Innocent victim ... Sixteen-month-old Ben was bitten in the backyard with his mum just metres away.
He’s not old enough to talk, but a scream like no other alerted a NSW mother something was wrong with her child.
Never in her wildest dreams could she have imagined her toddler being bitten by a snake.
But it was the howling scream that pierced through the backyard of Dimity’s home at Myall Creek, that confirmed her worst fears.
Danger ... The Eastern brown snake is the world's second most venomous land snake.
Dimity said that she had been playing in the backyard on Thursday morning with her children, including 16-month-old son Ben, when she turned around for just a few seconds.
“We were playing outside and then he just walked away and screamed,” Dimity said.
“It was less than five metres away. I’ve never heard him scream or any other child scream the way he did.
“When I raced over he was grabbing his leg where the bite was. My heart sank. The worst thoughts went through my mind.”
Dimity said the snake came out from under the house.
“We think it was a brown snake - it just took off,” she said. “I jumped into action and wrapped the pressure bandage around him.”
Dimity said through the piercing screams of her son she rang triple zero for help, and tried to calm him down. The toddler then fell asleep.
The doctor told her it was actually the initial shock of the event which probably caused the short loss of consciousness.
Ambulance paramedics rushed to the home, north of Bingara.
“It was about 15 minutes, they were really quick,” Dimity said. “We went a thousand miles an hour to Bingara hospital.”
The Westpac Rescue Helicopter was tasked to Bingara when the triple zero call first came in. With an intensive care doctor and nurse on board, they airlifted little Ben and Dimity to Tamworth Base Hospital.
Ben was rushed into emergency at Tamworth and a team began treating him.
But luckily Dimity said blood tests confirmed the good news – it was a dry bite. Although brown snakes are the second most venomous snakes in Australia, they often give a warning "dry bite" without venom first.
“The blood tests came back perfect, which was a huge relief,” she said. “It was a dry bite. We were very, very lucky.”
And it seems little Ben wasn’t the only one to suffer the same pain; doctors told Dimity there had been similar cases.
"They said they’ve had four there in the last week,” Dimity said.
While it was a whirlwind 24 hours, Ben was given the all clear and released from hospital a day later.
Dimity is full of praise for the quick-thinking staff.
“They were great, the ambulance workers and Westpac helicopter and the hospital staff,” she said. “I couldn’t have got better people to help in that crisis. We’re very happy with all of them and can’t say thank you enough.”
Snake bite: what to do
The Australian Venom Research Unit (AVRU) says that if you think someone has been bitten by a snake, you should follow these steps:
- Phone or send for medical assistance.
- Reassure the patient and encourage them to remain calm.
- Have the patient remain as still as possible. DON’T try to catch or kill the snake.
- Apply a pressure bandage to the affected limb (see an illustrated guide to how to do this on the AVRU website). If the bite is to the trunk, apply firm pressure to the bitten area.
- Put a splint or sling on the limb to restrict movement.
- Where possible, help should be brought to the patient rather than moving the patient.