mph down the interstate, but at least i could leave the air conditioner on, since there were fewer hills.  As we passed the exits for the regional medical center, i was pretty sure that we were going straight into Knoxville, to the University of Tennessee Medical Center.  According to my GPS – another 30 miles away.

Back at the cabins there was limited mobile phone service.  Of course the clan was anxious for updates.  As i was driving white-knuckled behind a screaming ambulance (it had started to rain, by the way), my phone rang.  It was Mom.  Rather than have her continue to call, i answered…

daisyfae: i’m doing 95 miles an hour behind an ambulance.  Not a good time to talk.  Will call you when i stop. [click]

As we approached the University Hospital, a MedEvac helicopter was landing on the helipad.  It was around 11:30pm. As i walked to the Emergency Room, it struck me that we’d covered about 80 miles in less than an hour…

Checked in at the Emergency desk.  It wasn’t long before they called me back to BJs room.  He was already hooked up to an intravenous line, blood pressure cuff on, and sporting a fairly seriously swollen foot.

He’d been in touch with DQ by text from the ambulance, and was working hard to convince her to stay at the cabin.  i sent her texts assuring her i’d stay as long as needed, and for her to get some sleep.

Trauma doc said “This is the eighth snakebite this week – between the heat and the dry conditions, they’re on the move!  But this one doesn’t look that bad…”.  Needed to do blood work to get an idea of how much venom had been injected – over-treating it can be as bad as getting bitten.  They were thorough and cautious.

At the first opportunity, BJ took off the cuff and hopped out of bed.

BJ:  I was trying to take a leak by the car when I got bit – I never DID get to pee!

He availed himself of the in-room facilities and i reminded him to find a jar, since the doc said they wanted a urine sample as well as blood.  By the time he hopped back in the bed, he was in obvious pain.

Flagged down the nurse, and asked him for pain meds.  BJ had refused them when he first arrived because it wasn’t hurting too badly.  The swelling seemed to be getting a little worse.

We sat and yakked to kill time, as the lab analyzed the body fluids.  He was worried about DQ racing off in the dark.  He didn’t want the kids to worry.  Really wanted to get back to the cabins as soon as possible so he could enjoy the rest of the weekend.

He asked if i’d seen the MedEvac helicopter that was coming in when we arrived.

BJ:  The guy driving the ambulance had a friend up there.  They were racing to see who got in first!  We beat ‘em by six minutes!

daisyfae:  Ummm… So maybe i can hang a ‘first place’ medal on my dead transmission?

He was glad he was the one who got bit.  Not one of the kids.  Not Mom.

Just about everyone on the staff was amazed that he didn’t kill the snake.  We had a picture for identification.  Apparently that emergency room sees a LOT of dead snakes when there are bites.  The nurse told us that one guy even came in with a live one in the pocket of his cargo pants.

BJ:  Not sure what the point of killing it would have been.  It already bit me.  It’s not like I can eat it or anything.

The first dose of anti-venom was administered at 2:30am.  He was hurting.  Never really complained.  They admitted him at 4:00am, fairly heavily medicated by then, and ready to sleep.  As the nurse got him settled, i told him i was heading back.

Back at the cabin around 6:30am, i sent a text to DQ telling her that things were going to be fine, that i was going to sleep a bit, and to text me when she woke up.  TK got up as i was settling onto the sofa to bag some sleep, and asked how he was doing.

daisyfae:  He’s fine.  He’s ok.  Yeah.  He really is…

28 thoughts on “Reunion – Part III: Ambulance Chasing

  1. Hooooeeee, that’s a hell of a night you had. I do think it’s funny that the ambulance beat the MedEvac helicopter. That chopper pilot must have been pissed! BJ sounds like a funny guy. And very practical—I love his reasoning for not killing the snake.

    So apart from Hurricane T and the copperhead incident, did you have a good time? (“Aside from that, Mrs. Lincoln, how did you like the play?”

