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Snakebite Victim Misadvised by Hospital, Almost Loses Arm

Our office received a call from a 28 year old gentleman that lived in a small town outside Louisville, Kentucky. He was doing some yard work when he was bitten by a copperhead snake. He did not believe it to be a very significant bite and it was a small snake. However, he did go to his local hospital. The hospital ER staff explained to the patient that he had a “dry bite”. The physicians with whom we consulted advised that there is no such thing as a “dry bite”. The fact that the hospital staff was trying to convey that no venom had been injected into the patient was a risky medical decision, and, in fact, turned out to be inaccurate. The patient was released to return home with an antibiotic prescription. The patient and his wife watched the swelling and discoloration travel from his hand to his forearm and they began to get worried. The swelling over the next few hours traveled to the client’s elbow. It was incredibly uncomfortable. When the swelling, pain and heat extended into the patient’s biceps and upper arm, the patient and his wife decided to go to a different hospital if it reached his shoulder. In fact, in another few hours the swelling, heat and discomfort traveled to his shoulder and the patient went to another hospital. After several days of intensive inpatient treatment, the patient’s arm was saved. However, he required many months of rehabilitation and therapy. Once litigation was commenced, it was discovered that the initial hospital that the patient had visited did not have anti-venom in its inventory. Apparently, this was part of the reason for that hospital’s failure to properly treat the patient. This case settled prior to going to trial.
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