By Ellen Thompson/Havre Daily Newsfirstname.lastname@example.org
Janae Downhour, 8, of Havre has survived a serious rattlesnake bite and is returning to school today after nearly a week spent recovering in the hospital and at home.
Janae's mother, Jody Downhour, was fishing Saturday afternoon near the Fresno Dam when her two children and their two cousins came to her with a small black tube they'd chased a snake into. The children put the tube down on the beach and Janae began to pound on it to get the snake to come out. The snake came out, bit Janae on the hand, and then quickly re-entered the tube, Jody Downhour said. Downhour's 5-year-old son immediately threw the tube into the river, she added.
Jody Downhour said her daughter complained that the bite hurt and that it had drawn blood. Jody noticed that Janae's fingers were already swelling. Jody gathered the children into her station wagon and drove Janae to Montana Northern Hospital.
Jody said she drove as fast as she could and that the whole way her daughter said, "Ow, ow, ow."
By the time they arrived at the hospital, the finger that was bitten was white and swollen and other fingers were becoming very swollen as well, Jody said.
When they arrived, Janae was rushed into the emergency room while Jody was left to do paperwork.
Originally, the emergency room doctors were not sure if the bite was a snake bite or a bee sting, the family's physician, Dr. Thomas Booth, said. The staff waited until clear symptoms developed, Booth said.
Janae was admitted to the intensive care unit. Late Saturday night, her blood was drawn to be checked for a reaction to the antivenin used to treat rattlesnake bites. Jody was told the antivenin sometimes causes a more serious reaction than the snakebite itself, she said. The blood test showed that Janae could be given antivenin.
Tests done Sunday morning showed that Janae's blood was being affected by the bite, Jody said. Jody was told that if this worsened Janae could experience internal bleeding. Janae was given the first of three antivenin shots that morning. She had no adverse reaction and began to recover. She was released from the hospital Monday, Jody said. Swelling was visible until Wednesday, she added.
"All summer I was catching garter snakes to show them. This time they showed me," Jody said.
Because the snake was young, they did not realize what kind it was, Jody said.
The hospital normally treats only one or two patients for rattlesnake bites each year, Booth said. A small amount of antivenin is kept at the hospital.
"Most of them don't require anything but supportive treatment," Booth said. But for a young child, the amount of venom injected by the snake can be enough to do damage, he added.
Initial symptoms include swelling and pain, he said. Further symptoms such as nausea and vomiting can develop. The more secondary symptoms that appear, the more likely the patient will need antivenin, he said.