    • As a relatively new visitor to The Park, you may not have seen prior posts — he is one of the hardest working guys i’ve ever met, but like my niece, has an alien sense of priorities sometimes… and is fully capable of making one bad damn decision after another (the definition of trailer park mentality). but spending four hours with him in the hospital gave me a little better insight into how his brain works. and he’s ok… just very different than me…

    • despite the potential for high drama, medical evacuations, and other odds and ends, it was a good weekend. i survived, and i believe the extended clan is better for it… definition of ‘success’…

    • medical coverage, and lack thereof, is a bizarre thing here in the US of A. he is unemployed, which provides state-sponsored minimal health care coverage. but we were out of the state, so it doesn’t apparently cover him. had we gone to the county hospital (closed) or the regional hospital (no anti-venom), he’d have been slapped with a significant charge — which he wouldn’t have been able to pay. but the University of Tennessee hospital (which is a state hospital — albeit a DIFFERENT state) is required to treat him regardless of his ability to pay — and will likely write off the charges for his treatment. bottom line: medical care in the USA is FUCKED UP!

        • final tally on the bill: $20,000.00. since he was uninsured? hospital wrote off $9,000.00 of it. Since he is uninsured, the remaining $11,000.00 will be handed back to his state for “investigation”. if they find it the claim legit? it will likely be paid in full.

          had it been me? my insurance company would have paid the hospital, and i’d have had a co-payment of a couple hundred dollars.

    • i stopped back at the hospital on my way home a few days later – because it was so bizarre! it was then that i noticed that the emergency medics/ambulances were located almost directly behind the closed hospital — which explains why they were there within a couple of minutes…. it was a long night, that’s for damn sure.

    • contrary to urban legends, and Woody Allen’s advice, you should not attempt to suck out the poison… even the mechanical extractor kits sold to outdoorsmen are of limited utility. so, yeah… you probably really SHOULDN’T go camping. never.

      cost? best guess is that he was classified as indigent, due to his out-of-state unemployment recipient status. state hospital (in TN) is required to treat all, regardless of ability to pay. there might be a bill sent, but they won’t be required to pay anything. paying for medical costs are for those with insurance…

  2. I find it odd that in some circles the snake would have been treated better than BJ. Our priorities in this country are totally fucked!

    • BJ got very good treatment from the staff — i was there when he explained he was unemployed, and uninsured. the registrar did not bat an eye, and continued with the registration process.

      i’m sure the snake went back to his hole to tell tales to all of his snake friends about the a-hole who almost stepped on him when he was just out looking for a juicy mousie…

  3. My human used to hunt a lot! He has all kinds of snake stories but he never got bit. However one of his favorites is one when he was a kid. A friend of his (a fat one) and he used to fish in old ten foot long jon boat. It had flat wood slats for seats. One day his buddy sat down on one of the seats but rose immediately. A moccasin was under the seat and when his posterior extended over the rear the snake bit him on the cheek on his ass. It’s three foot of meanness hung on for several seconds. There’s just no way to put a tourniquet on that.

    • ye-owch! that’s GOT to hurt! that was back in the day when people still thought it was a good idea to suck the venom out of a snakebite… good thing you weren’t a boy scout with proper training!

  4. What? I didn’t comment on this yet? I thought I had…. I have to say that BJ’s reasoning on not killing the snake really resonated with me; what a grand place to be in. So not-vengeful. I am glad that he is going to be okay, glad he got the treatment he needed despite his lack of insurance, and glad you had time to connect with him in a meaningful way.

    Waiting with bated breath for the next installment….

    • This is going to take awhile – Part IV goes up later tonight. V, VI, VII and epilogue are in draft… It was quite a trip – and i think i’ve sorted out a few major items along the way. Might be done with my online therapy when i’m done with this series.

      Yes, BJ surprised me. He is a hunter, owns dozens of guns and bows and whatnot. But if he can’t eat it? He won’t kill it. Surprised me, too…

  5. Holy shit! This sure beats my mother’s ER stories all to hell. Shingles and falls in the retirement center dining room just can’t compete with a copperhead bite while attempting to pee. If the bite didn’t kill him, the hospital bill certainly would. And driving 95 mph behind an ambulance….just…wow!

    • it was a pretty wild night, that’s for damn sure… but any hospital ER visit is gonna have a bit of drama. we’ll be telling this story for decades!

  6. ARE YOU KIDDING ME!!! Did this really happen Daisy Fae? If so, this can very well be described as a cautionary tale for men. It’s 2012- Just freakin’ pee inside the damn house! What is it with men peeing outside anyway? gotta go I think there’s more to this story.

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