On July 21, 2002, just after my 13th birthday, I was bitten by a Northern Pacific rattlesnake (the snake was originally identified as a Western Diamondback rattlesnake, but that species is not found near Yosemite). I was located on a trail in a hiking area near Yosemite National Park, California. The bite occurred when I was sitting on a small boulder at a distance of 4.5 miles from the trailhead with my cabin group at camp. I had my arms dangling at my side, and a 5 foot long rattlesnake bit me in the middle of my left palm.
From this point, an amazing rescue took place, taking 4 hours to transport me the 4.5 miles to the trailhead. The camp director had previously called the hospital, and a helicopter was waiting at the trailhead. During the 30 minute helicopter ride I was going in and out of consciousness, having trouble keeping my eyes open. We arrived at the Modesto, CA hospital, where the doctor in the emergency room decided that my case was too severe to treat at that medical center. He told me this, which was the last thing I heard before going unconscious.
Although I was unconscious for approximately the next 24 hours, I have heard about the following events from my parents.
I was taken from the Modesto hospital to the UC Davis Medical Center in Sacramento, the trauma center for Northern California. My snake bite was determined to be too severe for Modesto to deal with. Starting at the time that I left the Modesto hospital and over the course of the next day or two, I was given 30 vials of antivenin (also called antivenom). At the UC Davis hospital I underwent a fasciotomy, which involved the doctors cutting open my arm from the palm up to about the middle of my biceps. This was to relieve the extreme pressure that had built up in my arm from the rattlesnake venom, making my arm as hard as a rock until the fasciotomy.
I spent the next 35 days in the UC Davis hospital, had 8 surgeries performed for cleaning out the dead tissue from my arm, and finally had a skin graft from my leg to close up my arm, which had remained open for 30 days after the fasciotomy until the skin graft surgery. That is 10 surgeries in total at UC Davis.