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…