Rumours of his demise were greatly exaggerated, Parksville councillor Al Greir is happy to report.
Greir was bitten by a rattlesnake on March 3 while hiking the Lykken Trail on the hills above Palm Springs, and stopped by The NEWS to clear up rumours about his current state.
“We took a break and sat on a rock, it was quite steep,” Greir said Monday, having returned home Thursday from his death-defying ordeal.
“I didn’t realize it, but I was sitting right on it. I was sitting on a rock and when I went to get up I put my hand down and saw it,” he said, explaining the head came up and bit the index finger on his left hand.
It only felt like a bee sting initially, but he and his friend did turn around and head down the hill.
He thought he’d go to the nearest clinic and get a shot but was surprised to find the nearest clinic didn’t deal with snake bites and sent them across town to the main hospital.
Even more surprising, the main hospital didn’t know much about snake bites and were on the phone with a regional expert as they started testing and treating what was quickly becoming a severe condition.
“I’ve had numerous operations, I have screws in both my shoulders, but I’d take those over this pain any day,” Greir said of his state within two hours of the bite.
“My whole arm was black and swelled up to twice the size,” he said, explaining that the venom thinned his blood and was starting to mess with the functioning of his organs.
The expert they were talking to, Dr. Sean Bush, had him air lifted to his hospital in Loma Linda 80 km west where he said it was touch and go and later told Greir he’d been within half an hour of dying.
He was in and out of consciousness and blood seeped from his lips and nose but started turning around after a couple hours.
He spent three depressing days in a windowless room, hooked up to machines, being carefully observed and having his blood tested frequently as he quickly started to recover.
He told his wife to stay in Canada and deal with the insurance issues, and he was happy to have travel insurance, since he was on the mend and there was nothing she could do.
He’d been scheduled to fly home in four days but was unable to for two weeks until his blood platelet count stabilized.
“I was like a zombie for 10 days,” he said of his recovery back in a hotel room where he said he felt like a dishrag and lost 12 pounds, unable to get up or go into the sun while on medication.
Now, just three weeks after the bite he is almost completely recovered — on the outside at least — he points out there are always concerns about long term vital organ effects.
He admits he’s worried about the effects to his head, especially after several concussions from his hockey playing in the last year and jokes he was already “a little shaky.”
Greir praised the staff, especially nurses at the Loma Linda hospital and concluded with a warning to take snake bites seriously.