MYRTLE BEACH, S.C. (WBTW) — A Myrtle Beach Fire Department paramedic and a doctor from Grand Strand Medical Center recently helped save the life of a North Carolina man bitten by one of the world’s deadliest snakes.
Thad Bowman and Dr. Jarratt Lark received a Civilian Life Saving award after they helped save the man who was bitten by a Gaboon viper.
“Patients that are bitten by these snakes often don’t survive,” Lark said.
The Gaboon viper, originally from Africa, is said to be one of the deadliest venomous snakes in the world.
“We consulted with a doctor in Colorado who goes to Africa all the time,” Bowman said. “From what he’s seen in the field there, and speaking with some other experts in Africa, this is going to be the worst Gaboon bite that’s ever survived.”
The Wilmington man was bitten while caring for one of the snakes. Bowman and Lark have experience with exotic snakes, so they were called in to help.
“They needed some advice from people who have experience in taking care of exotic snake bites,” Lark said. “So, fortunately, they were able to get a hold of both Thad and I.”
The venom of a Gaboon viper is designed to rapidly immobilize and digest the snake’s prey. It affects blood-clotting ability to the point where a person’s blood can no longer clot. The man suffered from all those effects.
“He was tightrope walking on the lethal side of would he even survive this envenomation at that point,” Lark said.
The man received 44 vials of anti-venom, which is more than double what’s used for something like a rattlesnake bite.
“All these foreign proteins going into your body, and fortunately, he went through that without having any of those bad complications,” Lark said.
After months in the hospital, dialysis, physical therapy and the loss of a few fingers, the man is back to living a normal life.
“He adapts to his disability, and he’s very functional,” Lark said. “Right now, he works two jobs, back to his baseline activity level and everything.”
Both Bowman and Lark said this case was extremely unique but very satisfying to see the successful outcome.