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VP Taylor attacked by rattlesnake

CHRIS CODUTO/Arizona Daily Wildcat
Saundra Taylor, senior vice president for campus life, was one of seven snakebite victims in Tucson this month. Taylor spent two days in the Intensive Care Unit at St. Mary's Hospital and received five bags of antivenin intravenously.
By Georgeanne Barrett
Arizona Daily Wildcat
Wednesday, September 22, 2004
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Snake bit Campus Life VP on toe as she took out the trash at her Starr Pass home

A UA administrator returned to work last week after being hospitalized for a rattlesnake bite.

Saundra Taylor, senior vice president of campus life, was bitten on her toe Sept. 3 as she was taking out her garbage at her home in Starr Pass.

Taylor was wheeling the big plastic garbage can down her driveway, in sandals, at about 9:15 p.m. when she suddenly felt an intense pain in her foot.

"I felt a searing pain in my toe," Taylor said. "I then reached down and saw the snake."

Taylor spent two nights at the hospital in the Intensive Care Unit, and received five bags of antivenin treatment.

According the University Medical Center's Web site, rattlesnakes are most active at night during the warm months of April through October. Once bitten, it is recommended to keep the limb as immobile as possible, and not to apply ice or any drugs to the wound, according to the site.

Last week, the Arizona Daily Star reported seven Tucsonans have been hospitalized from rattlesnake bites since the beginning of September.

Taylor said she never had any warning that a rattlesnake was near, because she thinks she could not hear its rattle over the noise of the garbage can's wheels.

Immediately after being bitten, Taylor went inside her house and called 911 because the pain had become more intense.

Taylor said paramedics advised her not to put ice on the bite and to keep her foot flat on the floor. When paramedics arrived, Taylor said her blood pressure and heart rate were very high.

"They gave me the choice of going to the hospital immediately, or waiting. I did not want to wait for anything," Taylor said.

The paramedics rushed Taylor to St. Mary's Hospital where a doctor immediately saw her and examined her foot.

Taylor said the doctor drew lines on her foot so they could monitor how quickly it was swelling, and could gauge when and how much antivenin she would need. After an hour, she said the swelling reached her ankle and the doctors started giving her the antivenin treatment.

"The antivenin takes about one hour to get into your system," Taylor said. "I received three treatments in all before being discharged on Sunday."

Taylor said since rattlesnake's venom interferes with the body's ability to clot blood properly, the hospital thoroughly checked everything before releasing her. To make sure everything was still OK, Taylor went to her family physician a few days after being discharged from the hospital.

In those three days after being released from the hospital, Taylor said her family physician saw a problem with the blood work and re-admitted her to the hospital for one more night.

"When they took blood, they saw my blood-clotting ability was very low," Taylor said. "This could have been very dangerous if I was in a car accident, or somehow very hurt."

Taylor said she received two more bags of antivenin the second time she was in the hospital. Since being discharged for the second time, Taylor said she has been having regular blood tests to make sure everything stays normal, and so far she has not had any other problems.

Taylor said she has seen other rattlesnakes near her home, but this is the first time she has had a problem.

"This incident has created quite a buzz in Starr Pass," Taylor said. "People are definitely more vigilant when going out a night. I know I will be more vigilant at night."

Other people at the UA have had many encounters with rattlesnakes while out in the desert, though they have not been bitten.

Joe Leisz, a member of the UA Ramblers Hiking Club, has never been bitten by a rattlesnake. However, he has had interesting encounters on his trips with the Ramblers.

Leisz said he saw many rattlesnakes while hiking near Sabino Canyon up to Cathedral Rock. Leisz said the first one he saw was sunning itself on a rock, and he also saw one under a bush near a rock he was sitting on.

"The rest were coiled along the side of the trail; in a couple of cases my boot brushed against them on the narrow trail and they rattled to let me know they didn't appreciate it and, in one instance, I stepped on one lightly - I jumped pretty high when I realized what I was stepping on!" Leisz said.

Wolfgang Golser is also a member of the UA Ramblers, and has fortunately never had any problems with rattlesnakes.

"My philosophy is simple," Golser said. "Leave the creatures in peace. I am the guest."

Golser, who has seen many snakes in the wild, feels he has a slim chance of getting bitten, but has a plan in case he ever runs into a problem.

"My basic plan is prevention," Golser said. "As soon as possible, I would hike back to the trailhead and rush myself to the hospital."

The Arizona Poison and Drug Information Center urges people who see rattlesnakes and other poisonous animals to call 626-6016.

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